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Yesterday was a real important day for Catholics. It was Pentecost
Sunday — a celebration to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the
Catholic Church, nearly 2,000 years ago. Pentecost is when the Lord
Jesus, 50 days after His death, reappeared to His Disciples, bringing
with Him the spirit of courage, which He placed within His Disciples, to
give them the strength to proclaim the Word of God the Father the world
over. With over a billion Catholics today, the rest is — as they say
– history.

In light of my comments regarding Wiccans last week, I felt the need
to speak to Father Ed, my priest and the priest of the parish my family
and I attend. When we Catholics have sinned against God, it is
appropriate for us to confess those sins in the presence of a priest –
hence, Confession, as it is called.

A common misinterpretation of Confession is that many people not of
the faith think that all we Catholics have to do is “confess” our sins
and all will be forgiven and forgotten. That is only true
provided we genuinely atone for our confessed sins and go forth
vowing never again to commit that sin
. Yes, that’s the “catch” –
God grants us His divine forgiveness only if we’re truly sorry
and only if we pledge to disavow that sin.

Worshipping false gods, or gods other than Him, is also a sin — in
fact, it’s a cardinal sin, one of the most serious for
Catholics. That’s why it is impossible for me to recognize other gods
or other faiths that believe in other gods.

Having said that, there is another side to Catholicism besides
zealously defending and proclaiming our faith: Contrition,
forgiveness, and being humble before God
(which includes being
humble before God’s creatures — the people of this earth). When I
obviously offended a great many people last week — Wiccans and others
– with my tone and my condemnation of their faith, it seems I forgot
about those Catholic mandates.

Forgetting those qualities is a sin because it caused me to
inadvertently judge people as well as their actions. That
is not permitted; it’s not up to me to judge people. That
function is God’s, and His alone.

Well, I apologize for that. Again, in the zealous defense of my
faith, it seems as though I forgot some things — including, “Judge not,
lest ye be judged.”

Granted, I have no doubt that someday I will be judged by God
Almighty and I spend every day of my life preparing for that moment. I
do not fear it, but as I learned last week, I’m not ready yet. And I
can only ask His forgiveness for my insolence and my sin against Him by
sinning against others whom He created.

Besides showing contrition, I have also been charged with witnessing
on God’s behalf, as He expects all of His people to do. Though many do
not believe in the Word of God, as it is written in the Bible, there are
many signs I can point to in my life that prove (to me) His existence
and the accuracy of what the Bible contains. If you’re not a believer,
bear with me — it might help explain who I am and why I believe (and
say) what I do:

  • The Catholic Church just beatified (made Holy, as in a Saint) a
    man by the name of ***Padre Pio, ***
    who — for his
    entire adult life — bore the ***stigmata, ***
    or the mark of Christ’s crucifixion on
    his hands, feet and side. He bled constantly — so much so that he had
    to keep bandages over his hands all the time.

  • There is the ***Holy Shroud of Turin, ***
    believed to have been used to wrap the
    body of the crucified Jesus. According to all methods of science, this
    shroud mysteriously bears the outline of a man (before such “technology”
    was even close to being available to make such an outline), and whose
    ***carbon dating*** has
    repeatedly come up inconclusive but not disproved.

  • There is the biblical account of ***Noah’s Ark, ***
    the remains of which a
    growing number of researchers and journalists are concluding have been
    sited on Mount Ararat near Turkey.

  • It is not solely because of these things — tangible evidence of
    God’s power and presence — that I believe as I do. It is a presence I
    have felt and it is a presence I have experienced.

There are more, but space precludes me mentioning them at this time.

In any event, non-believers should realize that these “phenomena,” to
Catholics and Protestant Christians alike, are signs that God wishes us
to believe in Him on faith rather than fact (as it should be).
Having proof makes believing easy; it’s that faith thing that is hard
(enter free will — He wants us to believe because we believe,
not because we have proof). To select individuals throughout history,
God has provided proof. But only when it is necessary for Him to
do so, and only, it seems, when it is the most needed. God wants us to
accept His word because we want to, not because there is irrefutable
evidence. That’s entirely the wrong reason, and is anathema to the
concept of “faith” in the first place.

I’m convinced, however, that in time He will reveal to us what He
wants us to know. Until then, it’s not up to us and we will just have to
wait.

Now, none of this explains or excuses my sin of judgement
against Wiccans. But perhaps, if nothing else, it does explain to them
(and others) why I cannot accept their faith or their gods –
perhaps any more than they can accept my Catholicism (though I’m
hopeful!).

That is not the same, however, as not accepting them. It is
not up to me who is and isn’t evil, based solely on the person.
Acts of violence, malfeasance, dishonestly, hypocrisy, et al., however,
are acts and should be judged by all of us accordingly.

Furthermore, because God has mandated my contrition and has guided my
will to reconcile, thus alleviating my own divisiveness, and because in
this great nation of ours the First Amendment’s protection of my free
speech and your right to worship as you choose, I find it necessary to
write this column and make my apology, as well as my faith, public.
None of us should have to apologize for what — or in whom — we
believe. Will this make me think differently about witchcraft? No –
but perhaps it will make me think differently about people. So if we
ever meet, perhaps religion shouldn’t be our topic of discussion — for
unity’s sake (!).

I hope, for all (mostly for my God), I have atoned. The Lord
be with you.

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