Friday, April 29, 2011

Ask Ellen: Why do Catholics take a new name at Confirmation? Anne, PA

This is a great question and one that deserves an answer because it is a really cool thing.  Throughout the Bible God changed people’s names;  Abram to  Abraham. Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter and Saul to Paul.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why did God do this.  God changed people’s names when they were called to a change in vocation.  People received new names at the same time as they received new missions, when they were called to something greater.

In Confirmation we are called to something greater.  We are made full members of the Catholic Church and are sent to witness Christ to the world.  Talk about a vocation change!

We select a new name at this time to commemorate the occasion.  Often times we select a saint’s name.  The saints are great examples of people who took this change in vocation seriously.

I encourage you to find out more about the saint you chose for your Confirmation name.  If you didn’t understand the significance of this before do so now.  Take your vocation to witness Christ to the world seriously and enjoy your new identity in Christ.  Allow the change of name to change your life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Do I HAVE to?

Ask Ellen If the Bible doesn't say we have to go to church(if I remember right) or it is a sin, why does the Catholic Church trump it by saying it is a sin if we don't? Lisa, ME

Thanks for your interesting question, Lisa. I think I need to answer it on two levels. The first is to address what it means to be Catholic. As Catholics, we believe in the authority of Scripture and Tradition. This is different from most Protestant denominations who believe in the authority of Scripture alone. Since we recognize the authority of Tradition, we believe that the Church has the ability (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to make the rules. One of these rules is that all Catholics attend Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday. The Church has this rule for our own good. Many have said, “I don’t need to go to Church on Sunday. I keep the Sabbath my own way.” But you don’t. You miss the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and you miss the opportunity to worship among family, your Catholic brother and sisters.

When we search Scripture for verses we like, to back up our own position, we run the risk of missing the whole story. The Old Testament may not clearly state that we must go to Church on Sunday. But it sure was implied. No devout Jew would need that to be written. They kept Sabbath and they kept it well. We read of it in Numbers. When they physically had a Temple, they were there on the Sabbath. We need to dig deeper to realize that was simply their way of life.

The New Testament contains many references to Christians observing the Sabbath together in the Eucharist. Paul urges us not to “forsake the assembly.” He means, “Get your butt to Mass.”

This is why Tradition is a beautiful and essential aspect of our faith. Our Church Fathers studied this. They knew that this was just plain obvious to the original readers. In their wisdom, the Fathers knew that it wouldn’t be to us. So they defined it for us. The third Commandment is “Keep holy the Sabbath.” A Jew intuitively knew what that meant. Thanks to the Catholic Church so do we!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ask Ellen: Extreme Catholics: Lenten Edition

Ask Ellen: Why do Catholics take Lent to the extreme and make it so depressing? Jason, CA

Thank you for your interest in the Church’s liturgical calendar. I’m sorry that you feel that it goes to extremes with Lent and makes it feel depressing. This is often the case because Lent is misunderstood.

The Church sets apart this time each year to allow people to enter more deeply into their faith and share in the events of Salvation History. We are called to unite ourselves with Jesus in the wilderness. We are asked to purge ourselves of things that our hindering us and take on charitable acts that help others. We are asked to recognize our own sinfulness and inadequacies in order to rely more fully on God. On the surface this may sound depressing.

But let’s look deeper. How would your life be better if you were more united with Christ and understood more fully His experience in the desert? How would your life be better if you were able to part with bad habits that have become gods in your life? How would your life change if you did things each day to help others? How would your life be better if you admitted your own sinfulness and were totally forgiven for your sins?

I’d say that life would be much better. You would experience true freedom, unbound by sin. The Church offers you this experience through Lent. Let’s embrace it fully!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ask Ellen

Fridays are Ask Ellen days.  Click the Ask Ellen link on the right side of the page to see today's question.  Please feel free to submit your questions as well.  Each week I will choose a reader's question to answer.  Each month a winner will be drawn from those submitting questions.  You might be the lucky person who wins!

What is your favorite Scripture verse and why? Jim, PA

Thank you for asking.  I spend so much time studying and teaching Scripture that I often forget to allow it to minister to me.

My favorite passage is John 4:1-27.  I love the way Jesus interacts with women.  He gets us!  He understood this woman’s truth more than she did.  I dare say he does the same for us.  He lovingly calls her on the carpet for her behavior.  I like to think that He lovingly does the same for me.

But the reason I love this passage so much is hidden within the story.  The words jump off the page and into my soul each time that I read it.

“Jesus answered her. ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” (verse 10)

Oh I don’t ever want Jesus to say these words to me!  It actually grieves my soul to think He could.  I don’t want to miss the gifts of God.  I don’t want to miss Christ standing right in front of me.  I don’t want to ask Him for too little when He offers so much!