(I haven’t been able to post this before now because my Internet connection has been out of function).
Before we go back to our list of questions that I suggested you should take your time to think about, I want to use the opportunity to use this feast day for St. Methodius and St. Cyril (February 14 – 2015) to reflect upon our Western secular world of today and how easy it is to be seduced in this more or less God-less world both in Europe and in America.
The first time I heard about St. Methodius and St. Cyril was on a bus trip at Balkan, Europe many years ago. The two brothers had done a good deal of work by translating the Gospel into Slavonic language so that ordinary people could understand it in Moravia and later in other Slavonic areas too. They were honored by the Byzantine emperor. Rome didn’t like that of course. Neither did Germany. I will not go into that problematic here. In modern time both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox revere them. They are looked upon as the missionaries that have contributed to spreading the gospel to parts of Balkan. They are considered guardians of Europe.
Back to the bus trip: We visited something that looked like a barn from the outside in a town called Veiliko Tarnavo, but the barn was quite different on the inside. The town is known as the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1386) and was of course Christian (Orthodox Christianity).
On the 17 July in 1393 Veiliko Tarnavo was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and as time went Christianity was forbidden and Islam took it’s place.
Veiliko Tarnavo is a beautiful town hanging down from the mountains. It gives a wonderful view into it’s surroundings. It feels as if you want to stop and praise God in this beautiful landscape that has been the geographical area of war between the Byzantines and the Ottomans.
I didn’t intend to write the whole history about St. Cyril and St. Metodius here, neither do I intend to write the history of Veiliko Tarnavo. A little personal comment: I wasn't a catholic at that time. Among all the happenings over years that became my road into the Catholic Church, I think that the story about the two saints already mentioned and the experiencein the "barn", contributed to the many building-blocs in what later became my catholic faith.
I want to tell about my experience inside the building that looked like a barn. It was a church inside. To find a beautiful underground church inside the barn gave me a feeling of having entered Heaven. There where icons everywhere and Eastern Orthodox music came out of the loudspeakers. The church had become a museum when I visited it, but still it gave the impressions of being a holy place. I had no problems to imagine the Christians that once worshipped here, perhaps with the threat of losing their lives if the Muslims who had forbidden Christian practice discovered them.
In 2015 we are free to go to Church in the Western world without being afraid that someone will notice it and arrest us. Can we be captured from others sources?
Today (14 February 2015) the gospel text (Luke 10, 1-9) is about Jesus sending 72 disciples out as missionaries. We too, as Catholics are supposed to evangelize about the Good news.
Are we good enough to do that? While mentioning the Ottoman Muslims who conquered Veiliko Tarnavo, it was the forbidding of the Christian worship that was my point, not the historical frame of that time (Muslims expanding their land). Can we risk that again (that somebody will forbid us to celebrate our faith) , and if so, who are we to fear? To be honest I think that what we have most to fear nowadays are not other religions, but our own apathy. (Various religious terrorist groups is another topic).
Many Catholics of to day laugh of Hell. I think they will stop laughing if they happen to enter that “place” with no opportunity to return. They want to choose how to worship God and forget that the authority was given to Peter and his apostles (The Church). Jesus has never taken that authority back. Jesus did never give the authority to uncle George, grandmother Esther, aunt Elisabeth or to Jane, Henrik, Alfred or you … The Vatican II did not change the Catholic dogmas either. They only wanted them to be more understandable to ordinary people (just as St. Cyril and St. Methodius did in their time when they translated the Gospel into a language that people could understand in their part of the world). The Church is there to guide and inform us, not to trample upon us and make us unhappy by making rules. I don’t talk about clerical or other abuse here even if that are important issues. The topic here is if somebody, in days not so far away, will be able to forbid us to worship God again. Will we have to build barns or other underground churches again?
If you feel well because you have found your own way of “catholic belief”, have you ever thought about whom your “missionaries” were? Who has taught you these beliefs? Fallen away Catholics? Your friends or other? I can assure you that as a former protestant there were a few things in the catholic teachings that really gave my brain something to work upon before I gave my “yes” to the Church. I will certainly agree about that not all the teachings are easy to understand. Since I’m not the type to confirm something I don’t believe in, it was impossible for me to convert to the catholic faith without believing the dogmas. I had to wait until I understood them and my conscience was well informed and in line with the teaching of the Church.
May be you are a “pick and choose” catholic? Who were your missionaries?
“Do you need to have this “holier than the pope” attitude?” may be you want to ask me. My answer is “NO, but you see, as a protestant I too had met the “missionaries” who didn’t know the catholic dogmas”. I was wrongly informed. That’s why I had to do such a hard job to find out what was the Catholic Church’s teachings when I felt that God called me home to his Mother Church.
The same goes for you! I don’t want to scare you, but one day you are going to stand before the judgment seat of God. May be he will ask you why you were satisfied by following the teachings of the “wrong catholic missionaries”? Why didn’t you do your own research on the Church’s real teachings?
Take your time, but please do it! Please repent when you have found the real truth according to the Catholic Church and the Magisterium’s teaching. I think that it is so easy to be seduced by the secular world that it is very important to stay informed not by your own wishes of how it should be, but by the Church's undistorted teaching.
Remember what Satan told Eve in the Garden: “Did God really say ….”? He did! They had to taste the bitter consequences of doubting His word…
From my place behind the screen, I want to send you a hug and a big smile. Since I’m a convert I know that the way to the truth, as it is defined by the Catholic Church, can be a difficult road to walk before one understands it and sometimes it can be difficult afterward too because it contradicts much in the secular society. Christ has indeed said that his way goes through the cross. Crosses might sometimes feel heavy, but we have to choose. This road or that road? Our choice should be connected to where we want our journey to end, in Heaven or in Hell.
If it might help, try to think this way: You are going on a hike to a mountain were there are minus degrees. You feel that your backpack is heavy enough and want to skip the sleeping bag. If you do that you have not many chances to survive, so even if it is making your backpack more heavy, you bring it with you and your life is saved because you bothered to carry the sleeping bag (your cross). It is important to remember that we do have to be willing to carry our crosses when they come in our way, but we have lots of time with comfort too: good meals, sunny days at the beach, being touched by the smile of a baby, sing and dance, play, visiting other countries in our vacation , viewing art and more ...
Please don’t feel that I have lifted my moral finger here to point at you. My intention has been to try to point at the fact that not every road leads to heaven. Hope you get my message and are curious enough to start a research for your own sake … I have also tried to point at the reality that if Christians don’t watch out, being a Christian one day will not look very different than to being an atheist. The war is these times masked in the secular/modern society. The enemy isn’t so visible as he was when the Ottomans attacked the Byzantines (that was the beginning of the story here).
May be there will come a day when those who want to follow the Church’s teaching will be forbidden to do so because religion that is not practiced at the secular alter may be looked at as an enemy to get rid of. If so, on what side will you be?