(Jn. 2:14-22)

I'm a simple man of ordinary education, a seeker of truth yet a sinful wretch, and not worthy of any these discussions of high philosophy and theology.  I have seen greater piety in Protestants and even Muslims, but my personal shortcomings don't take away from the validity of the notion to reunite the Church which Christ established.  And with the leading universities consuming their time trying to figure out what a woman is, my qualifications might be substantially superior.  And Christ said in Lk 19:40 "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."  And if no one else will speak to the elephant in the room, then I guess I'm an ignorant stone that can no longer stay silent.  History is calling for unity.  That said, if I have errored, demonstrate it and I will follow you.

I was born a cradle Catholic to a good Catholic family.  I was raised in the faith, and learned right from wrong.  In school I became good friends with some devout Protestants, and I really admired how they lived their faith.  We had pretty good political and theological debates, but I never really knew how to answer many of their challenges.  In high school I remember during Confirmation class, hearing my priest praising a very pro-choice president for his work with the poor.  Perhaps, but I knew he publicly promoted baby killers, and my conscience was in a mad fervor.  Babies are the miracle of life, our successors, and the most innocent of us all.  I was also familiar with many of the Catholic politicians in the 1980's who lived public lives of debauchery and pushed a pro-choice agenda, all while professing publicly their catholic faith.   I honestly was starting to think the Catholic Church was Pro-Choice at the time.  The Protestant youth groups I went to were far more active in promoting the Pro-Life message, along with abstinence and purity.  At this time in my life I was ignorant of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and what official Church teaching was.  In my formative years I heard mixed messages and it led to further confusion.

In college I had a bad experience early on at the local Catholic church, I went to Mass there, and during the homily the priest committed a serious sacrilege in not mentioning the Gospel once.  It was essentially a corporate board meeting, discussing repairs needed in the church and the financial situation, but nothing about Jesus or our responsibility to tithe, just a board meeting.  I was ignorant of the far more serious sacrilege happening at the altar, yet my conscience knew I had been seriously deprived of spiritual nutrition, and again I was searching for truth.  I never returned to that parish while in college.  I became a typical Christian American after that, going to whichever church that I felt satisfied my spiritual hunger.  I started to lean more toward the non-denominational churches.  But when I went home to visit my folks, I went to Mass and received Holy Communion, all while oblivious to the proper teaching of the Church or understanding the Mass.  At the time I believed in the Real Presence, but I also did when I went to a Protestant service as well.  I know too much now to challenge Catholic doctrine on the matter and am in full agreement.  That said, I'm a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer.  Even though many other churches didn't have the proper form, or matter, they were still making a sincere effort to remember our Lord's sacrifice, and in my opinion, there was efficacy in that act of faith, that good work if you will.  

During my senior year in college, my brother died in a tragic car accident, and I found my faith challenged in a way I never thought possible.  I knew tragedy could strike, and eventually would, and thought I was well prepared spiritually for such an occasion.  But it wasn't as easy to put into action for me.  My prayers became empty, and I had nothing left, and all I could fall back on was the old Catholic memory prayers I knew as a child, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, etc.  Upon returning home from college, I returned to my Catholic parish.  In my mind I was returning, and would always be Catholic, but I thought it was my duty to reform the Church, to the more modern form I had discovered in my search during those college years.  I started helping with the youth, and wasn't intentionally anti-catholic in anything, but certainly pushing for more modernization, trendier music, etc.  During this time, I kept running into an immovable unshakeable rock, that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I would eventually come to realize it was the rock of Peter, and he wasn't budging.  It was a humbling experience and a change of heart that led me to dig deeper into Christian history.  

After hearing about Irenaeus and Ignatius on EWTN, I started digging into the lives of the early Church Fathers.  Wikipedia was fairly new at the time, and it was quite interesting to read about Origen and much of the early Church that was centered around Alexandria and other great libraries of the time.  With the internet at my fingertips, I had access to the greatest library the world had ever seen, something those early fathers wouldn't have even dreamed of.  What I liked about Wikipedia is that it would put what the Catholics taught, next to what the Protestants claimed, next to the Muslims, etc.  When I found a historical figure I wasn't aware of, I only had to click on the name, and find out who that individual was.  It was a great Christian history mystery unraveling right before my eyes.  For me it was a revelation of the Good News.  No disrespect for the Bible and the Sacred Gospels.  They are far more important, and should be first on our list, without doubt. But a lot of different people get a lot of different interpretations from the same verses in the Bible.  The difference in interpreting is found in the history of the Church, and the history of interpretations. 

Catholic history reveals the history of the Bible and the history of the interpretations of those verses, what they said then and what they say now.  It hasn’t changed in the Catholic Church.  When you think that the Old Testament covered roughly 4000 years, and the New Testament only covered about 70 years, there's alot of history missing.  I really think the Church history is the Acts of the Apostles continued, it didn’t end when Jesus died and rose, it continued.   Christ appeared to St. Paul, to St. Francis, to Padre Pio, and even today the Acts continue, Christ is alive.  Our God is the God of the Living, not the dead.  The Acts of the Apostles does not end, it continues with you, me, and all of the faithful. At the next Ecumenical Council I hope to see the Church start canonizing historical compendiums every millennium.  If we have this much division after 2000 years, what will the Church look like in another 2000 years?  No one knows when the end will be and it's important to look ahead to the future as our predecessors have done.

It’s unfortunate that something like a couple historical blunders could cause the divisions we see today, but Isaac and Ishmael are good examples of what one little mistake can do thousands of years later.  As Christians, we have to remember that the Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church, 300 years after the Church started, so the people that put that Bible together are extremely important to know. 

The great early Church fathers that we should all know by heart are Pope Clement (whose letter to Corinth was considered canonical  to many eastern churches until the 6th century), Ignatius (who was a child that Jesus blessed, and was appointed Bishop by Peter, and a martyr in the coliseum), Ireneaus (was the first to mention that all 4 gospels were sacred, battled Gnostic heresy through justification of apostolic succession or the line of Popes to discredit their claim as Christians), Athanasius (was the first to mention the 27 books of the NT as canonical, the same all Christians use today), Augustine (battled pelagian heresy, brought the Tertullians back in communion with the Church, and led the canonization of the Bible at the Council of Carthage), Jerome (wrote the first single language Bible-the vulgate, he translated from the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic into Latin- he was influenced by the Rabbis in Palestine and differed from Augustine and the Church tradition on his list of apocryphal books, and Jerome is who Luther fell back in challenging the Deuterocanon).  Those fathers are all within the first 400 years of the Church. 

Historically when you look at the establishment of the powers of the Church & State in the Holy Roman Empire, they were separate entities that would sometimes overstep their boundaries, but in many cases emperors like Constantine, Charles Martel, and King Sigismund defended the Church from heresies, schisms, and conquerors.  Other times the popes protected the governments from insurrection and conquerors, like Pope Leo the Great and Pope Gregory the Great.  And sometimes it wasn’t so pretty, but we’ve seen that before, in the Old Testament. 

During the Reformation, Luther wouldn’t listen to Pope Leo X.  Leo wasn’t a great pope by any means, and many saints have challenged Rome and the Church hierarchy and faced persecution, excommunication and even martyrdom.  But Luther started his own church with the help of different Kings vying for political power.  Henry VIII soon followed suit in starting his own church so he could get divorced.  The Kings began revolting against the Pope and the Church. Essentially, governments began establishing their own churches. In return the people began revolting against their kings, in America, France, Spain and Italy.  Now that the people were empowered, common people began starting their own churches.  This still continues today.  The Reformation had serious effects on the civilized governments as well as on the faithful.  There’s always been schisms, but the effect on governments like we can see in the Reformation had not been seen in Church history before. 

In the first 1500 years of Christianity most heresies were routed out by Ecumenical Councils, like Nicea, Carthage, and Constance.  The Coucil of Trent was held to reform the Church in response to the Reformation, and did some great reforms, but did little to bring the Protestants back in communion.  History is a tough subject to unravel, and the authors of history also make a significant impact.  All historical accounts have biases.  At the time of David, the majority of the world historians considered him a tyrant, the Biblical account doesn't hide his faults, but demonstrates he was favored by God.  We need to be able to look at the history of the Reformation with that same lense.

Western civilization (Christian government) is collapsing, if it hasn’t already. Since the Reformation, Protestant churches have schismed into 40,000+ denominations with little continuity.  Of the protestant nations in Europe and the west, most have turned secular atheist.  America's founders were brilliant men, but no one claims them to be infallible.  Yet we treat them like it.  America was established as a melting pot for Christian Europeans to escape persecutions from the wars that followed the Reformation.  We're at a crossroads, and with this great opportunity, we have to be careful what we melt into.  Perhaps America's modern error was in not adopting a religion. America’s founding fathers rebelled against the King of England and his church, but didn’t want to align with Rome. They followed Luther’s system of a separation of Church & State.  But reformation governments really empowered the state.  In the US we created a balance of powers not between the Church & State, but the State & State.  We have the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Think about that for a minute, step away from your public education, there’s 3 branches of government to keep the government in check, and they're all just the state. 

But how can America adopt a religion?  It would take a constitutional convention to adopt a religion.  A couple 100 politicians representing 300 million voters, trying to get reelected, with 40,000 denominations, not to mention other faiths, and atheists.  That could never work.  The Church will have to come together first.

We’ve been told not talk about politics and religion.  Says who?  We in the west need to stop selling ourselves short.  The Jews did it for 1000’s of years, and so did Christendom.  This is not a gamble, religious government is proven government.  The path we are on; atheistic democracy is fairly new and experimental, which by the way didn't go well in Russia.  Pre-Christian Rome was close, but held their emperors as gods.  We’ve enshrined our leaders in the halls of DC, in the mountains of SD and on our money.  What will the history books say about the west a thousand years from now?  Will they marvel at how tall our buildings were, or be mortified by how many babies we slaughtered?

God gave the law “not for the righteous, but the lawless” (Tim 1:9).  We in America have been taught it’s mean to enforce your religion on others. That’s what law enforcement is, all governments do it.  We need means to prevent stealing, raping, murder, etc..  That actually imposes restrictions on the freedoms of thieves, murderers and rapists.  Any just society needs police, and an army.  Even the Pope has armed guards, for law enforcement; that is enforcement of the law.  Can we honestly expect to find justice when we’ve ran God out of our country.  Without God there is no Law, without religion you can’t have just politics. 

We need to wake up. Adolph Hitler killed millions of Jews and other innocent victims in the name of science, a better civil society, and economic improvement.  Well it doesn’t take me long to justify the bloodshed of WWII to stop him by using the Just War Doctrine of St. Thomas Acquinas.  But what of abortion in our country?  Where will we sit in the history books, not to mention the final judgment?  Is it no more justifiable, all those innocent lives? That blood has been spilled on our soil, it is on our hands.  I’m not in a position of authority to call for action.  If I were I would use any and all means necessary to put an end to this atrocity.  But if the Church were to come together again, that would allow governments to realign with Christianity.  Allowing western government to realign with the law peacefully, thus ending abortion, peacefully.  Taking what we’ve learned from the reformation, I think we can establish better relations between Church & State in the western world, not perfect, but better and more tolerant.  We may have to make some sacrifices, but with the goal in sight I think we can afford to make some.  It may take decades, and it will take fortitude, but I believe it can happen.

Jesus told us a “house divided cannot stand.”  But He also told us that “He was founding his Church on the Rock of Peter and the gates of the netherworld would not prevail against it”.  Well, we’ve taken some hits, but by the grace of God we’re still kicking. After 500 years I think it’s time for Christianity to demonstrate reconciliation to the rest of the world. Once we remove the plank of division we’ve placed in the eye of the Church, only then can we help the world remove its’ splinters from its’ eye.  And the only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.  I know it’s hard with jobs, families and bills to pay.  But what good is it to gain the world and lose your own soul.  Given a chance to unite Christianity and actually reform the Church might be enough to get a majority of Christians to come to a council.  And given the chance for everyone to dig into history can only help to glorify our Lord. I also think the Protestants can offer great reforms in means of networks, and evangelization.  Marcus Grodi and Scott Hahn offer a small example of some of the potential within protestant movements.  And current Catholic politicians attest to our own need of reform as well.  We can accomplish more together than apart. 

I guess each of us have to remember we are all Children of God.  Regardless of where society puts us, we are all, Children of God. Not to say God doesn’t place His children in different positions of authority.  I have a deep respect for the Church authority and the priesthood, and I still try to maintain some respect for government leaders.  But we all have rights as citizens of the US, and we all have rights as members of the Catholic Church.  So I intend to use those rights to their full extent to voice my opinion, in hopes of reaching someone who has that authority.  The last thing I want to do is follow my own pride and be the next Luther.  But I think we can all still try to reach out across denominational lines to build unity through dialogue. Ecumenicalism is always a safe bet within the sound doctrine of the Church.  But sitting by and thinking this country is just going to fix itself is not an option, it is not.  The courts and the law are struggling to define reality in modern securlarism. 

Faith is our one Hope.  God can make the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, move mountains; and ultimately, He even conquered sin & death, so it’s not hard to envision Christians coming together.  If we believe it, and live it, it’s a start.  There really are some awesome reforms going on in the Church right now, and it’s an inspiration to see the Lord working.  And there are also some amazing things happening in the Evangelical churches moving towards traditional Christianity.  We are the body of Christ.  Some parts of that body aren't as pleasing to the eye as others; lawyers and politicians for instance.  But each part is still just as vital to the body as the others.

If my words hold any truth, treat them as such, if not, then cast them aside.  May God have mercy on our nation, and Praise be Jesus Christ.

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