Who is Richard Gilman?

There it was. In the beginning to the beginning of the book mid-sentence. I stared at the unexpected words wondering if they were real. The book, recommended to me by a blogging friend of mine (Julie) over at Cookie Crumbles to Live By was barely through the preface when I was hit over the head with what seemed to be a boulder. A bold statement that just couldn’t be true. A statement that prefaced a book about two German siblings who started an underground movement against the terror that was Nazi Germany and the Hitler regime. I had barely braced myself to read another book I may not make it through about the Holocaust when the pain came before the story began.

Hans’s “conversion” process is more intellectual than Sophie’s, his spiritual growth being nurtured in large part by books. Many of these are by French Catholics, among them Leon Bloy, Paul Claudel, George Bernanos, and Etienne Gilson (ten years later these same writers would play a central role in my own temporary conversion to Catholicism.” (excerpted from the Preface to the American Edition of, “At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl.

I had never quite seen the words “temporary” and “conversion” tucked so neatly away in the same sentence. As if to say, I found God, it was good for a while and now I am on to trying something else…As if to say it is that easy to move on from God…

The words stirred me so much I had to stop reading the book and instead start to find out who Richard Gilman was. I had already said a silent unprompted prayer for His soul that I felt may be languishing in the throes of purgatory. It was like he was stuck between here and there and just couldn’t see his way out. I broke down and cried for a man I did not even know.

But the news of his “temporary conversion” grew worse still. The article in the New York Times was punishing. How could it begin like this? The title of the piece was What He Found, What He Lost, but how exactly does one lose God?

Eight sentences in I learned. Richard Gilman was a self-proclaimed Jewish “atheist” who became a Catholic and left the church eight years later. Why? According to the summation of his book Faith, Sex, Mystery, because, “there was no place for him in the church either sexually or intellectually…After he left the Catholic Church he briefly tried to return to Judaism, but found there was nothing to return to; he has never been a part of anything.” 

And strangely I could see the Judaism that he spoke about. The one I myself had left to embrace my wholeness in the Church, only to realize I never left Judaism at all, but rather found it in the Savior’s arms. I thanked God for my time in a non-denominational church which taught me not only the fundamentals of Christianity but also the scriptures. I was able to embrace the Catholic Church because I had known the savior. The Church was Him walking me home…

It occurred to me that Mr.Gilman may have had a romance with the Church and all its beauty but lacked in His relationship with God. I too had been drawn in by the false promises of other religions and practices, temporary “fixes” that focused on me and self rather than God. I never believed that God didn’t exist, I just chose to look elsewhere for meaning and purpose in life. God was an entity to me, a concept, not a personal loving friend who offered me salvation.

And I imagine that there are so many others out there like Richard Gilman. Those who are searching for the truth in false religions or new age models. Those that have rejected God because they have chosen to yield to the world and its desires rather than take the narrow road. And there are those who have labeled themselves “deconverts” as if somehow that makes God not to exist. In any case, they are all people who have chosen an alternative to God.

I don’t think Richard Gilman stopped believing in God, I just think that he chose to have his own way. Maybe because the romantic pull of the Church was just that; a fantasy he had created in His own mind. There is nothing romantic about Christianity. It thrives on the notion that suffering is good.

But if one can get past their own selves, if one can reach for God as if a child, if one can believe that nothing else is needed but God alone, the truth of the Church will shine brighter than the sun. I grieved that Richard Gilman never found that truth. But maybe his life was meant to be read about to produce conversion. To draw those to Christ who have clung on to the lie that there is such a thing as “temporary conversion”; and not in the sense of the Church but in the lies of the world. For in Christ there is nothing temporary- there is only eternal. 

 

 

 

 

Purgatory: A Deeper Understanding with the Church Fathers.

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First Published at All Along the Watchtower in response to comments from fellow blogger in regards to Purgatory: A Lesson Taught By Christ.

It needs to be clarified in accord to Catholic theology that Christ has already paid the debt of our original sin; however, as exemplified by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 13, because we are still scarred by concupiscence we may need to cleanse ourselves of sin before entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, 11 for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. 15 But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.[1]


It is claimed that there is a lack of clarity in my previous post, of course, this is false. In regards to my prior post, I broke down Christ’s teaching in my eschatological assertion that according to Mt. 5: 5:23-26 that there will be an accuser, a judge, and price to be paid for not settling our sins here on earth. Now in the comments section, there was mention of Maccabees, but I wish to refrain from that point, as I did in the original essay for the reason that book is disputed within the canon between Protestants and Catholics. However, Luther and his contemporary reformers did keep the title in the appendixes as it does have value in understanding the beliefs of Judaism in the period.

Regardless, my response here is to disprove a lack of clarity, which as I claimed, Jesus says there will be an accuser, a judge, and penance (payment). Of course, for the purpose of showing clarity, it would be wise to seek the wisdom of the Church Fathers. I think here, as I am about to give a talk at my parish on various Church Father will state my introduction of said fathers:

““The Church Fathers are those great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second through the eighth centuries.”[2] I believe this to be a very distinct and thorough definition but if one is looking for a more generalized definition, Catholic Apologist provides a more generalized definition explaining, “In time, the concept (Church Fathers) came to be applied in a general way to those who shaped the faith and practice of the Church in its earliest centuries. They became “Fathers” not only for their own age but for all ages that would follow. Some of these—the ones who heard the preaching of the apostles themselves or lived very shortly after the time of the apostles—came to be called the “Apostolic Fathers” or “Sub-Apostolic Fathers.” Together with the Fathers of later ages, they were important witnesses to the apostolic Tradition.[3]

As I have a great respect of Cardinal John Henry Newman, I’ve included his view on the importance of what the Father’s claim:

“When they (the Church Fathers) speak of doctrine, they speak of them  as being universally held. They are witnesses to the fact of those doctrines having been received not here or there, but everywhere. We receive those doctrines which they thus teach, not merely because they teach them, but because they bear witness that all Christians everywhere then held them…they do not speak of their own private opinion; they do not say, ‘This is true, because we see it in Scripture’—about which there might be differences of judgment—but, ‘this is true, because in matter of fact it is held, and has ever been held, by all the Churches, down to our times without interruption, ever since the Apostles.”[4]

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After stating the importance on the Church Fathers thought in forming orthodox Christian theology, it would be prudent to take a look at what they actually have to say about this passage, as proof that I’ve not created a supposition out of then air which lacks clarity in thought, as well as not all orthodox Christian theology is found jumping out of canon, but can be located in its subtleness.

Fortunately, the great Saint, theologian, and scholar Thomas Aquinas has already compiled s document with views of Church Fathers in a commentary of the Gospels called Catena Aurea.

In regards to this particular passage: St. Augustine writes of the judge, which, of course, is the Son of God, The Christ Jesus:

Whosoever then shall not have been reconciled in this life with God through the death of His Son, shall be by Him delivered to the Judge, that is, the Son, to whom He has committed all judgment.[5]


In the comment section of the previous essay, as I was commenting during my breaks at work, and did not have the material readily available to make certain my assertions, I did error in regards to St. Ambrose speaking in regards to Mt. 5 23-24; however, the passage has a correlating passage in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 12:57-59 in which Ambrose does share his thoughts on the accuser.

57 ¶“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.”[6]

 For this particular passage, St. Ambrose writes, “Ambrose. Or our adversary is the devil, who lays his baits for sin, that he may have those his partners in punishment who were his accomplices in crime; our adversary is also every vicious practice. Lastly, our adversary is an evil conscience, which affects us both in this world, and will accuse and betray us in the next. Let us then give heed, while we are in this life’s course, that we may be delivered from every bad act as from an evil enemy. Nay, while we are going with our adversary to the magistrate, as we are in the way, we should condemn our fault. But who is the magistrate, but He in whose hands is all power? But the Magistrate delivers the guilty to the Judge, that is, to Him, to whom He gives the power over the quick and dead, namely, Jesus Christ, through Whom the secrets are made manifest, and the punishment of wicked works awarded. He delivers to the officer, and the officer casts into prison, for He says, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness. (Matt. 22:12.) And he shews that His officers are the angels, of whom he says, The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; (Matt. 13:49.) but it is added, I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite. For as they who pay money on interest do not get rid of the debt of interest before that the amount of the whole principal is paid even up to the least sum in every kind of payment, so by the compensation of love and the other acts, or by each particular kind of satisfaction the punishment of sin is cancelled.[7]

Now there are several elements to tease out here.

#1 St. Ambrose indicates that Satan is the accuser of which Christ speaks. In fact, his protégé, St. Augustine admits it to be a possibility:
“Augustine. (Serm. in Mont. i. 11.) Let us see who this adversary is to whom we are bid to be benevolent, It may then be either the Devil, or man, or the flesh, or God, or His commandments. But I do not see how we can be bid be benevolent, or agreeing with the Devil; for where there is good will, there is friendship, and no one will say that friendship should be made with the Devil, or that it is well to agree with him, having once proclaimed war against him when we renounced him; nor ought we to consent with him, with whom had we never consented, we had never come into such circumstances,[8]


If one takes a closer look at Aquinas’ commentary, we do not find anything in regards to the payment in Matthew’s commentary. However, in regards to Luke’s passage, we find quite a bit from the Venerable Bede on the topic in which Bede writes:

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“If I paid every man every thing, I come to the officers and answer with a fearless heart, “I owe them nothing.” But if I am a debtor, the officer will cast me into prison, nor will he suffer me to go out from thence until I have paid every debt. For the officer has no power to let me off even a farthing. He who forgave one debtor five hundred pence and another fifty, (Luke 7:41.) was the Lord, but the exactor is not the master, but one appointed by the master to demand the debts. But the last mite he calls slight and small, for our sins are either heavy or slight. Happy then is he who sinneth not, and next in happiness he who has sinned slightly. Even among slight sins there is diversity, otherwise he would not say until he has paid the last mite. For if he owes a little, he shall not come out till he pays the last mite. But he who has been guilty of a great debt, will have endless ages for his payment.[9]


Again, I must assert that logically “the prison” cannot be hell because In the context of Jesus’ words when one pays the penny, they will be released, the judgment of hell is final. Furthermore, I would hope that it being heaven is quite obvious. Now, as Nicholas has concluded, the early church understanding of these topics does provide substantial evidence for the practice of penance which would also indicate, albeit, I’ll admit, circumstantial evidence of state in which penance would be needed to purify the soul. I hold firmly that all of this is more than enough evidence to point to clear theological discourse of purgatory in the Gospels. And, in the sentiment of John Henry Newman, for one to conclude that there isn’t enough evidence, let that one also claim clear and precise theological evidence for the Holy Spirit in scripture. Of course, this is not to discount the person in the Trinity, it only serves as an example that one has to look for more textural imagery for some concepts.

[1] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 3:10–15.

[2] D’Ambrosio, 2.

[3] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2010), 23.

[4] Dave Armstrong, Quotable Newman (Sophia Press: Manchester, 2012), 169-70.

[5] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 182.

[6] The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), Lk 12:57–59.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, 473.

[8] Ibid, 181–182.

[9] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 3 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1843), 474.

Purgatory: A Lesson Taught By Christ?

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First Published at All Along the Watchtower.

What is it about purgatory that divides Catholics from Protestants? Does it actually have to do with justification? At first, I think it’s important to state that there is only so much that we can possibly know about purgatory—like Heaven or hell.

My post here will be mostly informal and written from my observations having spent a great deal of time and having a magnificent opportunity listening to confessional Lutherans. I’ve heard told in many circles that Martin Luther, a pious Christian, had been using the sacrament of confession; however, after each time of reconciliation, the Augustinian monk, would hesitate a bit while walking back to his theological studies as he just remembered sins that he forgot to confess. Luther, then, thought something of the nature, “I must still be damned.” The term for this is called scrupulosity, in fact, I was having a discussion on Justification and purgatory one night, I said, “I believe that at best, I will no doubt have to be purified in purgatory, I then used the term, scrupulosity, in response to being told, “I just want you to have peace.” I looked very puzzled at the reply, “peace?” The individual thought that there was no possible way that I could be confident in my salvation if I had to continue to worry about my sins and practice the sacrament of confession. However, my response, “I already have peace. I can be confident in both my state of grace and the mercy of God; however, If I do deserve damnation, I have faith in God’s true justice.”

So, why do I have confidence in the doctrine of purgatory, as opposed to this individual and Luther? There are various proofs in Scripture that Catholics point to in regards to Purgatory such as 1 Cor. 3:11-15, Jn. 14:2, Mt. 12:32.

However, my confidence rests on the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew Ch. 5:23-26

23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. [1]

The great accuser—The opponent– that we will all have at our judgment is Satan. So, here are two topics that many Christians fail to speak about in this day and age, Satan and Sin, mainly because most no longer believe in either. So, if most do not believe that there are Satan and Sin, is it fair to say that it would be difficult to believe in a purification of Sin? Could one make the argument that our failure to acknowledge such is founded in Sola Fide? Perhaps not, after all, many Catholics no longer believe that Satan or Sin exists. In regards to on the way to court, of course, this means our life on the way to the beatific vision, and our way to settle our debt of sin is with confession and penance.

It’s important to note that Christ then says, “you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Christ couldn’t be talking about hell as the verdict from the Judge by this statement because if the judgment is hell, the judgment is final; however, purgatory is not a final state, but rather a purifying state, in which one will be “released;” therefore, their judgment of salvation has been assured.

One of the best pieces of Western Literature is Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the great attributes of the text is that it speaks to us today of the Christian worldview of a faithful Catholic in the 13th century before the Reformation.

Notice, even in both Canto III’s of the Inferno and Purgatory the difference of the fates of those souls:

The Inferno:

Here sighs, with lamentations and loud moans,

Resounded through the air pierced by no star,

That e’en I wept at entering. Various tongues,

Horrible languages, outcries of woe,

Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse,

With hands together smote that swell’d the sounds,

Made up a tumult, that forever whirls

Round through that air with solid darkness stain’d,

Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.

I then, with horror yet encompast, cried:

“O master! what is this I hear? what race

Are these, who seem so overcome with woe?”[2]
Purgatory:

“O spirits perfect! O already chosen!”

Virgil to them began: “by that blest peace,

Which, as I deem, is for you all prepared,

Instruct us where the mountain low declines,

So that attempt to mount it be not vain.

For who knows most, him loss of time most grieves.”[3]

In Dante’s Hell, those souls, as with every circle of hell, are continuously moved in endless unending circles, but notice, that in purgatory, as Virgil says as the souls approach him and Dante, “O already Chosen!” those spirits are beginning to move forward as pilgrims to the reward they’re already assured as they can not move back.

The Book of Concord reads in regards to penance in indulgence:

They add further that satisfactions ought to be works of supererogation. These consist of the most stupid observances, like pilgrimages, rosaries, and similar observations, none of which have the command of God. [15] Then, just as they buy off purgatory with satisfactions, so they also devised a way to buy off satisfactions, which turned out to be very profitable. For they sell indulgences, which they interpret as the remission of satisfactions. They collect this revenue not only from the living but even more from the dead. They buy off the satisfactions for the dead not only with indulgences but also with the sacrifice of the Mass.[1]

As I read the above text, I hear the “voice” of the writer, in respect, to being angry at the selling for profit of indulgences in regards to removing penance. I fully admit that those in the Church, and yes even leaders, are sinners and did egregious actions. Regardless, Catholics and Protestants differ on how God conducts commands. Protestants claim Sola Scriptura while Catholics claim that Church tradition can also produce theological truths. However, after applying Christ words using scripture, can it truly be claimed there is no command from God? Furthermore, is it “works” to simply pray for souls in purgatory? It’s well noted in the historical record that Luther edited books from the canon that displayed prayers for the dead, as it opposed to his prospective theology. It’s clear from Catholic theology that souls who receive no prayers will still be purified and receive their reward, in this regard, no action from anyone is meriting salvation, as salvation is assured. God initiates by a free gift salvation. I implore my Protestant brothers and sisters to see that “works” is not a bad word. If salvation is granted to us Prima Gratia, Christ still speaks time and time again about “storing treasures in Heaven” by actions on earth.

[1] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 5:22–26.

[2] Dante Alighieri, The Harvard Classics 20: The Divine Comedy by Dante, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909), 13–14.

[3] Dante Alighieri, The Harvard Classics 20: The Divine Comedy by Dante, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909), 157.

[4]Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 190.