What is Chastity and Why is it Important? An Interview with a Youth Chastity Speaker

The following is an interview with Perla, a youth chastity speaker. I have been so privileged to get to know her personally, and I hope that her story and words of wisdom on chastity inspire you as well!

Hi Perla! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me! Could you start by sharing a little about yourself? What was your childhood like?
Thanks Chris! Well, I come from a family of 5 and am the oldest sibling. I have a really close extended family where I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then my dad worked in the United States, while the rest of us were in Mexico, so we all moved to the United States when I was 10 in order to live together.

What impact did moving to the United States have on your life?
It played a huge impact on my life! It was a whole new world – I had to learn English, the culture was so different, my extended family was so far away, and we didn’t get close to many people outside of our family.

What careers and interests did you have growing up?
I always wanted to become a teacher, I love little kids. I think I even have a special charisma with kids, I loooove kids. And math. So I wanted to become a math teacher. Of course, that changed when I got to college, when my encounter with Christ happened.

What was your encounter with Christ?
I had all the big questions, like what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, etc., but I never looked to the Catholic Church for those answers. I changed my major 5 times, always searching for the answers to life. Psychology gave some answers, but not enough. For a while, I thought that maybe service was the answer, so I did a lot of service. Then next I thought that it was love, so I started dating this guy. But nothing was enough, and I was tired of looking for answers. Then one day one of my friends invited me to join a Catholic bible study. I only joined because I witnessed how much joy my Protestant friends had in their lives, and they did bible study too. So I was willing to give a Catholic one a try. The bible study was run by three middle-aged couples, who hooked my friends and I by offering us a home cooked dinner – it worked for us college kids! In their homes, we went over the scripture readings for the next Sunday mass on Monday nights. I began to learn so much! Once I encountered the truth of the Eucharist and from there the truth of the Catholic faith, I decided to look at Catholic universities to finish college. A son of one of the families that hosted bible study went to Ave Maria University and told me about it. It was the only college that I applied to at that point, and praise God, they ended up offering me a full ride to study there.

What degree did you end up graduating with? And what did you want to do when you graduated?
I majored in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. I had this deep desire to do the same thing for other college students that was done for me: maybe offering a bible study for other college students. Providentially, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) came to Ave Maria and shared their mission with the students and I, and it lined up perfectly with what I wanted to do after graduation! I applied and got accepted!

You were a missionary with FOCUS for how long, and what was it like?
I was a missionary for three years. It was a great experience, I loved meeting students where they were at and challenging them to take their faith seriously. It was also a great adventure, especially with being open to be placed anywhere in the country. I always thought that it was very humbling to have students open up to me and give me their trust and friendship.

How did you come across your new job?
After my 3rd year with FOCUS, I felt a strong call to come back home and work within my home diocese, San Angelo in Texas. The diocese didn’t have any openings for evangelization or anything like FOCUS, so a close friend invited me to apply for a job as a prevention specialist.

What is a prevention specialist?
We work as a team of 8, most of us are between ages 23-26, and we go to elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding cities. Our aim is to prevent them from falling into high-risk behaviors and be fulfilled in their good decisions. So we speak with the students about their self worth, the purpose of their bodies, the purpose of sex, sexual abstinence, the risks of the media, STDs, parenting, and how to build healthy relationships. In addition, we offer assistance for anyone who has suffered from abuse or addiction afterwards.

How long are you at a school?
We are there for three days, Tues-Thurs.

What does a day at a school consist of?
Our presentations last for 45 minutes, but our total pace can vary anywhere from 1 to 7 presentations a day. And we might travel to a few schools per week. So we are aiming to work with around 30,000 students by the end of the school year!

What is your main message to the students?
The thing that I really focus on for them is that they know who they are. We talk about how they have so many important sides to them: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and sexual. We talk about why we have certain yearnings in our hearts in the first place, so that they can see their natural good desires. A big emphasis is placed on showing what is necessary for sex: commitment, faithfulness, truly loving your spouse. Because the purpose of sex is to bond husband and wife together and for the procreation of children. Bottomline. From this understanding we can show them that sex truly belongs in marriage- fulfilling also the heart and mind because all 6 sides of the person would be truly satisfied.

Was there a moment in your life where you started getting interested in speaking about chastity?
Yes! There were major two instances. Growing up, I had the common girl dream of meeting that perfect guy, falling in love, and getting married. But what my friends were doing, what the world was offering, with hooking up and all that, it never satisfied my heart. It was never going to fulfill me at the end of the day. Even a good relationship in high school was not satisfying for me because we weren’t going to get married soon after. There were plenty of attractive guys in high school that I was attracted to, but dating and hooking up just didn’t click right even though I didn’t know why exactly. The other instance was as a missionary on the college campus, where I was seeing women fall under pressure to have sex before marriage and not live chastely. There seemed to be a missing link between their faith, the meaning of their body, and their yearning for true love. It seemed as if God had to be kicked out because all He offered where restrictions to their desires. So I spent a lot of time with some college women learning and reconciling all of these things with God’s desire for us! So we deeply understood that chastity in fact fulfills our desires. It is way more than just “don’t don’t don’t.”

We hear the world chastity a lot, but are less familiar with what it actually means. How do you define it?
I understand chastity as purity of body, mind (thoughts and imagination), and intentions. Purity meaning no stain of selfishness, lust, slavery to passions, but free to love, to choose the best for the other person with joyful selflessness.

As you grew up, did you ever dream that you’d become both a missionary and chastity speaker?
No, not at all. Haha.

What would you have thought?
I would have thought that I would have been going abroad, India or Africa. I would have never thought that I would do it here, home, with my generation. That would have seemed extremely radical.

How has it been now that you’re living it out?
It’s been a transformative experience: to see the goodness of God in how He cares for me. I’ve learned how to put others before me. I’m convicted of the truths that I’m saying as a chastity speaker, as well. It’s challenged me to live with integrity in all areas of my life and truly love everyone who is around me. I’m asking myself questions like “am I building healthy relationships myself?”

Is our culture to blame for these problems of chastity? Or would you attribute this to their youth or something else?
I think that there are many factors. Yes, I think that society plays a role, especially the media like movies, music, and TV. I think those things have a huge pull on young people. It’s also on the parents, if they are not convicted of the truth and share it. Their children need to see good examples from them so that the message will get to their hearts. A third factor is that boys and girls need to be challenged, challenged to do something better. Such as love requires you to wait, to build your character first. Many times they are told that they don’t have self-control because they are young, but they actually do. They can stand up with courage against the current. I don’t think that they hear that enough, or at all.

What is different for the youth growing up in 2015 from what it was like for you growing up?
The biggest difference is that for today’s children the internet is so available, especially on their phones. It offers them so many extra risks and distractions.

What advice would you give the parents of children nowadays?
I would affirm them that they have a big influence on their kids’ lives. They mold their kids. I would challenge them to look into the truth of all these things, to live them out, and pass them on to their kids through example. I’d also ask them to try to monitor their social media time, monitor their exposure to the internet. I’m thinking especially of the risk of pornography.

What sort of role do you think pornography plays in our culture’s battle with chastity?
It plays a huge role. It is so available, and really young people are exposed to it, even as young as 9 years old. Every heart longs for true love so there is a natural curiosity for what intimacy is, but pornography does not offer an answer it actually begins to warp people’s hearts and minds and scar them for life in a sense. It handicaps them for true love and true sacrifice.

As a college campus missionary, it’s common to hear about students “hooking up.” What would you say to someone who just wants to have some fun for one night?
If I could really talk to them, I would ask them, have you looked at the true desires of your heart? Your heart has a true yearning and desire to be loved. You won’t be satisfied until you are known and loved: hopefully by your family and your spouse in the future. That yearning is in everyone’s hearts. One night stands… there is no way to truly love a person through that or be loved. Then understand that the opposite of love is use. Sure, hooking up offers a thrill but at the end it will not be fulfilling and isn’t love. It is the use of each other- most likely girl using guy for emotional gratification and guy using girl for physical aspect. It’s seeing only the body of the person without revealing who they truly are. You in fact see less of them instead of more.

How can someone struggling with chastity start to change their habits?
If you’re Catholic, make sure go to confession. Confess it clearly, humbly, and sincerely. Ask God for healing, in your heart and mind. Go to the sacraments. Besides that, get an accountability partner/group. Most young people ARE struggling with this, in actuality or in understanding. Be honest, form a small accountability group, and set small goals to grow little by little.

Any final thoughts?
I want to stress this: know and believe that God is interested in your love life. God is not a boring God. Trust and believe that He has something beautiful planned for you, and He will not leave you disappointed.

Thank you Perla! Thank you for your very important work with the youth!

The Reformation is over. Kinda.

From left: Bishop Dr. Christian Krause and Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, 1999.

From left: Bishop Dr. Christian Krause and Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy
sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, 1999.

“Justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls.” – Martin Luther

It’s been nearly 500 years since the split of the Church in the west, which was started largely by Martin Luther and his claim of salvation being obtained only through faith alone. Unfortunately, this split the Church and many other doctrines were changed by the Protestant Reformers before long. But the good news is that there is finally some hope for reunification again! This is going to take a loooonnnnggg time, but the most critical issue, the one mentioned in the quote above, has been resolved! The Lutheran bishops and the Catholic Church made a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, and even the World Methodist Council adopted it as well in 2006.

Praise God for softening both sides towards each other so that they would be open to clear dialogue on the issues at hand. It seems like a large issue that separated the sides over the years is the language used. Words like “righteousness” and “justification” have many different meanings and contexts in scripture, so of course on a charged issue it would be easy to rush to judgement instead of having a complete understanding of both sides before drawing a conclusion. In the end, both made great points, stressing how only by God and faith someone can be saved, but also how our good works play a critical role in cooperating with God’s grace in bringing about the Kingdom of God in our lives. I’m not a theologian so that’s the best summary that I can give ;)

There is still quite a bit in the way of the complete reunification of the churches in the West, but this is a very important and exciting first step that resolves the most critical issue!

Here are some of my favorite parts:

Paragraph 1:

The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the “first and chief article” and at the same time the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines.”

Paragraph 5:

The present Joint Declaration has this intention: namely, to show that on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

Paragraph 15:

Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

Paragraph 19:

We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation.

Paragraph 22:

We confess together that God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees human beings from sin’s enslaving power and imparts the gift of new life in Christ.

Paragraph 25:

We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life.

Paragraph 28:

We confess together that in baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person. But the justified must all through life constantly look to God’s unconditional justifying grace. They also are continuously exposed to the power of sin still pressing its attacks (cf. Rom 6:12-14) and are not exempt from a lifelong struggle against the contradiction to God within the selfish desires of the old Adam (cf. Gal 5:16; Rom 7:7-10). The justified also must ask God daily for forgiveness as in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:12; 1 Jn 1:9), are ever again called to conversion and penance, and are ever again granted forgiveness.

Paragraph 31:

We confess together that persons are justified by faith in the gospel “apart from works prescribed by the law” (Rom 3:28). Christ has fulfilled the law and by his death and resurrection has overcome it as a way to salvation. We also confess that God’s commandments retain their validity for the justified and that Christ has by his teaching and example expressed God’s will which is a standard for the conduct of the justified also.

Paragraph 37:

We confess together that good works – a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love – follow justification and are its fruits.

Paragraph 40 (BOOM!):

The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics.

Paragraph 41 (BOOM!):

Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.

Paragraph 44:

We give thanks to the Lord for this decisive step forward on the way to overcoming the division of the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us further toward that visible unity which is Christ’s will.

The Hardest Part

… is often the most simple.

Let me be frank. I love Jesus. I love being a part of His Catholic Church. And sometimes the only thing that I really care about is whether or not people are Catholic Christians living in relationship with God. I just want to run around the world making lots of Catholics! I am a missionary for crying out loud, haha. But God reminded me of something very important this week.

I was leading one of my bible studies and a new guy was there who I met recently, so I was pretty excited to get to know him. I knew that he wasn’t Catholic going into it, and that made me even more excited because this way I can not only share Jesus with him but I am hoping that one day I can actually share His Church with him too! Doubleplusgood!

The group of us had a great study and were just chilling talking about semi-related topics after I basically gave them a Gospel presentation when this guy said something that was simultaneously a great compliment and a revelation. “You know, Chris, you’re probably the first Catholic that I’ve ever met that actually loves Jesus and lives like a Christian.”


He went on as I walked him over to our Newman Center on campus, sharing how he’s encountered a bunch of Catholics and even attended a Catholic college for a couple of years, but they all didn’t actually practice the faith and were always becoming agnostics and atheists. I have a hunch he was telling me all this to convince me that because many Catholics are not faithful, I should leave the Church and become a Presbyterian like him. But I took his point a different way: he wasn’t worried about theology as much. The reason why he wasn’t even remotely interested in becoming Catholic is because he’s never seen Catholics act like Christians. He’s never seen Catholic saints!


Thank you God for this minor yet ridiculously simple revelation. You don’t convert the average Joe to Christianity (or specifically Catholicism) through your theology. You convert them by demonstrating how through your faith your heart has been converted to Jesus. Often this is not what we want to hear: we want to hear how we can change people’s lives without actually changing our own, by some sort of formula or logic. No. Give Jesus saints and He WILL change the world.

You know, half or more of this blog is apologetics. I’ve got a scientific, rational mind. I feel very comfortable arguing for the existence of God, the reality of Jesus, and the authenticity of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. But what this blog, argumentation, logic, and mere words cannot ever do is replace a life lived completely for Jesus. Bl. Mother Teresa has probably converted more people through less words than anyone else in this past century. She did not draw people to Jesus through her fancy speeches at the United Nations or Harvard but by her entire life lived in complete surrender to God. People are curious what it is about Jesus that made her give up everything for Him, so they look into Jesus more. People nowadays can’t see, hear, or touch Jesus (besides the Holy Eucharist you nerds), but they sure as heck can see, hear, or touch you and I as members of the Body of Christ!

Pope Francis and all these wonderful popes in recent memory have been working to make the Church as beautiful as she should be for Jesus, and of course the Holy Spirit is doing all of the heavy lifting, but you and I need to answer this call! We need to wholeheartedly embrace the Gospel. Preaching it is good, but if it isn’t lived, it is not effective. People nowadays don’t listen well anyways, but maybe they’ll notice a witness.

“The new evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift, not only of the word proclaimed, but by the word lived.” – Bl. Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

“We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us; we go out and reach for them.” – Pope Francis

Mother Teresa in Calcutta

Salvation, Jesus, and Works

As I’ve been gearing up for my first year as a missionary this summer, I’ve had a unique revelation with regards to evangelization and the aspect that “works” play in salvation. I suppose a big part of this is from a Peter Kreeft (and Ronald Tacelli) book that I’m reading, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

First off, I’d like to share an awesome piece from that book on the importance of salvation:

“The Church also seems to be in the social service business, the counseling business, the fundraising business, the daycare business- dozens of the same worthy businesses the secular world is also in. Why? What justifies these things? The Church’s ultimate end for all these things is different from the world’s end; it is salvation. This is her distinctive “product.” Why put out a product that is just the same as other companies’ products already on the market? Why would anyone expect such a product to sell? That’s why modernist or liberal Christianity, charitable as its services are, is simply not selling. The only reason for the very existence of the Church at all, is exactly the same as the reason Jesus came to earth: to save poor and lost humanity. The Church, after all, is in the same business as her Head. When a body runs in a different direction from its head, it is like a chicken with its head cut off: it goes nowhere and quickly dies. Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. If he did that, he failed. He didn’t solve most of the philosophers’ problems. He healed some people but left most of the world just as sick as before. He healed some bodies to show that he could heal all souls. Not only is salvation the reason for the Church’s existence; it is also the ultimate reason for your existence: your goal, point, purpose, hope, final cause, summum bonum, meaning. The difference between success and failure at life’s first task- becoming who you were meant to be- is not the difference between riches and poverty, fame and obscurity, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, even niceness and nastiness, but between salvation and damnation. Leon Bloy wrote, “There is only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.”

Salvation matters, a lot. So what does it take to be saved? When people with a Christian background talk a little about salvation, they often only mention whether or not you are a “good” person. This is nice, but is it enough? Is it enough to just be a good person to go to heaven?

The Catholic Church has a nice little clause that it seems like I’m always reminding people about (because the Church is so horrible and restricting! haha). This clause is that if someone by no fault of their own doesn’t hear the Gospel or know who Jesus is, they can still be saved by striving their very best during their life to live an upright, charitable, and selfless life, which is common sense whatever background you come from. God is merciful, much more than you and I.

Yes, that’s good and generous of God, isn’t it? The problem is that everyone who reads this blog obviously doesn’t live in a remote area and has had contact with Christians in some way, shape, or form. For people who have heard the Gospel, the nice clause of just being a good person isn’t enough to earn salvation, according to Jesus. Salvation is only possible through Jesus:

“There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – Acts 4:12

Again, Jesus was clear Himself in this teaching:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

In Lecrae’s song Truth, he gives a great analogy for why we need Jesus. In one of the verses (around 3 minutes in) he discusses the issue of why an all  powerful loving God would allow evil to happen. He points out that though God allows evil natural disasters to happen, He also allows people to have free will and murder. Well, we all agree that stuff like that is evil, but here’s the brilliant part: Lecrae asks if lying and cheating are evil too. They are. And things like that are evil even if we just think them. So he turned around the argument: why does God allow us to live, as we all sin? Thanks be to God that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us of our sin, otherwise we’d all be going straight to hell. Only God can forgive sin, that’s why Jesus and the incarnation are such a big deal! No one other than Jesus can forgive us, that’s what St. Peter was saying to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12!

Please note that there’s a very important sacramental side with regards to salvation, centering on baptism (1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16:16), confession (John 20:23), and the Eucharist (John 6:52). Salvation requires faith and works. Gotta offer this life for Jesus and live it out. But for this post I’m staying high level.

With all this in mind, I figure that most Christians- and Catholics are especially susceptible (not by bad teachings but misunderstandings of the teachings)- don’t seek to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as they can because they unfortunately don’t believe that Jesus Christ specifically is very important in the economy of salvation.

Most people seem to believe that it is most important to be a good person, and if you believe in Jesus that’s a cherry on top. Actually, we see something that is quite the opposite in terms of Dismas the good thief: he was a thief and pretty bad person all his life, but when the time came, he repented and turned to Jesus in faith. Jesus promised him salvation. Jesus Himself stressed that people believe in Him and repent. He wanted their hearts to be converted not to niceness but to Him.

So is being a good person important? Yes! We ought to follow Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life! We ought to love God and love our neighbors as our self. But good works explicitly without Jesus will do nothing with regards to the economy of salvation. Takeaway: we must be more courageous in actually sharing Jesus with others instead of just assuming that they believe and are faithful.

Baptism: Why Wait?

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Here’s a common question that Catholics get from our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ: Why do Catholics baptize infants?

First off, let’s go over briefly why baptism is important. Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist in a baptism of repentance, but after Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church, baptism wasn’t just symbolic but salvific, according to Jesus himself in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”. St. Peter clarifies this even more in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. So we can see that baptism is actually necessary for salvation (yea there’s exceptions thanks to God’s mercy for people who haven’t ever heard the Gospel and stuff).

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch is one of the cooler passages about baptism and demonstrates its importance:

“An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down to Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of Cada’ce the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said. “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now this passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “Please, about whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” – Acts 8:26-38

We can see from this story that it is important to be baptized as soon as possible, and the joy that it gave them both.

Now, it’s safe to say that most Christians are in agreement about everything that I’ve said so far. The tricky part is the question of what age is a good age to be baptized. Catholics baptize infants, and some Protestants have issues with that because they really haven’t made a choice for themselves. I can see their point. But we have to remember that Baptism is a sacrament that gives grace, no matter what choice you had in it.

Let’s look at examples of what the apostles said and did in terms of baptism. In his first big speech, St. Peter told all the people of Jerusalem, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to y our children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” in Acts 2:38-39. There were no clauses in what he or Jesus said that designated only adults. St. Paul baptized Lydia and her entire household (children included probably) in Acts 16:15 after they converted. A similar thing happened with the jailer and his whole family in Acts 16:33. St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:16 that he baptized the entire household of Steph’anas.

As we can see, there is plenty of evidence for the baptism of infants in scripture. Denying the affects of baptism just because of someones age seems to make the sacraments more about us and less about God’s power. In fact, the bulk of the proof lies on the side of the Protestants (as it seems to in all of these sorts of things), since from the earliest Christian traditions infants were always baptized. It is treated like circumcision for the Jews, so the only time that an issue came up in the early Church, in the 3rd century, was whether or not to delay baptism to the 8th day, like circumcision. Origen wrote in Commentaries on Romans 5:9 in A.D. 248 that “The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit.”

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it; they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17

See more: Catholic Answers

“Work Out Your Own Salvation With Fear and Trembling”

The relatively familiar verse that is the title of this post comes from Philippians 2:12. I read it recently, and was immediately struck by the comment on it in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Second Catholic Edition RSV with commentary by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. I really appreciate how much light it sheds on the faith and works discussion between Catholics and Protestants. The following is the commentary:

2:12 Work out your own salvation: I.e., make continued efforts at living the gospel and pursuing your heavenly reward. The statement assumes that while our initial salvation had nothing to do with our works (Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast.”), our final salvation depends on a lifetime of keeping the faith (2 Tim 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”), following the commandments (Mt 19:17 “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”), persevering in good works (Rom 2:7 “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life”), striving for holiness (Heb 12:14 “Strive for peace will all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”), praying in earnest (1 Thess 5:17 “pray constantly”), and fighting against the forces of evil (Eph 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”) and the selfish demands of the flesh, which drag us down (Rom 8:13 “for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live”; 1 Cor 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”). This obligation is so serious that we pursue it with fear and trembling, i.e., with a sense of awe at serving the living God and a sense of dread at the prospect of sinning against him (Ex 20:18-20 “When the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the mountain smoking, they all feared and trembled. So they took up a position much further away and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we shall die.’ Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid, for  God has come to you only to test you and put his fear upon you, lest you should sin.'”; Ps 2:11-12 “Serve the Lord with fear; with trembling bow down in homage, lest God be angry and you perish from the way in a sudden blaze of anger. Happy are all who take refuge in God!”). Encouragement comes in the next verse, where Paul reminds readers that God’s grace is working actively within them both to desire (intention) and do (act) what pleases him (Heb 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”; CCC 308 “The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom, and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for “without a Creator the creature vanishes.” Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace.”) (CCC 1949)

Do Catholics Turn You Off from the Catholic Church?

One of the most common issues when talking with devout non-Catholics about the Catholic Church is that they haven’t found Catholics who really act like Christians and love Jesus.

I know what they mean. This is a problem, but it isn’t the end of the story.

First off, let me address reality: too many Catholics are apathetic about their faith. Too many treat their faith more like their ethnicity rather than a way of life. You’re right, Catholics mess up and sin and are unfaithful. Hello, I’m one of them. But isn’t it also true that many Christians of other faiths are the same way? You go to the South and “everyone” is Christian, but even there, there are many apathetic Christians as well.

Is the lack of devout Catholics a reason why you shouldn’t join the Church that Jesus founded? No way Jose. Find me a church full of perfect people, and I’ll join. But you can’t. We are all sinners, every single one of us.

What sets one church apart from another? A couple of traits stand out: where does it receive its authority, and what do they believe?

Where do churches get their authority? The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus. 1500 years later, Martin Luther decided to start his own little church. Did God tell Him to? Was it the workings of the divine or the workings of man?

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18

Jesus doesn’t lie. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. So where’s the need for a new church again?

Yes, there were a lot of things wrong inside the Church, especially around the Reformation. Yes, there are always things wrong inside the Church, including me. But we have to see that the Church is above the sins of the individual members of its body. Jesus sent down the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide the Church, to keep Her faithful to Jesus’ teachings. So is it bad that there are sinners in the Church? No! That’s the whole point! We need the Church because we are sinners. The Church, made holy by God, is here to help us to come to know Jesus and His love for us, and to call us all to become saints. If we were all perfect people, where would the need for the Church be? The Church is like a hospital for sinners, we’re all a work in progress.

What do different churches believe? Agree or agree with me: the Church has to believe what Jesus taught. Sadly, over time we have seen many different churches stop believing in Jesus, the gospel message, and even the bible. This means they are heretics and are not fully in union with the Church that Jesus founded. They usually are not very successful, despite their “progressive” beliefs. Look at the Episcopal Church in America, for example.

Not only is believing the wrong stuff an issue for Christianity, but a “watered down” faith is also problematic. This “non-denom” movement seems to be slowly changing Christianity into a few basic beliefs, and the bible. Think about it: this is actually the exact opposite of what the early Church was like. In the early days, the Apostles like Paul were constantly instructing the churches on what the faith is and what is and isn’t heretical, even with the little things, and they had no bibles but rather the authority that Jesus had given the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops to make these decisions. (In case you weren’t aware, the Bible as we know it didn’t come into being until a few hundred years after Christ.) “Non-denom” can’t be the answer.. Jesus desired us to continue ALL of His teachings, not just a few non-controversial ones. Jesus desired that we be ONE, not 30,000 separate denominations, and not even one giant blob of “watered down” Christianity.

Despite all of the challenges that have faced the Catholic Church over the years, it has lasted, and nowadays, it is perhaps more alive than ever in certain aspects, while many other Christian churches are getting hit a lot worse. I immediately think of World Youth Day, FOCUS, and Lifeteen as movements that highlight all that is beautiful about the faith that Jesus gave us. If you don’t have any devout Catholic friends, I’m praying that you’ll run into someone one day. Maybe they’ll show you that there’s more to this faith than what the apathetic Catholics have been doing for all of these years.