Monday, November 30, 2015

Less Talking - More Doing

I was tossing and turning one night, unable to sleep from frustration and discouragement.  Try as I might, I felt like my words of evangelization were the equivalent of spitting on a forest fire.  All of my efforts seemed utterly fruitless and I thought that perhaps I had missed God's will for me entirely.  I thought I should give up, scrap this blog, and admit failure.  My heart cried out to God to just tell me what He wanted from me.  "Lord, I want to do your will, but please, I don't know what you want me to do!  Don't be subtle, I'm too dense for that.  A boot to the head, neon sign, or something of that order is most necessary."  

As usual, when I'm throwing a tantrum like this, God did not give me what I wanted.  Instead, a gentle message worked its way into my heart, two actually.  The first was a reminder of some wise words from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:  God does not ask us to be successful, only to be faithful.  And: If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers.  Ouch.  I had to realize that my idea of success and God's are not necessarily the same.  I don't know God's plan;  I can only be faithful to what I think He is calling me to do.  If this blog stays relatively unknown forever, and nobody but a stray friend with words of encouragement ever comments on it, then so be it.  It is not for me to decide whether or not this is worthwhile.  I may never know God's purpose in my sitting for countless hours trying to drown out the noise of children to focus long enough to get these thoughts out of my head and on the screen...and I don't need to.

The second message was the title of this post:  less talking, more doing.  Over and over it repeated in my mind and I could feel the start of something.  I could also feel the realization that I wasn't getting anymore sleep because once the gears start going on a new idea it's hard to make them stop, even if it is three in the morning.  But what it turned into, is the idea that we do so much talking and so little doing.  This is true more today than it has ever been.  Thanks to modern technology we are able to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world.  How ironic and sad that we are more capable of communicating now than we have ever been, yet we've never been more out of touch with our fellow man.  We can surround ourselves with everything we like and nothing we don't.  The more we "like" on Facebook, the more we see of what we like.  Don't like what somebody has to say?  You can make it go away!  Somebody getting on your nerves too much?  You can unfriend and block them!  We can create our own little virtual bubble to live in and the effect it is having on society is undeniable.  We feel entitled to never be upset or offended...ever.  We declare the need for safe spaces and healing spaces and trigger warnings when people are going to say things that might upset us.  And finally, we consider it helping our fellow man when we share a post or change our Facebook profile picture to raise awareness.  

Now, I understand the blaring hypocrisy of a blogger calling out the virtual world.  This post will be shared on Facebook, and I'll ask everyone to read it while encouraging people to spend less time on Facebook.  Social media has its purpose and can be a really good tool used to accomplish great deeds which would otherwise be impossible.  But it has a way of taking over our lives and I'm sure most people can acknowledge that.  We need to find a balance of spending just enough time on social media and technology in general to gear us up to get back to real life with focus and purpose.

So what's your point?

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What do I mean by "less talking, more doing?"  Let's stop spending so much time broadcasting our opinions and more time putting them into action.  Rather than trying to convince each other that we're right, let's show why.  Speaking directly to my fellow Christians, put your Faith into action.  Don't just tell people what you believe, show them.  Show them the fruit of Christ living within you.  Show people what God's love makes you do and let them know that He is the reason.

Non-believers, you're not off the hook here.  I hear it all the time that we don't need God to be good people.  Let's see it.  What does your love for humanity make you do?  How are you moved to act by what you believe?

Now, do I expect everyone to run out there and adopt twelve kids, end world hunger, and bring about peace in the Middle East?  Of course not.  We have jobs, kids, responsibilities coming out our ears and I get that.  Now, perhaps many of us could be a lot less busy, but let's not go off on that tangent(yet).  The point is, everyone can do something.  Whether you're flat broke, have a brood of children to mind, or whatever else heavy responsibility, we can all do something to help one another, encourage one another, lift each other up.  Dare I say, that cross on your shoulders might actually feel a bit lighter if you take some time to help someone carry theirs.

Let me be clear, that I am not at all suggesting that we all just stop talking about our Faith, opinions, issues and so on.  I applaud my fellow evangelizers and anyone who is willing to carry on civilized discussion and debate with people they disagree with.  It is truly a lost art in our society.  But it seems that too often, talking is all we do.  When I was an atheist, it wasn't the debates I had with my brother that made an impression on me.  It was how he and his wife loved and cared for me unconditionally.  They supported me through a very difficult time in my life and it was such a powerful witness to the love they had in their hearts.  We can all talk until we're blue in the face, but it's through our actions and especially our sacrifices that we will change hearts and minds.   

There's so much to say about this, and I intend to make this an ongoing topic on my blog, but I am determined to keep this post short.  What I want to do today, is just start a little flame burning in the hearts of anyone who reads this.  Let's start something together.  Make it your goal to do something good today.  Find someone who needs help and just help them.  You don't have to save the world, Christ has already done that.  But you can be His hands and feet here and now.  Show someone they are loved.  There are so many possibilities and this will look different for everyone.  Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru.  Tell them God loves them and you hope they have a great day.  Take a homeless person to lunch and sit down and eat with them.  It doesn't have to be a stranger.  So often we look to help those far away and overlook the ones right in front of us.  Put down your phone and give your spouse your undivided attention.  Call up an old friend and catch up.  Read your child a book when you would rather be watching t.v.  Just keep your eyes open and God will do the rest.

Come on, let's start something.  Until next time, may God bless you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Surely They Don't Know: the Ugly Truth of Abortion

Unless you have just returned from a hermitage, you have heard of the recent and ongoing Planned Parenthood scandal.  A group of pro-life activists called the Center for Medical Progress(CMP) has begun releasing a series of undercover videos which demonstrate Planned Parenthood employees haggling over prices for the body parts of aborted children.  This, of course, has thrown fuel onto the fire of the abortion debate which has been raging since Roe vs. Wade.  Abortion supporters are tripping over themselves, offering everything from excuses to flat out denial.  But whether they are sticking their heads in the sand or reasoning that the babies are going to be aborted anyway so we might as well make good use of the scraps, it all misses the point by a mile.  The only people shocked by the revelation that Planned Parenthood sells the dismembered remains of the babies it kills are people who were convinced until now that abortion didn't actually kill babies.  Before being forced to look at a lab technician sifting through a bloody pile of arms, legs, liver, and brain some could snuggle up to the euphemism of "terminating a pregnancy" and continue parroting the nonsensical verbiage Planned Parenthood relies on for its existence.  Those of us in the pro-life camp have been busy dragging the truth out into the light of day while hoping and praying America will wake up from its coma.  The fact that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts is merely an opportunity to help people snap out of it.  Yes abortion is legal, and no, selling body parts is not, but again, this is not the point.  If anyone has broken the law, and anyone thinking clearly can see they have, they should be brought to justice of course.  But, the response to this scandal is not, "Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of the babies it aborts?  That's wrong!  Abortion is one thing, but selling the products of it is just going too far!"  No, America.  The response is, "Dear God!  Abortion is the murder of innocent children, and we have to stop it!"  So if you are one of the people waking up from your long slumber, I invite you to rub your eyes and read on before you start feeling sleepy again.  It's not going to be pretty, but it will be the truth.

Revelation of Truth

The first step in recovering from the comatose state of being pro-choice is to realize that unborn children are, in fact, human beings.  This statement may seem obvious, but it is apparently necessary and must be fully accepted before moving on.  You see, for decades Americans had their consciences lulled to sleep by the constant repetition of such utter nonsense as "It's not a baby, it's just a blob of tissue(clump of cells, etc)."  Quite often the pro-life camp is accused of being a bunch of anti-science, superstitious wackos.  If you want to see anti-science, you can watch this video of a Planned Parenthood representative telling a group of college students to ignore science, and calling scientific facts opinions.  Pardon me, but we have known for many, many years now that it is not a clump of cells.  Pick up any text book about fetal development and you will learn that by the time a woman even knows she is pregnant, the baby's heart is already beating.  Take a look at this video from The Endowment for Human Development.  Follow this link to the video if it does not work below.  
Note that it is taken at 4 weeks and 4 days gestation, a few days before the average woman has even missed her period:

Blobs of tissue do not have beating hearts, folks.  Many people rationalize abortion by saying that the majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester(up to the thirteenth week of pregnancy).  Here is what a baby looks like at eight weeks:

In an effort to seem reasonable, many pro-choice people I speak to will tell me that while they think it's wrong to abort a baby at eight months, eight weeks is perfectly acceptable.  Look at that image.  You see eyes, ears, arms, legs, even tiny ribs.  This is not an amorphous blob, it is clearly a human being.  Now, if you truly have the strength of your convictions, follow this link to an image of the remains of a baby aborted at eight weeks.  Note there is even a medical authentication.  Still think this is okay?

The science is clear, unborn babies are human beings.  It is sad that I even have to offer proof and an argument for that, but there you go.  Abortion takes the life of a human being, and that is murder.

Justifying Murder

Fewer and fewer are those who try to claim babies are not actually people.  They are gradually being replaced by people who acknowledge the humanity unborn, but say it is okay to kill them.  I'm still not certain if I prefer this brazen honesty to delusion or not.  Lesser of evils aside, let's look at some of the justifications used and why they are pure fallacious nonsense.

"It's my body!"

No, no it's not.  That baby growing inside you is a completely separate body.  This really should go without saying.  To make it simple:

Image credit:

Got it?  Good, let's move on.

"Better Off Dead"

Next is what I call the "better off dead" argument, when people appeal to despair.  They site  hypothetical abuse, neglect and suffering as reasons to kill unborn children.  There are several issues with this argument.  The first is that nobody can predict with certainty that a mother will abuse her children.  When we think of this, we imagine some haggard, poor, miserable sot living in the ghetto and spending her money on drugs instead of formula and diapers.  Do we really think every mother in a difficult circumstance is going to abuse her child?  Do we really think every mother in comfortable circumstances won't?  Which is more anti-woman:  encouraging a woman in her struggles and lifting her up or telling her she can't possibly manage and her child is better off dead?  What we are striving for here seems altruistic.  We can't bear the thought of children abused and suffering.  Tell me, are only lives without suffering worth living?  I surely hope not because there is no such life.  Just because a child is born into poor circumstances does not mean his life will be hopeless or meaningless.  Just because a child is born into ideal circumstances is not a guarantee of no suffering.  Do we really think we can look around at one another and say whose life is worth living and whose isn't?  Surely we must see what folly that is.

Am I saying that I don't care about child abuse and the suffering of children?  Certainly not.  Think about it, when a person is already born, we consider there no greater abuse than to murder them.  Before they are born somehow abuse is worse than murder?  Imagine if we applied this logic elsewhere.  "Sir, I'm sorry, but you have cancer and we don't expect you to make it.  We don't want you to suffer so we're going to take you to the operating room and dismember you now."  Imagine a social worker showing up to remove children from an abusive home.  "I'm sorry your mom isn't very nice, Timmy.  We're going to rip your limbs off now so you don't have to suffer anymore.  Don't worry, there are fates worse than death."  Here it seems like madness, and madness it is.  But tell me, what is the difference?  I'll tell you.  When we kill unborn children, we don't have to look at them until they're already dead.  So long as there is life, there is hope, and either we all have a right to life or none of us do.

"They'll Do It Anyway": the Coathanger Defense

This is another ridiculous one.  People attempt to justify abortion being legal because if we make it illegal women will still get abortions.  It should go without saying that no matter the law, someone will break it.  If we used that as our go-to logic for lawmaking, everything would be legal.  People are going to do any number of terrible things they shouldn't.  The point is that we, as a society, declare certain actions unacceptable.

This defense is ridiculous for another reason.  The whole back-alley abortion myth is just that: a myth.  While I'm certain there were some cases of less-than-qualified individuals performing abortions in the days before it was legalized(as there are plenty of now too), the idea that this was pervasive is false.  The majority of illegal abortions were performed by doctors.  Take a look at this article.  But what is more important than dissolving the myth of the coathanger abortion, is opening eyes to the fact that legal abortion is no safer than illegal.  There are countless cases of filthy clinics with expired medication, dirty equipment or improper sterilization, unsafe conditions such as faulty elevators that delay emergency medical care, and patient neglect such as leaving a woman to hemorrhage for five hours before calling 911.  I could write a book, and in fact people have, about the horrific conditions found in abortion clinics.  None in recent history were quite so horrific of the case of Kermit Gosnell.  A movie is in the works about his "House of Horrors" as it has come to be called.  What is more disturbing than the facts of his case is knowing there are more out there like him who have yet to be caught.

Yet Planned Parenthood and their supporters are constantly fighting the adoption of regulations that would keep women safe, such as physicians being required to have admitting privileges at hospitals and banning webcam abortions or keeping their buildings up to code.  So who is really waging a war on women here?

Finally, we should adapt "They'll do it anyway" to "They'll do it anyway, and if they don't want to, we'll make them."  See, abortion is supposed to be all about choice.  Yet Planned Parenthood only offers their patients one choice: abortion.  As per the 2013/14 fiscal year report, Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions and referred 1,880 women for adoptions.  This video has a lovely graphic of a non-pregnant uterus to illustrate the abortion procedure.  Planned Parenthood fights ultrasound laws that would require women to actually see their babies before they choose to kill them.  Heaven forbid we tell women the truth and let them actually choose.  This link contains many quotes from both patients and abortion providers on how women are given deceptive counseling and pressured to have abortions.  And here's another link to Planned Parenthood's website where they inform children that they may be able to circumvent parental consent laws:

In some states, you can be excused from involving a parent without going to a judge if you are the victim of abuse or neglect and you or your doctor report this to the appropriate authorities.  If you are facing a medical emergency and require an immediate abortion, most states will not impose their parental involvement requirements.

We wouldn't want those pesky parents getting involved!  After all, a child knows best right?  I imagine they have all sorts of "medical emergencies" that justify bypassing these laws.  Just as long as you don't have an actual emergency after or during your abortion or you might end up like Tonya Reeves, Jennifer Morbelli, Maria Santiago, Lakisha Wilson, Laura Hope Smith, or Alexandra Nunez.  All of those are cases from 2007 on, and specifically cases of negligence.  Where is the outcry for the deaths of these women?  Not a single news network covered their cases.  Where are the feminists screaming that this is not the safe abortion they fought for?  The silence is deafening.

Rape Exceptions and Life of the Mother

This is considered the silver bullet of the pro-choice argument.  This is the point no pro-lifer is supposed to be able to counter.  Along the lines of the "better off dead" argument, this again appeals to despair.  Nobody wants to think about the horrific crime of a woman being raped or the tragedy of something going terribly wrong during pregnancy.  But since when do we consider heaping more horror or more tragedy onto a problem, a solution?  In the case of rape, for what other crime do we execute a child for the crimes of his father?  Does killing a child un-rape a woman?  Abortion or rape taken by themselves are traumatizing, do we really thinking helping a woman kill her innocent child is going to maker her feel better?  Women who have been raped are violated and made to feel helpless and powerless.  Women who turn to abortion do so because they too feel helpless and powerless.  So how will abortion help a woman who has been raped recover her life?  It doesn't.  All of this is in addition to the fact that children conceived in rape are no less human than any other child.  When people want to support pro-life legislation with rape exceptions, they need to consider the following question:  would you support legislation that made exceptions for black babies?  That's discrimination you say?  Indeed it is, and rape exceptions are no different.

A final point to be made about abortion and rape is this.  People think abortion offers a solution to rape, but it doesn't.  Abortion enables rapists and sex traffickers.  Most people think of rape as a one-time, random offense.  That is not always the case.  Rape can often be an on-going case of abuse which is covered up thanks to abortion.  Here is a list of cases in which sexual predators used abortion to cover up their crimes.  Abortion clinics seem all too happy to assist in covering up these crimes; I suppose it's good for business.  See this case in Colorado, and this undercover investigation by Live Action which revealed eight Planned Parenthood clinics in five different states covering up sexual abuse.  There's also this investigation detailing seven clinics in four different states assisting child sex traffickers with confidential birth control, STD testing, and secret abortions for their victims.  Of course sometimes the abuser is the abortionist himself, as was the case here with a convicted sex offender running eight abortion clinics in New Jersey.  And naturally, Planned Parenthood fights legislation that would require all of its employees to report sexual abuse.

Lastly, the point needs to be made that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother.  Even as recently as the GOP debate, the question was raised as to whether a pro-life candidate would rather risk a mother's life than allow her to have an abortion.  People rarely seem to know how to respond to this, and it is astonishing how few people realize that abortion is completely unnecessary.  Partly, no doubt, this is because "life of the mother" must remain a talking point for abortion lobbyists.  For the rest of us, it is mere ignorance.  In the case of ectopic pregnancy(when the baby has implanted somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly the fallopian tube) the baby must be surgically removed.  This is not the same as an abortion.  If a woman is diagnosed with a disease such as cancer during her pregnancy, a doctor will not deny her treatment.  In fact, there is a growing list of chemotherapy drugs which do not cross the placenta so there isn't even a risk to the baby.  Plus, this study found that babies with in utero exposure to chemotherapy drugs are not at an increased risk for birth defects.  In any kind of emergent condition, doctors can induce labor or deliver via Cesarean section.  Is the baby guaranteed to live?  No, but it's better than a guaranteed death via dismemberment as with abortion.   

Remember Savita Halappanavar?  Of course you don't.  She was the woman whose death was used by the media to spur mass hysteria and draw a world-wide attack on Ireland's abortion laws.  Reporters falsely claimed that she requested an abortion, was denied, and died as a result.  In reality, Savita never requested an abortion, nor would one have saved her life.  The final report, which no one was actually interested in, showed that hospital staff failed to follow protocol and as a result missed a fatal infection.  Nobody cares about that now, and certainly the media never came out and apologized for acting like a bunch of blood-thirsty lunatics.  They got what they wanted: abortion in Ireland.  Ironically enough, when Ireland was abortion-free, they were the safest nation in the world in which to have a baby.  It seems the standards are raised when doctors do what they are supposed to: preserve life.

"But we NEED Planned Parenthood!"

One thing is certain, we DO NOT need Planned Parenthood.  First of all, here is a map of Federally qualified health centers:

You can see there's a few to choose from.  All of these centers offer the same services as Planned Parenthood, minus abortion.  Just imagine what we could do if we added to them the more than $500,000 in tax dollars that goes to Planned Parenthood every year.  

Now, the other point to be made is this.  Planned Parenthood likes to go on about how abortion only accounts for 3% of their services.  This is an absolute lie, but completely misses the point anyway.  Think about it.  Let's say I run a medical clinic and thousands of people come to me for medication, cancer screenings, and various other important services.  Now let's say I run this clinic with money paid to me by parents who have me kill their unwanted children.  Parents bring me their children, pay a fee, and I take them in a back room and kill them.  Am I still an asset to the community?  Are you still on CNN proclaiming that this country NEEDS me?  Dear God, I certainly hope not.  But this is exactly the reasoning we are using when we justify the existence of Planned Parenthood.  They make obscene amounts of money in profit every year killing unwanted children and we proclaim that the world would stop turning if we got rid of them.  "But, but...abortion is different!"  Really, how?  Mothers go in with unwanted children and Planned Parenthood kills them.  The bodies are smaller, the act is the same.  Conveniently, the murderers at Planned Parenthood don't have to look at their victims until they're already dead.

Final Thoughts

There's no mistaking we have lost our moral compass in America.  We no longer search for truth, but rather look for ways to justify what we want.  This reveals itself with astounding clarity with abortion.  We know abortion is murder - the intentional taking of an innocent human life.  We know this, and we know it is wrong, but it's what we want so we look for ways to justify it.  We make excuse after excuse, and resist every effort made at revealing the painful truth.  When I had my conversion, one of the first issues I had to reconsider was abortion.  I actually took the time to form an opinion rather than parroting the party lines I had learned so well.  When I looked abortion in the face, when I acknowledged what it truly is and looked at the bloody remains of what was once a tiny human being, I cried.  I cried for days and weeks, and felt a near constant pain in my heart for months on end.  "Surely they don't know!", I told myself.  I never stopped to think about abortion and what it really is before, and I thought that many others were probably the same.  We've been taught that women have a right to choose and that abortion is a necessary evil.  This is nothing more than a lie we tell ourselves to relieve ourselves of any obligation to actually dealing with responsibility, consequences of our actions, or facing tragic and painful situations.  But it is a two-fold lie because not only is abortion not necessary, it's not even a solution to any of these things.  If, as a society, we declare the killing of children a solution to anything then, my God, what are we?

I pray that this post will open the eyes of any abortion supporter who reads it.  I pray we will stop hiding from the painful truth of abortion.  I pray for the day the unborn are no longer considered a subclass of humanity.  Fight the temptation to go back to sleep.  Stay awake and fight for the defenseless, for the voiceless, for the least of these.  Until next time, may God bless you.


Want to learn more?  Below is a list a resources to learn more about the ugly truth of abortion, ways to take action, and programs for healing after abortion.

Silent No More(  a group that raises awareness about abortion through the testimonies of men and women who have lost children through abortion, as well as former abortion providers.  They also have information on healing programs for post abortive men and women.

Priests for Life(  find ways to take action against abortion, see images and videos of actual abortions, and links to healing programs

Abby Johnson( a former abortion clinic manager turned pro-life advocate

And Then There Were None( an outreach run by Abby Johnson to help abortion workers leave the industry with everything from financial assistance to legal representation

Rachael's Vineyard(  offers healing retreats for post abortive men and women

The Endowment for Human Development(  an astounding collection of in utero images and videos throughout all nine months of pregnancy

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Agonizing Joy: the Conversion Experience

When most people think about conversion, especially folks outside of Christianity, we tend to think of extremes.  We think conversion is typically born out of desperate circumstances like a brush with death or hitting rock bottom in life.  Now I don't doubt that many authentic and inspiring conversions have come about in this way, but these stories are not the only kind of conversion and they tend to give people a very common misconception about conversion: that faith is something people put on like a warm and fuzzy blanket to comfort themselves.  Certainly there is a joyful component to any conversion, but it's not the whole story.  Being a Christian is a lifelong journey, and a rather difficult one at that.  In this post I hope to paint a more accurate picture of what conversion is like.

Speaking From Experience

So the obvious place to start is with my own conversion.  If you haven't read my first post which tells my story you can check it out here to see how my conversion came about, but as I said, that is only the beginning.  It all started with that moment of revelation.  I stared  in bewilderment at the words in front of me pointing out what had eluded me all my life: I had to make a choice about Christ.  His own words declared that He was not just another nice man with some nice advice.  He either is who He says or He's a bad man.  The temptation is always to create the "domesticated Jesus" because the true figure of Christ is a very dangerous one.  The reality of God become man is actually quite terrifying if you think about it.  We want Jesus to be just another wise man in the long history of wise men because if He is who He says He is, we owe our whole life to Him and that is not something easily come to terms with.

It certainly wasn't easy for me.  As I said in my first post, the first book I read after that revelation was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  Before reading this and before having any feelings other than disdain for Christianity, I was like most people in that I thought I was a decent person.  In fact, I imagined myself morally superior to Christians because I was being good and kind for the sake of it and not because I was trying to reach some candyland in the sky.  But while the revelation of the existence of God is initially euphoric, it brings with it some other realizations that are not so pleasant.  The beginning of my conversion played out something like this:

"Christ is who He says or He's a bad man.  Hey, nobody ever put it like that before.  I need to think about this a moment.  Um...I'm not sure I like where this is going.  This is just stupid, God become man?  God doesn't exist!  Wait a minute, did she say C.S. Lewis?  I think I have that book...I DO have that book.  I have to go find it!

*days pass as I read the most intelligent, logical argument for God I had never heard in my life*

"I was wrong.  All this time I was wrong.  God does exist...God DOES exist...and He loves me!  He became man and died for me, and rose from the dead, and this is so amazing and ooooooooooooooohhh, dear God I'm a horrible person!!!"

My whole life I thought Christians were a bunch of self-righteous snobs staring down their noses at all of us Godless heathens.  The truth is, when you understand who God is and who Christ is you see how desperately you fall short of His glory and how woefully inadequate and unworthy you are.  The best analogy I've ever heard is one from, you guessed it, Father Robert Barron.  Think of a windshield.  When you are facing away from the light, your windshield looks great, all is as it should be.  But when you are driving toward the sun, you see every last speck and smudge and you see clearly what a mess it really is.  Having realized the truth about God and that Christianity is true, I also had to come to terms with the fact that for all of my adult life I had been spreading lies and leading others astray.  How many souls did I lead away from Christ in that time?  How many people did I convince that what is good is evil and what is evil is good?  I was, and still am, sick at the thought.

Of course all of the above is played out in super warp speed to make a point.  Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis knows it's not exactly leisure reading, and anyone who has converted from Atheism to Catholicism (or Christianity in general) knows how uncomfortable it is.  I can't tell you how many obnoxious remarks I made in my years as an atheist about Christianity, or how many disrespectful arguments I had with Christians.  Imagine for a moment you've been arguing with someone that they took your pen.  For the last seventeen minutes you've laid into them, called them every name in the book, insulted their intelligence and possibly even their mother.  Now imagine you suddenly realized you were wrong and it wasn't actually your pen.  That's right, let that hypothetical feeling of total humiliation sink in a bit.  Now imagine it wasn't seventeen minutes, but years and over something far more important than a pen.  You can now start to imagine how I felt upon realizing the truth about Christ.

And that was only the beginning.  Once the initial shock wore off I had another startling revelation: my new-found faith left me having to reconsider every position, every stance, every decision about everything imaginable.  I realized that I didn't know what I thought about anything.  You see, being a Christian isn't just about where you spend your Sunday morning.  It influences every part of your life.  Some people think that's extreme, but think about it - wouldn't it be worthless if it didn't?  If what you believe about the very nature of our existence, where we came from and why we're here, doesn't have an impact on how you live your life, what good is it?  On the flip side of that you could also say that if you think what you believe about the very nature of our existence doesn't influence how you live your life, you're fooling yourself.  Some people have this silly idea that if we just take religious beliefs out of everything it will solve all the world's problems and disagreements.  The truth is, that's impossible.  What you believe influences everything, even if you claim to believe in nothing.

Next we need to consider that I was not going through this conversion in a vacuum.  I was married with three children when this happened to me.  I still can't imagine how my husband must have felt when his staunchly atheist wife of five years suddenly did an about face and declared she wanted to return to the Catholic Church.  You mean the Catholic Church she previously despised with every fiber of her being?  Yep, that's the one.  Seriously, I owe that man a case of beer and tickets to the Daytona 500 just for not dragging me off to the nuthouse.  That's not to say it all came up roses.  Our discussions about the Faith brought out a side of my husband I had never seen before - an angry side.  We fought pretty much every time I brought it up and there were times I was pretty sure this journey was going to end with our divorce.  I prayed and cried and cried and prayed...and cried.  I realized the pain in my heart was nothing compared to the pain I caused God and offered up my oceans of tears to Him.

And what about our children?  This whole journey came about because of our decision to homeschool them.  There I was, newly committed to my children's education and now this.  What was I to teach them about the Faith?  Would this be another fight?  How do I even begin to teach them all this stuff when I barely understand it myself?  But, as any Christian homeschooler will tell you, when you teach children the Faith, they really end up teaching you in the end.

By and by we figured it out.  The fights turned to serious discussions and heart-felt honesty.  In the end, it was actually our children who brought my husband back to the Church.  But that's his story and I'll let him tell it if he wants.

A Lonely New Existence

The dust settles and your head stops spinning and you wake up in a whole new world.  You get back to your normal life, but it's never the same.  More than once, when discussing the Faith and my conversion with my husband, I described to him the best analogy for conversion I could think of.  Imagine you've been sleeping and when you wake up you're inside a burning building.  You want to run for your life, but you realize that all around you are others who are still sleeping.  You desperately want to wake them up.  You shake them and scream, but they simply won't wake up.

Early in my conversion, I knew that the rest of my life must be dedicated to helping others see the truth.  While I realized that my conversion would come as a shock, I was not prepared for the number of friends I was about to lose and the number of enemies I was about to gain.  Surely, I thought, the words of such an unlikely convert would carry more weight than a so-called cradle Catholic.  I honestly believed my friends would be eager to hear the story of my conversion and perhaps they would want to consider for themselves the case I found so convincing.  Rather I found many people stopped speaking to me without so much as a word, and others stopped speaking to me after a handful of rather harsh words.  More and more I realized I was living in a world that, quite frankly, hated me and everything I stood for.

Among all the books I've read since my conversion, I've read nothing that so perfectly describes how it feels to be Christian these days than the following passage from Michael D. Obrien's Father Elijah:

"These are not easy times, Father Elijah.  One needs the wisdom of Solomon just to get through an ordinary day around here.  Much depends on keeping our wits about us." 
Elijah reached out and traced the letters of Severa's name. 
"I know what you're thinking", said the cardinal.  "You think we should march straight to the Colosseum and tell the guards to turn the lions on us." 
Elijah said nothing. 
"A heroic martyrdom is fast, simple, glorious, isn't it?  Blood washes away all ambiguities.  Death breaks the intolerable tensions.  You would like us to braid a rope and drive the moneychangers from the Temple, then go to the cross.  Correct?" 
"Is that so wrong?  Isn't that the pattern our Savior has shown us?" 
"Indeed it is.  And I tell you that we are going to the cross.  But it is not our right to hasten that day.  We must work while the light lasts.  We must strengthen what remains.  This is the long and lonely martydom.  It is the most difficult of all."

A Little Help From My Friends

If you still don't believe me that conversion is a rather painful and difficult process, let's take a look at some more noteworthy converts shall we?  I'll start with my favorite: Saul.  Now if you're not Christian you're saying, "Saul who?"  You might know him better as in Saint Paul.  You mean the Saint Paul who had his head cut off for love of Christ?  Yep, that's him.  Check this out:

Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.  On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  He said, "Who are you, sir?"  The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;  so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.  For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. 
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias."  He answered, "Here I am, Lord."  The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  He is there praying, and [in a vision] he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay hands on him, that he may regain his sight."  But Ananias replied, "Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name."  But the Lord said to him, "Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name."  So Ananias went and entered the house;  laying his hands on him, he said, "Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit."  Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized...He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.  - Acts 9:1-20

So one moment Saul is riding along uttering murderous threats and heading to bring Christians back to Jerusalem in chains and next thing you know he's proclaiming Christ as the Son of God in the synagogues.  But surely he traded up right?  Surely there was something in it for him.  Oh you be there was:

Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep.
                                                                                                - 2Corinthians 11:24-25

Now doesn't that sound like a swinging time?  Conversion is a blast!  This is not to mention the many times he was thrown in prison and of course, the grand finale of his beheading.  Now you tell me, what is worth all of this?

Let's have one more for good measure, but this one is short and sweet.  C.S. Lewis, if you didn't already know, was not just one of the best modern Christian evangelists, he was also a former atheist.  And just like me, he wanted very little to do with all this God business and especially all this Christianity business.  I mean, wouldn't it be easier to just throw on some deism and say, "Yep, God's there.  He made all this and now he's doing his deity thing out there in the universe somewhere, but he doesn't need me to do anything.  So...thanks for the sweet digs, God!"  The quote from Lewis I'm about to share with you about his conversion is one I didn't discover until a bit later in my conversion, but I loved it then and years later it still makes me laugh every time I read it:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.  That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.  In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.   - Surprised by Joy, page 229

Dejected and reluctant?  It sounds like a child who just lost a long and weary struggle with a parent over bedtime doesn't it?  This is not a man who went looking for meaning and happiness wherever it best suited him.  This is a man who fought relentlessly to avoid Truth. He didn't want this and yet he went on to be one of the most renowned Christian writers of our time.  What's more, he did this in the shadow of World War I and held strong to his faith through the horrors of World War II.   A measly pair of rosy colored glasses can't do that, folks.

So what?

You could spend the rest of your life reading conversion stories thanks to the internet, but in the end what is the point?  What does all of this mean?  Do I expect everyone to read this post and fall on their knees repenting?  No.  Perhaps some will.  I pray that even one person would read my story and be converted, but that's not up to me.  Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit alone and can only occur with consent.  What I hope everyone can take away from this is the understanding that there is nothing glamorous about conversion to Christianity.  There never has been and there never will be.  Authentic Christianity is gut-wrenchingly painful at times.  Yes, there is joy.  There is joy beyond all the wonders of this world, but until we leave this world it will always be tempered by suffering.

Now, are there "fake" Christians out there?  Sure.  Are there "bad" Christians out there?  Absolutely, just like there are bad doctors, lawyers, cops, teachers, mothers, and...hey wait, there's a common denominator here: PEOPLE.  Perfection is not to be found in this world.  But look to the ones who point to the Truth.  Look to the ones who point us to God.  How joyfully they suffer!  Why?  What do they know that you don't?  Where else can you find people willing to be beaten, whipped, crucified, burned alive, and beheaded rather than denounce a claim?  Can we posit with a straight face that for some two thousand years people have gone willingly to their horrific deaths for the sake of a delusion, for the sake of a lie?  No, there is more.  There is so much more.

Won't you consider it, my friends?  Won't you wake up, sleepers?

 "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!' "   - Mark 13: 32-37

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Will the Real Christians Please Stand Up?

There are so many denominations of Christianity today that it boggles the mind.  Factor into that the many ways people actually live out their faith (or don't) and it's no wonder some people dismiss Christianity before even hearing the Gospel.  To many, I imagine Christianity looks more like Baskin Robbins than the source of Truth and eternal life.  In this post, I want to shed some light on the issue of division in Christianity as well as define what a Christian is, and more importantly, is not.

So we start at the beginning.  The apostles, having witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ, went out into the world as He commanded to make disciples of all nations.  They spread out in all directions, proclaiming to all who would listen what they had witnessed and baptizing those who believed.  The early Church was born and continued to grow over the centuries.  Now it is well beyond the scope of this post to go into details about the early Church.  Certainly there was conflict and some groups broke off prior to the Reformation, but these were minor splits over non-crucial elements of the Faith and they pale in comparison to what happened after the Reformation.  

A Christian by Any Other Name

Before I get into the division of the Church, let's start with the basics.  What is a Christian?  A Christian is one who believes God became man as Jesus Christ who then died for our sins and rose from the dead.  He did this to reopen the gates of Heaven which were closed since the first sin.  A Christian also believes in the Holy Trinity: one God in three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Finally, this professed belief is meant to manifest itself in the way one lives, following the teachings of Christ which He gave during His time on Earth.

This is where it starts to get complicated.  Since the division of the Church, what it means to follow Christ has been rewritten and reinterpreted countless times leading to great confusion among believers, and worse, would-be believers.  C.S. Lewis likened Christianity to a great hall that one enters with many doors to choose from, saying you can linger in the hall for a time but eventually you must choose a door.  How does one go about choosing such a thing?  Which one of those doors leads to the Truth?  

Which leads me to what a Christian absolutely is not.  All disagreements on doctrine aside, there are some things a person can never say or believe and still be considered a Christian.  Anyone who says God hates anyone, is not a Christian.  God does not hate anyone.  Make no mistake, He certainly hates sin, but not those who commit sin.  That, of course, is everyone so anyone who says they don't sin like the rest of us (I've recently discovered there are people who actually claim this) is also not a Christian.  Lastly, anyone who declares someone is going to Hell is not speaking as a Christian.  God decides who goes to Hell, and while we know certain sins are definitely punishable by eternal damnation, only God knows someone's heart and He is the final judge, not us.  

That Christianity thing? You're doing it wrong.

A House Divided

In my humble, Catholic opinion, the Reformation is the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity.  Not only that, but if we take an honest look, I don't see how any Christian can think otherwise.  How can anybody look at the disintegration that followed and think it wasn't utterly destructive?  Faster than you could say "sola" new denominations were popping up all over the place, and our focus went from winning souls to winning supporters.

Now, before I continue I want to make something very clear.  I do not think that Catholics are the only true followers of Christ.  I have many non-Catholic Christian friends who are truly inspirational to me and encourage me greatly in my faith.  Contrary to what you may have heard, the Catholic Church does not teach that all non-Catholics go to Hell.  A great series to read for clarification of common misunderstandings of Catholicism is Brittany's Letting God Lead series over at Equipping Godly Women.  In this series, she shares her ongoing journey trying to discern truth as she learns more about the Catholic Faith.  My goal is simply to make the argument in favor of Christian unity and, hopefully, convince some of you to take a fresh look at Catholicism.  Many people have been rather misinformed about it, and as Brittany points out, we should all desire to stand firm on fact and truth in what we believe.

Another issue I want to be clear on is this:  while I loathe that the Reformation happened, I certainly agree that there were issues which needed to be addressed.  There was justified outrage against corruption.  This was voiced even by those who remained faithful to the Church.  Indeed, even the Church itself recognizes this officially in its Catechism:

"In this one and only Church of God from its very beginning there arose certain rifts...but in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame..."  - CCC #817

And then it continues:

"However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from the separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers....All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."

"Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as a means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church."  - CCC #818-819

The Church acknowledges that there was blame on both sides.  It also acknowledges that non-Catholic believers today are not responsible for this separation and are indeed true believers whose Churches are used by Christ as a means of salvation.  

Now I imagine that with the exception of history majors, most of us know just enough about the Reformation to justify which side of it we're on.  If you would like to read further on what the Reformation was and why it happened, I highly recommend you follow along with Kenneth Hensley's series on his blog here.  In it, he explores the historical factors that helped set the stage for the Reformation in addition to the reasons for the Reformation itself.  Be sure to start at the beginning with "What was the Reformation?" and then move on to "Why did the Reformation Happen?" parts 1-4.   This is an ongoing series and you will definitely want to stay tuned.  And lest you be tempted to write this off as another biased Catholic blogging about the Reformation, read this excerpt from "What was the Reformation?":

"Before becoming Catholic, I was an evangelical Protestant for about twenty years, an ordained Protestant minister for more than eleven.  My conversion was hard.  I broke a lot of glass coming into the Church.  Because of my background and situation, becoming Catholic wasn't something done quickly.  It was the result of intensive thought and prayer over the course of some four years.  It involved a rethinking of my entire worldview as a Christian --- the teaching of Scripture, the history of the Church."

Now what?

The beginning of the Reformation is nearly 500 years in the past.  Nobody can change what happened, but we can decide where to go from here.  In order to do that, we have to take an honest look at the situation and ask some tough questions.

What was the end result?

The most consistent estimation I've seen is that there are currently more than 30,000 Christian denominations.  That number is simply staggering and I don't think anybody can say with a straight face that this is a good thing.  Are there really 30,000 ways to live as a Christian?  Can all of those denominations possibly be faithful to the true teachings of Christ?  I think it's obvious that they couldn't possibly be.  You simply cannot rewrite Christianity 30,000 times and have the last version look anything like the first, and we're not doing ourselves any favors pretending otherwise.  This is not a Burger King religion;  you can't have it your way!

Now, is that what I think Luther was trying to do?  Certainly not.  I think Luther was a well-intentioned man who loved the Lord with all his heart and sought to correct abuses he saw within the Church.  But I also think many things happened which he did not intend, things we should be trying to correct now.  Luther opened the quintessential Pandora's box, and there was no stopping it.  If he could rewrite Church teaching then so could everyone else who saw fit to make changes, and they promptly did.  Look at this graphic of the splitting of Christianity:


Exactly where in there do we think we finally got it right?  There are graphics like this all over the internet, but one of the most heartbreaking places I saw was on a former Christian turned Atheist's blog.  He was using an image similar to this one to demonstrate our lack of unity and use it as an argument against Christianity.  If that doesn't give us pause, nothing will.

Another question we must ponder here is this:  if the Church had lost its way, as the reformers believed it had, and they were merely correcting flaws in Church teaching in order to restore them to the true teachings of Christ, wouldn't it have stopped with them?  If a wrong turn was set right in the Reformation, wouldn't the divisions have ceased and Christianity continued on its now supposedly corrected path?

But it didn't stop, as we all know.  Rather it was much more akin to a runaway train.  The divisions continued on and on leaving anyone who disagreed with Church teaching free to reinvent the Faith as he saw fit.  Finally today we are left with denominations who stand on opposites sides of even such polarizing moral issues as abortion.  When we can argue both for and against an objective evil like abortion with both sides waving the Christian flag, how can we expect anyone to take us seriously?  

Is unity the proper goal?

If what I said above doesn't convince you then let us turn, as we always should, to the Lord:

"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.  And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me." - John 17: 20-23

We can't read that and not recognize that our division breaks the Lord's heart.  It's not an easy thing to face because to realize that our divisions are a problem is to realize that we have a really big problem.  How many of you are cursing my name right now?  Wouldn't it be so much easier to just tell ourselves that things are the way they are for a reason and they were that way long before we showed up so why try to change it?  Certainly it would, but since when did God ever ask us to do what was easy?  Brothers and sisters, we cannot stick our heads in the sand on this issue.

Where do we start?

Hopefully at this point you agree with me that division in Christianity is a bad thing.  So if we decide that this is a problem, how do we go about fixing it?  Where does one even start?  I think as brothers and sisters in Christ we can all agree that we should all start on our knees.  Let us all come to the Lord in prayer and seek His Truth rather than our own.  Then let us do what all who have gone astray must: return to our roots.  Go back to the beginning and look with a fresh pair of eyes.  Read the writings of the Church fathers, those converted, taught and formed by the Apostles themselves and their immediate successors.  Consider this:

"It is possible, then, for every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world.  And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times.  But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness or wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles.  For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition." - St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1-2, c. AD 190

These words of St. Irenaeus are taken from his series of volumes called Against Heresies which he was writing against Gnosticism.  In this passage we can see how the early Church fathers recognized the authority of the Church in Rome and that other churches could look to her to evaluate the legitimacy of their belief and worship.  Now this:

"The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house.  She likewise believes these things 'just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth.  For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition are one and the same."  - St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1, 10, 2

One soul, one heart, one mouth?  Does that sound like Christianity today?  It surely does not, but it should and I dare believe it can.  

These quotes and many more can be found in this episode of The Journey Home.  In it, Marcus Grodi, former Protestant Minister, talks about the writings of the early Church fathers and how they helped lead him to Catholicism.

Falling Dominoes

You can hardly turn on the news these days without hearing about yet another denomination of Christianity changing its stance on some moral issue such as marriage or abortion.  I can hardly go a day as a Catholic without hearing how my Church needs to get with the times.  But please, for the love of all that is holy, can we stop and think about this logically?  Does God change?  Does the Truth change?  If we believe in God, and we believe that we are His people blessed with Truth in His word, then we should not be looking to change with the times and we should not be attempting to correct God.  All around us the dominoes are falling, all except the Catholic Church.  Whatever the media might like us to believe about Pope Francis and a new progressive Church, we haven't changed, and we aren't going to.  And the reason we aren't going to is simple: we don't think we can improve on the teachings of Christ.


It is my sincere hope that you haven't reached the end of this post thinking it was a shameless pitch for Catholicism.  I would be lying if I said I didn't think that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, established by our Lord Himself.  Of course I think it's the "right" Church.  What would I be doing in it if I didn't?  What are you doing at your Church if you don't believe its teachings are the true teachings of Christ, right?  

Now am I expecting all of you to sign up for RCIA after reading this?  Of course not.  Will I think you less of a Christian if you don't run out and by the complete works of the early Church fathers?  Oh please, let's not set a standard like that or I'm doomed.  But I do hope that you are encouraged to do some reading, some watching, some listening.  Whatever kind of Christian you decide to be, just don't be an apathetic one.  Don't choose your church like a flavor at Baskin Robbins.  Study, discern, think.  Learn about your faith.  Learn the reasons behind it.  Learn the history behind it.  Isn't it worth at least that much? 

For anyone who would like to learn more about Catholicism I will post several resources below and you can always feel free to leave questions in the comments or contact me directly.  Certainly, there is so much more to say on this topic so if there are specific issues you would like to see addressed in future posts I want to hear from you!  I'll leave you with these wise words:

"There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church." 
                                                                                     - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Until next time, may God bless you.


Marcus Grodi's The Coming Home Network: a tremendous amount of articles, videos, blog, and you name it for anyone wanting to learn more about the Catholic Faith.  There is also a forum and online community.

EWTN: Started by a nun, this is a Catholic television network, plus Catholic radio.  You can watch free online, find a radio station(they're also on iHeart Radio), read articles, ask questions, or even buy a rosary(in case I've really convinced you).

Word on Fire: This is Father Robert Barron's ministry.  You can purchase any of his books or DVD series here or just read and watch video commentary until all your burning questions are answered.

Ignatius Press:  a Catholic publisher featuring books, videos, music, art, and now streaming video

Lighthouse Catholic Media: books, videos, and cds to help you learn about the faith.  I especially enjoy their cds because, let's face it, we don't always have time to sit and read.