Did God Give us a Religion, or a Relationship?

I continue to see comments lately that pit “relationship” against “religion”, as though there’s a new trend with Christians trying to distance themselves from “rules” that they might be expected to follow. The latest I heard was " Religion gets you to church, but relationship helps you grow in your faith ".  Other examples are, “ Having a religion is against my relationship ”, or “ God gave me a relationship, not a religion to follow ”, or “ I have a personal relationship with Christ, I don’t need a religion’s rules to tell me what to do ”. There are various ways of saying it, but the main message is that “ Christ gave us a relationship with Him, not a religion to follow”, and it's an incredibly short-sighted and incorrect view of what Christ has given us.  The religion that Christ gave us to follow is a reflection of our relationship with Him .  "Religion", from the Latin "religio" means to  bind oneself  [to something]. In this case, our Christian

A Hospital for Sinners

- " If I touch the holy water font, it'll melt. " - " I better not go to confession because, if I enter the church, it may burn down! "   - " I'm just too 'dirty' to go before God right now...I need to clean up first. "   Whether they are an excuse to not go to church, or a genuine notion that someone actually has to 'get right with God' BEFORE they receive the Sacraments, these comments (paraphrased, but you are likely familiar with many variations of them) are wrong minded, backwards, and completely miss the purpose of the Sacraments.   You may have read in any number places, in any number of ways, that " the church is not a museum for saints; rather it is a hospital for sinners ".  And this is the truth of the matter.   We need not be "clean" in order to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e., going to confession).  Reconciliation is given to us by Christ for exactly that reconcile us to Hi

Coronavirus and an Opportunity for Greatness

Before this pandemic hit our nation, I considered myself a good Christian. I give to the Church; I help others when I can; I give an honest day's work to provide for my family; I raise my children in the faith handed down to us by our Lord. But this pandemic has opened my eyes in the past couple weeks. My wife and I quickly realized that the burden that would hit us, as our state went on "lock-down", would impact other people as well...and probably hit them harder. After all, I have a job that allows me to work from home, so I won't lose a paycheck (yet). And despite the initial mob that emptied our local grocery store, we have a place nearby to buy the essentials and we are both capable of going shopping. ("Both capable of going shopping" is something I didn't realize I was taking for granted until recently.) And while it meant having six children at home, like wild rabbits being chased by a cage, we are more adjusted to that than most becaus

Drive-Thru Christianity

I noticed it this past Ash Wednesday, as the local news channel was covering "drive-thru ashes" for Christians who wanted to get their Wednesday ashes but didn't have time to stop into a formal service or Mass. Various denominations had set up stops in various places for people to stop by for a quick dusting upon their foreheads, grab a donut and coffee, and then go about their busy day. I'm sure the intention was genuine: meet people where they are in their lives and attempt to bring bits of the faith to them. It's a good sentiment. But that's about all it is, and I believe it delivers a message that completely contradicts the whole point of "Ash Wednesday" from the very start. Here's the message: "We know you are busy and don't have time to 'make time' for things of the faith, so we'll make it more convenient for you so that your faith life doesn't get in the way of your 'other' life". But isn&#

Right to Life Being Preached by a Sinner?

My brother shared a video of the first sitting President to attend a March for Life event giving a speech at said event.  The speech was wonderfully supportive of babies' right to life and I think it's historic and precedent-setting that a President has made this pro-life move, regardless of his motives.  Yet, there was one gentleman who kept trying to dismiss the pro-life message and draw focus away from it by trying to refocus on the person of the President.  It led to some interesting dialog but gave me an opportunity to dive back into a question to which I have yet, after years of asking, to receive an actual answer or any focused discussion.  You can decide whether this ended differently. Ray's words will appear in plain text, mine in blue. Ray: It's called pandering and it doesn't mean he is a good and moral man. Trump once declared in a 1999 interview that “I am pro-choice in every respect.” ( Nevermind that people can change. As another person in t

Pulling Back on the Reins

Have you ever felt like your life was in full gallop, heading in the right direction and with no obstacles in your way, only to suddenly have things screech to a halt? An image comes to mind of that picture of a person on what they think is their life journey, with nothing but the hill they climbed behind them, and the goal in front. Then a second picture shows a zoomed-out version, “God’s Plan” so it is called, with many more obstacles ahead, but the goal no less achievable. Have you ever been indignant about that sudden stillness, or the additional obstacles? We should be thankful for these times. These are times of reflection and assessment and can stop us from galloping over a cliff in some situations. I’ve got a real-life example for you. Things at work have been going great, and I truly believe it’s because I have been growing in my faith-life. I have an opportunity to go to Mass pretty much any morning that I want, and I have decided on a couple days per week in parti

I Can't Sleep; What Should I Do!?

"Help! I can't sleep and I don't know what to do!" Photo courtesy of  Bionews . "Insomnia" I've said these words myself before, and I hear similar ones often from coworkers, friends, strangers having too-loud conversations with their friends in public, etc. Most of us are familiar with the typical advice: "try counting sheep; go through the alphabet in your head; count numbers until you dose off; drink herbal tea; take a warm bath; use essential oils; make your room darker"...the list goes on and on. Some of these are helpful, some are not. And most of them won't work for everyone. I'd like to recommend the thing that helps me the most when I find I am having trouble falling asleep at night: I pray. To someone who is a-religious (agnostic/atheist, for example), that may sound as meaningful as "rub lavender essential oil on your pillow". But I would encourage you to at least give it a shot. If there really is