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Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty

October 23, 2013 | By 

It can be surprisingly easy to forget at times that Catholics and other people of faith are living in an increasingly hostile secular culture. But, we must never forget; we must remain watchful. The U.S. Bishops have called Catholics to prayer, fasting and abstinence for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. From the “Call to Prayer” Video produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Once all reference to God has been removed, the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted.” (Blessed John Paul II) … “Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are being threatened. Religious persecution is nothing new…”

Won’t you join in? Watch the video…

Into the deep…

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Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears on Sundays and occasionally on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Deacon Mike’s speaker page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.


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Catholic Social Doctrine: The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

 
Catholic Social Doctrine:  The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life
By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff  August 12, 2012
 
In the battle to win hearts and minds to the cause of life, it is sometimes necessary to speak in non-religious terms.  This is certainly possible and effective.

For example, medical science and biology can help us defend the lives of unborn children and argue persuasively for an end to abortion.

An unborn child is

  • alive,
  • demonstrably human and
  • a unique human life with DNA that is distinct from each parent.

These are scientific facts.

Even if an opponent argues that this life in the womb is not yet a person, one need not resort to religion to oppose this claim. After all, a lack of certainty about personhood should not lead to a callous sentence of death, but rather to the urgent preservation of the life. We have too sordid a history of the powerful declaring the innocent weak as something less than human.

At other times, what is needed is precisely the proclamation of the Gospel and trust in the Holy Spirit to convert heart and minds.

I recently read a passage from Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:

“The root reason for human dignity lies in man’s call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God’s love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator” (GS 19.1 ).

The simple truth spoken of here is that our dignity as human persons derives not from the color of our skin, the nation of our origin, the level of education we have attained, the amount of wealth we have accumulated, the degree of our independence from reliance on others, the economic job we perform, our friends, our family, or any of our talents. Our dignity does not depend upon our health nor our age. Our dignity from the moment of conception comes from the God who created us and NO ONE can take this away from us.

This call places an obligation on us.  We must respond to this call.  We can either accept the loving call of God to communion, or we can reject it. We can either respect the call of God to others, or we can ignore it.  The first choice in each of these leads to life, the second to our destruction and spiritual death. The first leads to joy and fulfillment, the second leads to misery and despair.

At the heart of the Church’s insistence on respect for human life and the right to life of the human person is the dignity of the human person.  Abortion, euthanasia and other direct attacks on the right to life ignore this simple truth.

“The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

We must not be afraid to speak of this relationship between God and Man. We must not hesitate to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. And oftentimes, it is this proclamation of the Gospel that must precede our efforts to explain why we Catholics are prolife.

Have you had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who does not respect the right to life of all innocent humans from natural conception to natural death? What were the circumstances? Were you successful… did you make any headway?


 

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Mike is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Death – What Every Catholic Must Know About “The Four Last Things” (first in a series) by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

 
One of the recurring themes you will read on this site is that we are not made for Earth, but for Heaven. We are pilgrims on Earth, journeying to our true home in Heaven. Each of us has a beginning (conceived by our parents) and each of us will have an end. What we will experience and attain as we arrive at this end is the subject of this 3-part series.

The Four Last Things

We do not hear much these days about the topic of the Four Last Things and that fact is detrimental to our spiritual life. It is imperative that we spend time frequently pondering, in prayerful meditation, these things that will come to visit each of us. Catholic teaching identifies the Four Last Things as:

  • Death
  • Judgment
  • Heaven
  • Hell

Each of us will arrive at the time when this earthly life will end – that is what we call death. Unless you are alive at Christ’s Second Coming, you will die. Either way, you will then come face to face with your God to be judged and learn if you will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

“Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

The focus of this first installment is death.

Death

So, the first thing that happens to each of us at the end of our earthly life is death. Let’s talk a bit about that. Where does death come from? Death is a result of sin.

“Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned…” (Romans 5:12).

To fully understand this, we need to go back to the beginning of Creation. Before the Fall of Man, man possessed Sanctifying Grace.  By Sanctifying Grace, God made Adam and Eve partakers in the Divine Life. They were in communion with God.

In addition to Sanctifying Grace, God also bestowed upon Adam and Eve what are called Preternatural Gifts:

  • Infused knowledge
  • Integrity
  • Bodily Immortality

Although we are concerned primarily with bodily immortality for this article, let’s look at each gift.

Infused Knowledge

The infused knowledge given to us by God differs from knowledge we acquire by study and experience. God, Himself, placed certain knowledge within us about:

  • God and His attributes,
  • The moral law or mankind’s relations to God,
  • The physical universe both material and spiritual and
  • Why we exist or the purpose of our existence; that is, what we were made for (our supernatural end) – we were made for God and Heaven.

Integrity

Adam and Eve lived without an inclination to sin. The gift of integrity meant that their human passions and appetites did not overcome their human reason and will. They lived in a type of balance or integration that made it possible for them to avoid sin.

Bodily Immortality

Older Catholics in the United States will remember that question in the Baltimore Catechism: “Why did God make you?” The answer given to this profound question is very simple: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

Out of His infinite goodness, God made us in His image and likeness in so that we might share in His happiness and beatitude, in communion with Him, for all eternity in Heaven. What is important to see here is that Adam and Eve, like we are, were pilgrims on this Earth. The Garden of Eden, what we at times refer to as Paradise, was not Heaven. At some point, they were to pass on to the next life in Heaven, but it would not have been through what we call death.

* * * * *

All of this changed when Adam and Eve sinned. The Fall of Man cost them Sanctifying Grace and the three Preternatural Gifts – they lost them utterly and entirely. And since they no longer possessed them, they could no longer pass them on to us through generation. They forfeited not only their possessions, but also our inheritance.

One of these gifts that were lost was bodily immortality – Adam and Eve, and thus each of us, would now face bodily death. This is how death came to us:

“The Lord God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die’” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Bodily Death Defined

Let’s define bodily death – Death is nothing more than the separation of a person’s human body and human soul. We do not cease to exist at death. We do not become unaware of things at death. The Church does not believe in “soul sleep” as do some non-Catholic Christians. Our bodies, will cease to live as a result of age, sickness or accident, but we will perdure. Life will go on; our souls will continue to be alive, but apart, for a time, from our bodies which will no longer be animated.

With the loss of bodily immortality also comes suffering and illness. So it is now our part in this life to suffer and die.

The First Announcement of the Good News

Although Adam and Eve rejected God by falling to the temptation of the devil (the serpent), God did not reject mankind; He immediately began the work of Salvation. In the third chapter of Genesis, we read the first announcement of the Gospel – what is referred to as the Protoevangelium:

“Then the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel’” (Genesis 3:14-15).

In this short passage from Genesis, we glimpse the beginnings of God’s work of Redemption to come. All is not lost, even in the face of bodily death and the loss of Grace.


Editor’s Note: In next Sunday’s second Installment of this three-part series, we will look at the Particular and General Judgments.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

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