Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Do What You Can, Let God Do The Rest

One thing I learned from being a pilot and a flight instructor is the importance of composure.  Keeping a cool head is the best way to prevent bad situations from becoming worse.  Panic tends to make one impulsively “do something even if it’s wrong” or “freeze up” and do nothing at all.  My father, a retired airline pilot, tells lots of flying stories.  He told me of a flight crew caught in some nasty weather.  Noticing that the rookie copilot was looking rather frightened and intimidated, the veteran captain said to him, “Relax, we’re either going to make it or we’re not.”  They made it.

I had some of my own flying moments to contend with.  I had an engine failure in a single engine airplane once (once was enough).  My emergency training (and some prayer) helped me nurse the airplane to a safe landing at the airport.

Then there was the time that my twin engine airplane’s door popped open in the middle of winter.  It could not be closed while in flight due to the airflow over airplane.  I could not simply land immediately because we were in the clouds and had to fly an instrument approach to a nearby airport.  One of my passenger’s gloves blew out the door, and I could barely hear the air traffic controllers over the noise of the wind and engines.  It also got very cold very quickly.  We eventually landed, closed the door and took off again.

On another occasion, I was flying in the clouds with a friend of mine when we noticed we were losing electrical power.  The drive belt for the alternator was slipping leaving us only battery power for our radios and electrical instruments.  When the battery went dead, we would have no navigation instruments to get us out of the clouds and to the airport.  By conserving battery power we made it with little time to spare.

The spiritual application of all this is that there are some things we can control and some things we cannot.  We must focus on what we can do without panic.  I cannot, for example, convince everyone to be Catholic.  What I can do is talk about Catholicism and live the Catholic Faith.  I don’t even want to convince anyone to be Catholic, because I don’t want them to do it for my sake.  I want people to be Catholic for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Although I would love for everyone to have access to all the graces of Christ’s Church, the Holy Spirit must be the One to warm people’s hearts and convince them of the truth.  If God can somehow use me in that process as a humble servant, so be it.

It is up to me as a Christian to model the Christian life as best I can and to be ready to give an answer to those that ask me the reason for the hope that is within me (1Peter 3:15).  In the Sacrament of Confirmation I also took on the responsibility of defending the Catholic Faith.  I became a knight of the Church.  However, even God does not force the will of people to accept truth.  I cannot expect to do so either.  This is actually quite liberating.  The Holy Spirit knows where people are on the journey, not me.  I need not focus on being successful, only on being faithful and speaking the truth in love.

Christian Unity: When Will We Learn?

My fellow Christians, why are we divided?  Do we not all believe that Jesus is the Messiah?  Do we not all have access to the same Bibles?  Do we not all know the Apostles’ Creed?  Do we not all read the words of Jesus and the Apostles?  Why are these things not enough to keep us united in spiritual battle?  What do we lack?  Why are we not “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” as Paul admonished us to be?

We lack that which transforms a great horde into a well-oiled, disciplined, effective army:  allegiance to a central chain of command.  We also lack the holiness that comes from being disciplined and united.  How can we preach holiness while maintaining division?  The two are not compatible.  A divided army simply does not fight well.  Holiness is what we use to wage spiritual warfare.  Division is not holy.  Our lips profess allegiance to Christ, but our actions show division, contention and strife.

When will we learn that Jesus established a visible Church hierarchy, a chain of command for all Christians to follow and be accountable to?  We cannot be united while preaching and teaching different doctrines.  We cannot be united while following leaders that oppose each other.  When will we learn that unity requires humility and the swallowing of pride?  Soldiers must learn to follow orders that they may not agree with or fully understand.  When will we learn that we cannot worship wherever and however we want?  Worship cannot be invented by us.  Christian worship has been instituted by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We cannot effectively function as different parts of the same Body if we are not fully united to that Body.  When will we learn that being Christian is not about choosing one’s preferences from a smorgasbord of doctrinal options, but about being obedient to the Faith?  One Lord, one Faith, one baptism.

When will we learn that genuine Christian unity will elude us until we reverse the perpetual, explosive trend of protest and division and return to the central command of Peter’s chair?

Rom 16:17, 1Cor 1:10, 1Cor 3:3, 1Cor 11:18, Matt 16:18

Whose Conscience Are We Following?

It seems to me that one very misunderstood idea within Christianity is the idea of conscience formation.  While people are generally willing to do what they feel is right, they are less apt to consider how they came to know right from wrong in the first place.  People usually don’t think about what formed their conscience.  None of us totally “think on our own.”  We all borrow and exchange ideas, opinions, beliefs, values, principles, etc.  We learn things from parents, schools, churches, media, politics, friends, etc.  These sources all influence or “form” the conscience.

When presented with questions of morality and justice, which sources do we turn to?  What if parents taught that something is immoral, but school taught that it is moral and normal?  What if it is politically correct to normalize and embrace a certain lifestyle or behavior but Church teaching says it is wrong?  Who or what gets to have the preeminent spot in the conscience?  Out of all the competing forces inside the human heart, which one has the final say?

I have heard it said that if I follow the teachings of the Catholic Church I am not thinking for myself.  I am blindly going along with oppressive, religious teachings that marginalize or hurt certain peoples and populations.  Those who would make such an accusation apparently feel that I would be better off following their teachings instead of the Catholic Church.  In other words, they want to do my thinking for me.  They want to be the force that forms my conscience and teaches me right from wrong.  Why should I submit my will to theirs?

There is also a popular notion that one should be able to pick and choose which Church teachings to follow and which ones to reject based on one’s conscience.  However, the purpose of the Church is not to form the conscience and then produce a smorgasbord of rules for us to choose from in order to give us practice using our conscience.  It’s not like the military where soldiers are trained and then put through simulated battles to practice their skills.  The conscience is trained within the Church in order to fight battles that oppose the Church (i.e. Christ).  Put simply, the Church teaches us how to be good so we can fight evil.

It doesn’t help much in the fight against evil to have a conscience formed by the world rather than by the Church.  If the conscience is formed by the worldly, secular, politically correct culture, then following it will simply perpetuate the worldly, secular, politically correct culture.  A conscience that has been formed in opposition to the Church has been deformed.  It struggles to operate as a force against evil because it does not function properly.  It is more likely to assist evil ends than good ends, even if it does so blindly.

When we encounter a teaching of the Church that is difficult, we have choices.  One choice is to assert our conscience over and above that teaching, thereby potentially letting in the other conscience-forming forces that oppose good.  The other choice is to obediently allow our conscience to be formed by the Church.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church all things.  Following Church teachings is placing faith in the promise of Christ.  Faith requires a reasonable, obedient act of the will, not just feelings or hunches.  A properly formed conscience is not a “gut feeling.”  It is an obedient act of faith.

It also does not help the battle against evil to have multitudes of Christians believing and teaching different things.  While Christians vie against each other with, “The Bible says this,” or “The Bible says that,” evil exploits their distractions.  When all Christians are willing to follow the Church instead of their individual, misinformed consciences and private biblical interpretations, evil will cower.