For our readers in the United States, today is Thanksgiving – a holiday set aside for us to take stock of our many blessings and to offer our gratitude to God. (It’s also a day for feasting with family and friends, which in and of itself is something to appreciate.)
Despite no few difficulties facing both the Church and the world, there is a great deal for which Catholics can be thankful on this occasion. To mark the day, we asked our writers to share one aspect about our Catholic Church and her holy Faith for which they are most grateful.
(If you would like to see more articles by any of these contributors, simply click on their name.)
I am thankful for the Church’s mission to Muslims and Her Saints who dealt with Islam. Their lives and actions are an unfailing guide upon which the Catholic Faithful can follow and reach out, in so far as each man’s vocation is concerned. Such guidance is essential in a world where information about Islam is abundant but true knowledge is rare.
As a professor at Wyoming Catholic College, I get to see some very beautiful things happen every day — things that fill me with tremendous gratitude and hopefulness. Every time I see a young man don the cassock and surplice, ready to serve at the altar, or open up his Liber Usualis, ready to chant the Propers; every time I see a young lady take a mantilla from the basket and a daily missal from the bookshelf, ready to participate deeply in the Tridentine Mass; every time I hear the chaplains preach Catholic doctrine with conviction and see them offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with profound reverence and love; every time I enter an utterly quiet chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and notice in the half-light a number of students, faculty, staff, or Catholics from the town making Holy Hours — in all such situations and many more, it is brought home to me that God never abandons His faithful people; He will never, ever allow the truth to be suppressed, grace to be wanting to those who long for it, or beauty to be obliterated from our minds and hearts. One of the mottoes of the Benedictines comes to mind: succisa virescit: cut down, it grows back again. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.” Even in these dark and difficult times, there are magnificent flowers blooming in out of the way places, a testimony to the hidden hand of the Lord that sustains and guides us.
The aspect of the Catholic Church and Faith that I am most thankful for is the Sacrament of Confession. In Confession, you go in burdened with your sins, sometimes even grave sins. But when you come out, and when you leave the church, you are completely unburdened. It is absolutely amazing. You feel wonderful and light-hearted. What did Christ say about His yoke being “easy” and His burden “light”? This is nowhere more true than in this great sacrament. As C.S. Lewis remarks, before we sin, Satan convinces us how good we will feel afterwards. Then, the moment we consent and commit the sin, he is right there insisting how evil we are and how God could never forgive such a thing. Satan would have us despair of God’s mercy, have us believe that our sins either don’t need to be forgiven or are too grave to be forgiven. Either way, according to him, we should not approach that confessional. Besides, inside that little closet is a horrible man who will judge us harshly, speak roughly to us, and bitterly admonish us for our sins.
But Satan is a liar and “the father of lies”, as Christ Himself reminds us. I am 49 years old and I have been a Catholic my whole life. I have gone to Confession literally thousands of times over the years and it has never — not once — been a negative experience. Some “former” Catholics may have their stories all lined up about how a priest was rude to them in Confession and how horrible it was, etc. I can’t speak for others. But my experience has been exactly the opposite. The holy priests I have had the honor to visit with in Confession have been, to a man, kind-hearted, gentle, patient, merciful, understanding. I could go on and on. Even priests with whom I was not particularly friendly [read: we straight up didn’t like each other]…didn’t matter. As soon as Confession starts, they are as kind and merciful as you could imagine. Personally, I believe it is the grace that they receive from the Sacrament of Holy Orders itself that enables them to be so kind-hearted and gentle. Of course, we know the theology: the priest absolves us in the first person “…et ego te absolvo peccatis tuis in nomine Patris…”…”…and I absolve you of all your sins in the name of the Father…”. In Confession, as in the Holy Mass, the priest acts “in persona Christi” i.e. “in the person of [Jesus] Christ”. In a real way, the priest IS Christ forgiving us at that moment. And THAT is [probably] why the experience is always such a joy. And that’s exactly what both St. Josemaria Escriva and St. Pope John Paul II said about Confession: that it is the “Sacrament of Joy”. And it makes perfect sense because in the confessional, we meet Christ Himself, through the priest.
Sure, it’s a little bit difficult, a little hard, to be totally sincere and confess our sins to another person. It’s embarrassing, even a little humiliating. We have to admit that. BUT! What joy and peace afterwards!!! The “gaudium cum pace” of the sons and daughters of God [St. Josemaria again]. And so whatever the cost…it’s totally worth it! Is someone reading this perhaps burdened with a sin they are particularly ashamed of? A sin they perhaps don’t believe can be forgiven? Don’t believe Satan and his lies. If we confess our sins sincerely and contritely before the Lord, in Confession, he will ALWAYS forgive us. So go! And you too will experience the joy that only this sacrament can give.
As the cold winter months descend and we find ourselves mostly indoors, I find myself even more grateful for the Church’s unsurpassed tradition of sacred music. Whether in the context of the liturgy or playing from a CD late in the evening, I have found that this music helps to establish a rhythm in my spiritual life that enlivens and emboldens me while giving me great peace. It somehow manages to help me keep from having both feet planted in the here and now, instead having one foot always moving forward towards the reality of our spiritual destiny. When doubt assails me, beauty is the balm whose eschatological character I cannot deny, and for this I am most grateful.
I grew up in a home with few traditions. Sure, I have memories, but those aren’t the same. They’re impossible to pass down, for one thing. I don’t have my Scottish great-grandmother’s haggis recipe, assuming she had one. I don’t have my German grandmother’s spaetzle recipe, and we only went to Frankenmuth once in my youth. I don’t have songs we would sing on birthdays, or foods we would eat, or places we’d go. So when it comes to sharing my ancestry with my children, I feel a distinct paucity.
Until I think of the Church. I’m the parent who was raised Catholic. Even though it was in the 1970’s and ‘80’s when “Glitterchesis” was the dominant pedagogy, some of it stuck. I knew when I went away to college that I could attend Mass in that town and hear the same readings being heard back home. I can look back and see the devotions, the Sacraments, the history spanning more than any human lifetime. The seasons, the holy days, what they represent, what the Church teaches, these have given me an anchor when I felt adrift. That I can give those traditions — both capitalized and not — to my children is what I’m most grateful for.
It is an undeniable fact that the Church is undergoing crises. There is so much confusion, disturbance, and heresy-spreading inside the Church. In the midst of this turmoil, people may be tempted to leave Holy Mother Church. But is it wise to abandon our faith just because there are people inside who disfigure the face of the Church? In the storm that is hitting the Church, can we find something to be grateful for?
Traditional Catholics are a minority inside the Church, and sometimes being a traditionalist makes me feel lonely, as if I – a soldier of Christ in the Church Militant – have to wipe out heresy and turn the chaos into order again all by myself. But as Pope Benedict XVI said, those who believe are never alone. We have the family of God, the saints who are the translations of the Word in their historical-social-cultural context. They are the signs of contradiction in their own time. We have St. Augustine of Hippo who had to fight against Manichaeism, Donatism and Pelagianism. There is St. Dominic who had to convert Albigensianism. And there are still many more saints who give us examples how to resist the spirit of the world. They triumphed over their enemies because they realized that their strength was not enough, and thus they relied to supernatural strength that has its origin in God.
I am grateful because I am chosen to fight this battle like the brave men and women who have gone before me. They were also ordinary people, sinful human beings who shared similar hardships; however, God chose them not because they were qualified but because He qualified the chosen.
For traditional Catholics, it is our time to unite as a family, “rebuilding Catholic culture and restoring Catholic tradition.” Let us join our prayer in the Eucharist, giving thanks to the Lord because it is He who graciously enables us to be his instruments in the service of Truth. Yes, it is our time to be a sign of contradiction.
If you are doubtful and inclined to leave the Church, remember what Peter said to our Lord: “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life, and we have believed, and have known that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Our unfailing hope, our refuge can be found only in God himself.
Do not run away. Do not abandon the bark of Peter. Do not listen to the Devil who is trying to separate you from the Lord. Listen instead to the still voice of the Great King, who is commanding you to join his army.
Take heart. He has chosen you. He has chosen us. We are on the winning side, because we have been promised, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Let us now hear what one of the victors of old have to say about the issue at hand:
“God did not say you will not be troubled,
You will not be belaboured,
You will not be disquieted;
But God said, You will not be overcome.”
– Julian of Norwich
A few years after becoming Catholic, I was in an apologetics debate with some Protestant friends, and the topic eventually turned to prayer. One of the Protestants stated, “Well, on this the Catholics can’t be argued with – they have such a deep prayer tradition, it dwarfs everyone else.” Over the years the truth of this observation has become more and more clear to me.
The rich and beautiful tradition of prayer in the Catholic Church encompasses so much of the human experience of communication with God. Whether Western or Eastern; Franciscan, Dominican, Ignatian; or a whole host of other traditions, the Catholic Church has delved deeply into the mysteries of prayer. The process of prayer as laid out by Saints, Fathers and Doctors of the Faith, from the purgative to the illuminative to the unitive way, allows one to draw closer and closer in this life to the union we hope to experience one day in Heaven.
I am particularly grateful for the tradition of prayer found in the life and writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, which embraces the mystical life in all its fullness while remaining practical and securely attached to the life of the Church. Their teachings are a sure and solid path to union with God.
Over the past several years, holding onto my faith was a real struggle. There were a lot of quiet, internal battles I was fighting, and I really felt distant from God. Earlier this year, I experienced some changes that I can only describe as miraculous, which removed the scales from my eyes and re-awakened my prayer life and my love for and connection to God. I became acutely aware, once again, of the deep spiritual battle we are all in the midst of, with no less at stake than our souls, and our eternal salvation. There is no single thing for which I am more grateful at this moment than the restoration of my faith, and the rekindling of my love for the Church.
It wasn’t long after these changes happened within me that the idea for OnePeterFive took root in my mind. I know first hand how hard it is to fight this fight alone. How knowledge of the faith is one thing, but practical advice on how to live it and how to fight the unseen enemy is critical if we are going to hold on to our most precious spiritual gifts in the storm. I don’t take credit for the idea — I think it came from somewhere else — but I am also extremely grateful, and also humbled, to have been God’s instrument for the creation of this project. When I look at the gifted writers and thinkers I have the opportunity to work with each day, and to see the way that their love of the Church is spreading through the work they do here, it’s nothing short of amazing.
It’s a time of great challenge in the Church, but that shouldn’t discourage us. That means it’s also a huge opportunity for grace, and for us to become saints. To follow God’s call to arms and do all that we can to, as St. Francis was called to do, “Rebuild My Church.” It’s a huge responsibility, and an exciting one. We were all born at this moment in history for a reason.
As a convert to the faith I appreciate that there is a uniquely Catholic way to worship. A traditional and reverent liturgy which is unabashedly Catholic, far from being optional, is actually a necessity for imparting the faith. What we believe, from the centrality of Christ in our lives to His real presence in the Eucharist, can either be reinforced with beautiful liturgy or seriously harmed through the desacralization of the Holy Mass.
As a husband and father, I understand the immense responsibility that God has given me to lead my family in their formation. The Traditional Mass has directly lead to a deepening of our faith and an even greater appreciation for the Holy Eucharist. As the very word “Eucharist” derives from the Greek for “thanksgiving,” and thanksgiving is indeed one of the four ends of the Mass, I find myself overwhelmingly grateful this Thanksgiving for the gift that is the Mass of the Ages.
I am thankful for the communion of saints, the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us in the faith, particularly the intellectual life and writings of those more scholarly or academic among their number. I find I rely on their faith when my own is lacking or is in doubt.
As someone who imagines himself to be an intellectual, it’s easy to fall prey to the modernist lie that religion and faith are essentially superstitions, that I delude myself in believing in that for which I have no proof. But I think about the greatest intellectual giants of history whom I respect, and with very few exceptions they are all people of faith, almost all of them Catholics (and the non-Latins are mostly Orthodox or Anglo-Catholic). I realize that to denigrate my own faith on the grounds that it is somehow anti-intellectual is to insult men and women I have enormous respect for — Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen, John Chrysostom, G.K. Chesterton — not to mention the holy priests and lay people I grew up with, such as the Servite Fathers of my childhood parish and my rosary-carrying grandfather.
Their mere existence and history provides evidence enough against the notion that logic, intellect, learning, and rationality are not opposed to faith but rather provide harmony and support — they differ like lines of counterpoint in a motet, not like lines of scrimmage in a battle.
But the modernists and the anti-theists claim that we now know things we did not know before, that our philosophical and scientific understanding of the world is so changed that surely the great minds of the past, Aquinas and Erasmus — perhaps even the Rabbi Jesus — would have been secular humanists, philosophical atheists, and enlightenment-style intellectuals.
I only have to read the writings of these saints, and not just their hagiographies, to realize this is nothing but another lie from him who is a liar and the Father of Lies.
Every modern idea, every contemporary heresy, every intellectual and philosophical breakthrough is repeated over and over again throughout history. We have no new intellectual or scientific weapons against faith, no novel instruments for measuring God’s non-existence.
I have discovered that the well-educated priest of the Middle Ages knew full well and good that the Genesis creation story was poetic and liturgical rather than scientific and historical, yet this did nothing to harm his faith in God or in His Christ. I found recently that in his commentary on Job, Aquinas touched on the controversy surrounding whether the protagonist of that story was a real, historical person. I see traces of Einstein and Heisenberg in Aristotle, and so, therefore, in the Scholastics. More recently, G. K. Chesterton lived in an era that Penn Jillette called “the Golden Age of Atheism,” and emerged as a preeminent apologist, respected by those both within and without the Church.
Too many of us have internalized the narrative that the faith of the past was a dark superstition, and that only in the last century or two have we crawled out of the cave of shadows to stand in the clear light of reason. Even those of us who claim a Christian or Catholic identity find ourselves apologizing for the ignorance of our ancestors, seeking to find a way to conform our apparently irrational convictions to the impersonal logic of scientific rationalism.
The writings of the saints (both canonized and not), their lives and their witness, provides proof that these modern lies are indeed lies, and brings illumination in the midst of my too-frequent intellectualized crises of faith. If Augustine couldn’t think his way out of belief in God, neither shall I — especially now that I know I have no new or special weapons or tactics for such a fight.
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