I was recently watching a mommy vlogger discuss her reconversion (reversion?) to Catholicism.
Most of the details aren’t relevant to this post so I’ll skip them, but I nevertheless found her point of view refreshing in today’s world and swift yet detrimental societal changes.
I don’t make a habit of watching mommy vlogger videos as I abhor content that sells kids. That’s also stopped me from watching most reality TV (well, that, and cutting cable a few years back) and following most popular social media accounts.
Except for one mommy vlogger in Texas whose kid-free cleaning videos are surprisingly motivating (and have helped me become a better homemaker), and a few other parents who use their channel to instruct, I don’t watch videos where the parents are exploiting their kids to sell a product or a lifestyle.
Which is where the video I brought up at the start of this post comes in.
(In fairness, I stopped watching this particular mom of two because 99% of her videos are of her kids. But I saw that this one featured only her so I played it in the background one afternoon while our son and I played with blocks.)
In it, she discusses how she grew up “Catholic” but also did traditionally non-Catholic things (e.g., moving in with her now-husband before getting engaged and married) that weren’t a big deal to her because, as she put it, she’s a good person.
Then at some point she had a revelation that led her to change her lifestyle habits and embrace her Christianity and Catholicism more.(And yes, before we get any farther: Catholics areChristian.)
All commendable stuff. Like I said, in a world full of news that would drag down many believers, it’s refreshing to hear the “testimony” of someone similar to our family and many others like us who strives to follow the Word despite societal pressures telling us all to go the other way.
But like with everything that has to do with Christians, there had to be a few comments from confused individuals judging or questioning her statements.
I want to highlight one comment in particular because it’s a great example of how those who are un- or ill-informed (and therefore unjustly biased) should stay away from sharing what they think they know (unless they want others to know how ignorant they sound).
Pagan and New-Age things are bad and anti-Christian
In the video, this mom explains that things like the occult, Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readings, and crystals, etc. aren’t to be trusted and shouldn’t be used by Catholics/Christians.
She’s 100% right, of course.
(Here’s more on what Catholicism states on things such as tarot cards, palm readings, and crystals [plus more on crystals].) I’d add Transcendental Meditation (TM) (which I used to practice a lifetime ago, it seems like) and yoga to that list as well.
The way a wise Catholic explained the impact of TM to me is as follows:
By having you empty your mind through a mantra [side note: is nothing but an incantation—and not to God], you may feel relaxed because you’re focused on something calming: However, an EMPTY mind has room for welcoming unhealthy—and potentially bad—thoughts. Prayer, however, is also calming and meditative: But it has you focus instead on God and leads you to glorify him.
Since learning just how bad TM is to devout Catholics, I’ve replaced my old mantra with, “Jesus, I trust in you,” and I admit this simple sentence that I repeat whenever I need it, is incredibly nourishing and calming. It not only helps still my mind and keep it focused on the true source of all good things, but also reminds me to offer everything up to him—for him to work out according to his will.
Which brings me back to the comment I wanted to write about in the first place.
Without further ado:
There are several reasons why I thought this comment was problematic: Namely, the fact that if she believes what she wrote, then must be MANY others who do as well, and I figured I had to dispel some myths in case non-believers come across this and wonder what our rationale is.
Even though I’m not a Church authority, and I’m mainly writing from what I’ve researched and sought more information on as a Christian, I also wrote this for fellow Christians who’d like to know more about how to discuss our views with non-Christians.
Someone’s background is often irrelevant
This way, those of you who encounter similar points of view out “in the wild,” as the kids say, can have hopefully good rebuttals and can defend your faith more strongly.
As someone who was also raised in the catholic church and went to catholic school I just want to point something out. When you said that these “new age” practices are bad and nothing good comes from it…I don’t think that that is a fair thing to say.
This commenter’s background is meaningless. Always be weary of “Catholics” who faultily use their Catholic schooling or how they were raised as valid credentials to accuse the Church or a certain Christian of something bad. Why?
Let me illustrate:
I, too, was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school until college.
Nowhere (neither in my mostly Catholic country of origin nor in my Catholic school there and in the US) did I learn that New Age practices were bad. In fact, at some point I learned yoga, and my Catholic parents and I all learned TM for kicks and giggles.
The thought that these could be damaging to my faith never crossed my mind, and because of my (our?) weak Catholicism back then, I don’t think I’d have believed anyone who told me so.
As you can see from my example, one’s experiences growing up aren’t a proper gauge for the truth.
Pagan rituals aren’t the same as Christian rituals
You know like 90% of catholicism comes from paganism? If you compare the 2 there are many many similarities.
Praying to God and asking him to watch over your family and friends and bless your life is the same as “willing” those same things to happen and talking to the universe.
NO, praying to God isn’t the same as the other BS she claims: That, right there, is the portion of her comment that I took the most issue with because I couldn’t believe she thought it’d be OK to spew blatant lies with impunity.
- On pagan roots: As Catholic Answers wisely put it:
All attempts to prove Catholicism “pagan” fail. To make a charge of paganism stick, one must be able to show more than a similarity between something in the Church and something in the non-Christian world. One must be able to demonstrate a legitimate connection between the two, showing clearly that one is a result of the other, and that there is something wrong with the non-Christian item.
[However,] nobody has been able to prove these things regarding a doctrine of the Catholic faith, or even its officially authorized practices.
Even though these people love to make unfounded claims about Christianity’s supposed pagan roots, and the burden to prove their point is on THEM, I’m nevertheless using this post to hopefully debunk them for the sake of future arguments.
- Prayer: A true Christian, a true Catholic, doesn’t pray to “will” things into existence. To allege otherwise is extremely dishonest and disrespectful.
Someone who truly believes in God knows that only HE is in charge and that only HIS will is what dictates our outcomes.
Therefore, when we pray to God, we’re simply talking to him about what matters to us, but we’re essentially leaving it all up to him.
It took me miscarrying our son’s younger brother (there’s another post on that coming) to finally realize that. I couldn’t control what God ultimately wanted for that kiddo and for our family. All I could do was take care of him by taking care of myself, but where he’d end up (whether alive and well for decades or gone prematurely) wasn’t up to me.
Because prayers aren’t lucky charms, I believe that no amount of praying will change a particular outcome. (And a lack of prayer surrounding it doesn’t make something potentially good less worthy of happening.)
You may think that you’re a Christian, but until you let go of all control and offer all that you have going on up to him, then you really don’t know what’s up.
Prayer is cooperative, not a lucky charm that we use to will certain outcomes
Add to that what Fr. Mike Schmitz has said about prayer, and it will all really start to make sense (and perhaps sound a bit less depressing).
When others ask him why they need to pray if God is good and should therefore want what’s good for us (meaning, why do we need to ask), he responds with the following:
When we come to God with our needs, there are three outcomes: “Yes,” “No,” and “Wait.” This teaches us to receive, trust, and accept God’s “No” or his desire to have us wait.
Even though God is good and he only wills us good things like a parent would, we pray to be active participants in that outcome because he wants us to help bring good into the world.
If God wants X good thing for us, we need to help effect it.
Our prayer is cooperating with what God wants. Prayer helps us get closer to him. Our turning to him changes us and our relationship with him. Therefore, he waits for us and wants us to pray.
Because it helps us voice (NOT will) our desired outcomes, prayer helps us offer them up to God and lifts a huge weight off our shoulders.
Imagine how taxing the alternative is: To think that MY actions (e.g., someone’s crystals) solely bring about a certain outcome must be so tiring!
I see two problems with the premise that Christians pray to will a particular outcome:
- It ignores others’ free will. (For instance, crystals sound stupid and superstitious, but so does the idea that a woman can pray that a man she has a crush on falls in love with her and nobody else.)
- It ignores God’s will and that he loves us. (God wants what’s best for us, so we must be open to receiving the occasional “No” or “Wait” and we can relish in knowing that we’re being taken care of, even amid any suffering.)
Chanting, incense, and candles
Back to the commenter. She continues:
Having the priest say something and the whole church responds after him in unison, singing together, are not much different from chanting.
Here she shot herself in the foot because we KNOW that that’s chanting: No one’s denying that. Where did she think the term “Gregorian chant” came from?
She then states that incense is used in both contexts. This is also irrelevant when you consider the reason WHY it’s used.
First, incense is believed to create a magical atmosphere appropriate for the invocation (or inviting) of deities and spirits often present around the Pagan altar. Second, burning incense is believed to release the large amount of energy stored within natural incense so that it can be used for magical purposes.
Just as the oil lamps were to burn constantly in the Temple as a sign of God’s presence [>> more on this in a minute], so there was a constant pillar of smoke ascending to heaven from the tabernacle. The pillar of smoke was a sign of God’s constant guiding presence to the people. It hearkened back to the column of smoke that led the people through the wilderness by day and the column of fire that led them during the night.
In other words, we use incense and make offerings, not to drive away demons or negativities and attract the good spirits, and not even to superstitiously gain benefits from God or cleanse one’s self, but rather as prayer:
[Offering sacrifices, incl. incense] is not to appease angry false gods or to drive away the fearsome demons. Instead, the rising smoke is a symbol of prayer. The wafting smoke and the lifting up of one’s hands in the traditional gesture of prayer provides a most powerful and poignant symbol of pure and heartfelt prayer to the true God.
… One of the most common ways to ask Christians to compromise their faith was to force them to offer incense to pagan gods. It is probable, therefore, that the practice of using incense in Christian worship was abandoned to avoid confusion among the faithful and to present a clear witness: incense offerings were associated with paganism and, therefore, abandoned by Christians.
Incense in worship made a comeback in the fifth century once Christianity was firmly established. Its use increased in the East and the West so that it’s [sic] use as a symbol of prayer and as a means of sanctifying and purifying became universal. (Emphasis my own.)
The commenter continues:
… Lighting a candle in prayer in honor of someone in the church is no different than lighting a candle at home for peace happiness or whatever else.
Lighting a candle for someone is the opposite of lighting a candle for something vague because the former keeps God at its core, while the latter… doesn’t:
… We light a candle before a statue or sacred image of our Lord or of a saint. Of course, we do not honor the statue or the image itself, but whom that statue or image represents. The light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God— allowing us to be filled with His light.
With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint for intercession— to pray with us and for us to the Lord. The light also shows a special reverence and our desire to remain present to the Lord in prayer even though we may depart and go about our daily business. (Emphasis my own.)
What we do and what we choose to incorporate into our lives matters greatly
Finally she starts to close her poorly articulated argument:
You can believe in God and not do these things or you can believe in god and do these things as well.
The first option is the correct one because one shouldn’t believe in God and think that amulets or other things that make us think that we’re in the driver’s seat are good. A Christian CANNOT, in good conscience, do those things. Therefore, those two statements can’t both be true at the same time.
Everything is not always so black and white, good or bad.
Except for when it comes to God: simple as that.
God is love, God is good, God is all-knowing: We don’t know what God wants or what he knows. We think we know what benefits us, but only he does.
To challenge his will with stupid crystals or whatever other nonsense New Age believers try to justify is wrong.
Something is only bad if you have bad intentions.
This is also wrong for a few reasons:
- Ever heard of “The road to hell can be paved with good intentions”? Newsflash: God judges both actions and intentions.
- Something doesn’t have to be inherently bad or be done with bad intentions in order to unwillingly invite evil into one’s mind.
For point #2, I’d like to bring in a fellow devout Catholic’s perspective, specifically when it comes to the content we stream/consume:
You are what you stream: Everything that you stream impacts you. It helps form you. Therefore, we need to let our minds consume good, nurturing things.
Art [incl. Music, shows, movies, and other such content] informs us: Art carries ideas, and ideas carry worldviews, and worldviews carry action. Therefore, you should seek art that builds you up with good things and gives you good things to meditate on.
Given how many organizations nowadays follow agendas that run contrary to Christian life, we need to be more aggressive in discerning what to put into our minds.
Weed out what makes you want to do something that’s not Christian, and replace it with something good that promotes virtue.
Not convinced that we should weed out what’s not beneficial? Let me explain with another story:
On a recent episode of his satellite radio show The Catholic Guy Show, Lino Rulli was discussing the trend? theory? principle? that Mood Follows Action:
Simply put, let’s say you’re feeling discouraged and sad and want to get out of that funk. A free remedy for this entails you reading or watching something funny that makes you laugh (or even faking a hearty laugh) and instantly your mood will be more positive.
“Mood follows action” also helps explain why it’s advisable to get up and do your workout already, especially if you’re not feeling up to it: Afterwards, you’ll be glad (both physiologically and metaphorically) you took action.
In light of this, I consider the claims that something that may be perceived as bad can still be good, or that not everything some people view as bad is actually bad… Complete nonsense.
If I value and know to be true, for instance, the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, then there’s no good reason to watch or celebrate a show about a homosexual couple getting married because others may say it’s funny, thought-provoking, or done with “good intentions.”
As another example, if I don’t like alcohol (we don’t drink because we hate the taste and don’t get the point?), then it’s not worthwhile for me to listen to songs that praise it. (In fact, as much as I like Country music, I don’t enjoy songs where liquor takes center stage because it’s not a lifestyle we support or want to participate in.)
And perhaps a more recent/relevant example, if a certain artist demands that Prolifers not listen to her music (<< true story), then I’ll happily change the station or skip her every time she comes on for the rest of my life, and good riddance.
This all goes to show how important it is for you, for us as Christians and Catholics, to not let ourselves get wrapped up in what society thinks we should like, and to follow what we think God would want for us. We must pray and not let ourselves get wrapped up in the superficial or the occult.
If something feels iffy, there’s probably a good reason why: Chances are that’s the Holy Spirit asking you to stay away.
I’ll end this post with a lesson that many seem to forget nowadays, but that other Catholics are quick to point out every time they encounter someone else that’s filled with doubt (though it also applies to the type of content we consume):
The Devil wants you to worry. He prefers it when you’re unsure and doubtful because that leaves little room for you to follow God’s will and more room for you to turn to ungodly things or things that go against Christian life.
So don’t forget to pray—in gratitude, when you need something, when you’re unsure, and anytime in between: Sooner than later you’ll get a “Yes,” a “No,” or a “Wait” in return. And if you’re a Catholic, don’t forget to attend Mass every week: God’s not your grandma who’ll “understand” when you’re too busy to see her; he requires that you visit him every week.
Also, be conscious of the content you choose to consume: Make it good and wholesome to help you do good things–and in return, think good things.
And last but not least, continue working towards becoming good Christians and Catholics: The world needs us now more than ever.