Tuesday, April 18, 2006

God or the Girl

Let's get one thing straight from the outset- I don't care for reality shows. I have watched four episodes of Survivor: Guatemala, and a few minutes of Amazing Race. When Extreme Makeover comes on, the channel gets switched. What Not To Wear- same deal. American Idol is as fixed as any pro wrestling match. Trading Spaces is banned from my house.

With that said, a show that premiered Sunday on A&E intrigued me. It is called God or the Girl and it follows the process four young men go through as they decide whather to enter the priesthood. It is very interesting, treating the priesthood and the Catholic Church with respect. Too bad it's only five episodes.

Dan is my favorite. He lives in a Catholic frat house near Ohio State University near Columbus (that's not why he's my favorite, but we won't go there). All of the men living there are celibate and engage in spiritual activities together in addition to normal "guy" things like beating the cr*p out of each other for fun :) Dan is a youth minister at his parish (I think it's his parish, it might be a local Catholic high school). This guy is bubbling over with zeal for his faith. Oh to be young again....

As part of the discernment process his spiritual director suggested that he carry a wooden cross to a neighboring parish 22 miles away as a means of meditating on the sufferings of Jesus. Dan picked out the wood, had his frat brothers help him build it, and ended up with an 80-pound cross which he did carry 22 miles with very little help. This man was in serious pain most of the way but he felt like he had to do it to impress upon himself the seriousness of Jesus' sacrifice.

During one part of the journey he trekked through a small town with plenty of curious onlookers. One of those onlookers was a Christian of a different faith who engaged Dan in some friendly discussion before he started unloading his guns. The arguments he put forth were the usual ones- in the Magnificat Mary calls God her Saviour so she wasn't sinless, there is one mediator between God and man so why pray to Mary, etc.- and it looked like Dan was at a loss. Although the editing of the show may have come into play here. He did tell the man that he wasn't prepared to argue intellectually with him. Dan may have felt like doing so would accomplish no purpose.

On a Catholic apologetics forum I frequent most people insisted that Dan needed to be more prepared. "Apologetics is just too critical to ignore," one poster wrote. I agree that apologetics is critical; I would also add that we don't know that Dan wasn't prepared. If we had the master tapes maybe we could see. But maybe Dan's statement that he didn't want to get into an argument is something we could all pay heed to.

When I returned to the Catholic faith I thought about turning this blog into a Catholic apologetics rant. I decided against it for a few reasons. One, there are plenty of apologetics blogs out there. Probably too many. My impression of apologetics blogs, and apologetics forums, and apologetics chat rooms, is that most people want to win arguments more than they want to win converts. Instead of their primary objective being learning more about the faith in order to live a holy life and partake of God's grace, their primary objetive is to be right and rub your nose in it if you happen to be one of those "ignorant, misguided Protestants" that cross their paths. I don't go to these sites very often because I don't like the attitude.

Another reason I decided against it is that I don't want to be pigeonholed. If I was only writing about specifically Catholic topics than I never would have written "A Father's Story," which has affected more people than I possibly could have imagined. I want to write whatever flows out of me. Sometimes I have a fully developed topic in mind, some times I have a rough sketch of a first draft. Sometimes the finished product is good, and sometimes it sucks and I delete it before too many people read it.

That's not to say that I will never write on Catholic apologetics. I have some ideas in mind. It certainly would have been simple to discuss "one mediator" with Dan's opponent using the same Bible that he used. For instance:

Revelation 5:8- Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:3-4- Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

You see? Simple. The elders offered incense, which represented the prayers of the saints, to the Lamb Who is Jesus. Same with the angels in chapter 8. I don't believe that the use of the term "saints" in these verses refers to those already in heaven but believers on earth. So we see that there are those in heaven acting as mediators. If they weren't mediators then the incense would rise before Jesus directly. The Bible may not directly spell out the doctrine of asking for the intercession of Mary and other saints, but it does suggest that the interpretation of "one mediator" that a lot of people have needs to be revised.

Apologetics is critical; living the teachings of the Church is just as critical. There are times to defend the faith and times to recognize a no-win situation, say "God bless you," and move on. As the philosopher once said, you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em :)


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