If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

De Jure, De Facto

This is part of my third book, "Learning to Lean." It is available for $0.99 on Kindle, Amazon paperback for quite a bit more, or from me for whatever you think is fair (plus shipping).  Shoot me an email if you'd like a copy from my supply -- richmaffeobooks@gmail.com

They claim to know God, but by their deeds they deny him . . . (Titus 1:16).

Some time ago I relearned two Latin phrases: de jure and de facto. De jure refers to what a rule or law actually states, while de facto refers to how that rule or law is actually practiced. For example, there is a highway in the middle of nowhere in Montana where the speed limit is – de jure – 70 mph. But sit by the side of the road a while and you'd realize the speed limit is – de facto – 85.

I think Baptism is a good example of theological de jure and de facto in the Church. Catholic Christians know Baptism brings a person into the salvation of Christ. We become God’s child. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit to live holy lives.

That’s the de jure position of Scripture and the Church.

For some Catholics, the de facto practice of their baptismal faith is, however, quite different. To hear or watch them, one might conclude they believe they are eternally secure simply because they are baptized and sealed by the Holy Spirit. They can do as they wish because they are forever God’s child – even if their doing and believing contradicts what Scripture and the Church teach.

In other words, they believe de jure they are Christians by their baptism, but they live de facto in sin as atheists.

But is that why God sent His Son to a torturous death, so we could live as we wish? Is that what God meant when He commanded, “Be holy even as I am holy”?

If our world ever needed Christians to unite their de facto to God’s de jure, it is now. And we would all do well to heed the warning of Scripture, If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Holy Mother Church and Child Abuse

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him . . . (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

As my mother approaches her 84th birthday, my thoughts take me to my childhood home. I never doubted Mom’s love for me – and I never doubted what she expected of me.
Principally, obedience.

When she told me to share with my younger sister, she wouldn’t tolerate my selfishness. When she told me to be home at 5 PM, I knew I’d be in trouble if I opened the door any later. And the time or two I defied her to her face, my backside bore stinging testimony that she wouldn’t tolerate rebellion.

So great was my respect – and yes, my fear – of Mom, by the time I was 17, outweighed her by 50 pounds and stood several inches taller, if she told me to be home at 11 PM, I was home at 11 PM.

As an adult with three children of my own, I know why Mom did as she did. Had she not set clear standards – and enforced those standards – I do not doubt for a moment I would not be the successful person I am today.

Sappy, indulgent love, is not really love. It’s cowardice and it’s destructive of the very one we say we care for. That’s not my idea; it’s God’s. The Holy Spirit, speaking through the prophets, warned: Do not hold back discipline from the child; Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.1 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.2 He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. 3 And But if you are without discipline . . . then you are illegitimate children and not sons.4

Everyone reading this sentence knows what it is like to be in the same area as a rude and disobedient child. Whether on a plane, in a restaurant, at a supermarket, or on a playground, incorrigible children ruin the tranquility of every environment in which they set foot. And I have often watched the child’s mother smile apologetically at the nearby adults and shrug her shoulders as if to say, “What can I do? I’m showing little Suzie how much I love her.”

And we know what kind of incorrigible adults disobedient children become. Which is why what I see and hear occurring today in the Church causes me a great measure of angst. My experience and my knowledge of Scripture wants to scream at some leaders in Mother Church who – in the name of sappy, indulgent love – refuse to discipline her disobedient children. Nor does it seem to matter how terrible their behavior or scandalous their disobedience. What Catholic does not know of priests – or even bishops – who permit lay members of their congregation to lead choirs, act as lector or usher, teach Faith Formation or adult Bible studies, and yet flaunt their sins and are openly critical of Church teaching about sexuality, marriage, abortion, the priesthood and other doctrines central to Catholic faith?

And to most Catholics and non-Catholics, it seems Mother Church is simply smiling, almost apologetically, as if to say, “What can I do? This is how we demonstrate our love for little Suzie or Johnnie.”

As my mother approaches her 84th birthday I plan to thank her for loving me enough to swat my diapered rear-end when I got sassy. I will thank her for loving me ‘tough’ enough to do the hard things like restricting my freedom, taking away privileges and yes, slapping me across the face when I so rightly deserved it as a teenager.

From my perspective, Holy Mother church needs to do the same with her rebellious sons and daughters. To do as she is currently doing is cruel. And maybe borders on child abuse.

1. Proverbs 23:13-14
2. Proverbs 29:15
3. Proverbs 13:24
4. Hebrews 12:7-8

Monday, May 21, 2012

When I Kept Silent

When I kept silent [about my sin], my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. . . . I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)

I still remember how I yearned to join the congregational worship that swelled around me. But my heart couldn’t so much as whisper His praise. I was in the fourth day of my struggle with the Holy Spirit. He’d exposed one of my sins, and like Jonah, I’d been running from Him ever since. So as everyone in the pews around me focused on Christ, I slumped into my seat and gave up the battle. I knew from experience I could only enjoy true worship after true repentance.

When you read the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12 you might not notice an important element nearly buried in the narrative. David did not confess his sin to God for nearly a year! I don’t know how he did it. Day after day, week after week, he went through the motions of being religious. I’m sure he joined the choir each Sabbath in the Temple as they sang their liturgy. He listened to the priest’s exposition of the Scripture and joined his voice with the congregational prayers. To the casual observer, David appeared to be the godly man the people expected him to be.

But God wasn’t fooled. And it wasn’t until Bathsheba gave birth – nine months after David’s sin with another man’s wife – that the king went to his knees and wept over his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. You can read his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51.

Why do so many of us, like David, waste days – sometimes years – running from God and making excuses for our sins? Why is it so hard to say to Him, “I’m sorry”?

My reason is most often pride. It’s easier to find fault in others than in myself. It’s easier to think I’m an “I’m-OK-you’re-Ok” kind of guy. But God is not fooled. Which is why He offers us a better way to live. No, He demands of us a better way to live.

Saint Augustine said it well: Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

I want to be the kind of man God wants me to be. And, if you have read this far, I believe you also want to be the kind of man or woman God wants you to be.

It begins with humility; a humility quick to repent – for mortal sins, of course, but likewise for venial sins – and a cry for Christ’s mercy. Only then can worship and fellowship with the King of kings become as natural and effortless as breathing.

Lord, help us give up the battle early.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Illusions of the Imagination?

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come . . . (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Former Beatle John Lennon wrote a song whose lyrics endure to this day. It is a tragic song. I consider the lyrics deceptive, even devilish, because they encourage the listener to imagine there is no heaven, or hell . . . and by implication, no God, no Jesus, no sin and no eternal judgment.

And then I remember Lennon’s partner, George Harrison. A year before his death at 58, Harrison remarked that the last forty years of his life passed so quickly, they seemed like the snap of his fingers.

To those who take time to consider the calendar's swiftness, Harrison's comment resonates with wisdom lost on a lot of people. Maybe even his partner, Lennon. But who has not turned photo album pages and wondered: was I really that young? That thin? Healthy? Happy? Hopeful? Whose mind hasn't time‑warped back to incidents twenty, thirty, fifty years earlier and thought: It seems like last week?

Near the end of his life, Solomon discovered what many of us who are older try to convince those who are younger: Time passes quickly. Very quickly. So quickly, it is the source of worn clichés: Time flies. Where did the time go? In the nick of time.

But clichés cannot conceal the cold certainty that our calendar pages continue to drop like autumn leaves in a wind storm – and the time will come for each of us when our time runs out.

When that happens, we will be glad to have remembered – and served ‑‑our Creator while we had the time, because there is a heaven. And a hell. And a judgment for those who have chosen to live as if those things are illusions of the imagination.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I posted this just a few short months ago. Events of the last several days beg me to repeat the post because the issues before the Church are so potent and so destructive to the sheep that I have trouble keeping quiet.

I am reminded of the words of the Jewish prophet Hosea: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (4:6). Surely that is why the Church through the Catechism repeatedly enjoins the faithful to read the Word of God. To study it. To apply it to their lives. For if we do not, we will fall for all kinds of godless philosophies, to our destruction and the destruction of our children and families.

But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16, Douay-Rheims Bible)

I have for years held an intellectual understanding of the Lord’s rebuke of the lukewarm Laodecian church. But my understanding of late has undergone a transformation. The intellectual has become visceral.

It happened as I suddenly awoke to the speed at which moral decay is sweeping our land, putrefication so noxious it surely stinks to the highest heaven. While all the while the hand-wringing, speeches and statements of churchmen and women of all labels, but especially of leaders appointed by God to lead His flock . . . . all the while the Church, except for very rare exceptions– the Church remains stunningly silent, willfully impotent, and spinelessly unwilling to mount an offense neither for God, nor for His sheep. 

I understand the Lord’s nausea over a lukewarm Church.

I’m a little nauseous myself.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wondering at Unbelief -- my conclusion

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20)

A few days ago I wrote about what Almighty God has been trying to teach me. That lesson, reduced to its essential core is this: God is in control of every molecule, every atom, throughout the galaxies. What are nations, presidents, dictators and kings that He is even mindful of them?

But even knowing this, I have focused in the past only on the troubles before me. Problems in the nation. Problems in the Church. Problems in the family. Problems with health. Problems. Problems.

I do not minimize those troubles. I do not make believe they do not exist. No, the varied issues are real. They strike destruction at the very heart of our homes, our Church, our nation.

But I am growing increasingly convinced that this generation – yes even today’s Church – has yet to see what God will do if His people humble themselves, and pray, and seek his face, and turn from their wicked ways. If they do what He commands, then the Almighty will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins, and will heal their land. 1  

However, we may be living in a time not unlike many other times in past eras wherein His people grew self-satisfied, lazy, and too careless about their sin to concern themselves about personal holiness, about living for Christ, about repentance and obedience, about seeking Him while He may be found.

And if that is the time in which we now live, then the problems we face in our nation and in our Church are only just beginning. Terrible times, desperate times, bloody times yet await us.

But terrible times change nothing about the absolute and unalterable authority of the Almighty. It changes nothing about the truth of Scripture, the power of faith, and the reward of those who turn from godless philosophies, rebellious lifestyles and damnable lies to humbly seek to please the Creator.

Problems, even as they multiply, now urge me to fix my mind on the declarations and encouragements of those who lived in times such as these. Here are a few:

[Jesus said], Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. 2

All this has come upon us but we have not forgotten you. Our heart has not turned back and our steps have not deviated from your ways. 3

Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.4

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 5

Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.6

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?7

Problems will remain with me until the day I close my eyes in death. But until that day I choose to rest in the assurance that the Almighty intimately knows those who take refuge in Him. He is friend, lover, protector and Father to those whose soul is covered with the blood of Jesus.

Sure there are problems. Serious ones. Sometimes unchangeable ones. But God is still on His throne, and I am in His lap. And if you are covered with Christ’s blood, if your heart turns with increasing frequency to Him in repentance and obedience, then you are in His lap, too.

Trust Him. He will not fail us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

1) 2 Chronicles 7:14
2) John 14:1
3) Psalm 44:17-18
4) Job 13:15
5) Joshua 24:15
6) Habakkuk 3:17-18
7) Romans 8:28-31

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wondering at Unbelief - Part Two

My post the other day was not the first time I'd thought about the enormity of God's power related to the problems we face. I wrote something similar (below) in August of 2010. Nearly two years ago. And even then, when I wrote "My First Thought," the message was not new to me. I'd thought of it for decades.

I'm a very slow learner. But maybe I'm beginning to internalize that truth.

In a few days I will post one more essay that's been floating in my mind related to this theme. But My First Thought is a good segue into that next one.

My First Thought

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth? . . . Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; . . . All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless . . . [He] Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing . . . He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble (Isaiah 40:12-24).

When I finally leave this body
and stand in the presence
of my Father's glory,

When He reaches from His throne
and draws me to His lap,
when I then understand
what I could not understand
in life:

the enormity
of His incomprehensible power,

the limitlessness
of His reign
over every fiber
of eternity,

that no creature
in heaven
or on earth
can open
what he shuts
or close
what He opens,

that the totality of creation
throughout countless galaxies
bow at His presence;

I think my first thought
when I realize where I am
and in Whose arms I rest,

my first thought
will not be
shrouded in sorrow
for my many sins,

for things I did
or did not do
in life.

I think I will be most sorry
that I didn’t trust Him more,
when I had so many chances

to do so.