By Lenora Grimaud

Spiritual maturity means to be free to be the persons we were created to be, in the image and likeness of God; free to be ourselves. If we are completely free, we will be like Jesus, our true model, and do the things he did. We don’t become Jesus, we become like him—full of love, full of light, full of truth, full of the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we are spiritually mature, our “will” will be completely free, and enable us to be and do what we intend to be and do. There is no conflict between our “free will” and God’s will. If our will is free, it will be in union with God’s will. God’s will for us is our greatest good, and the greatest good of all humanity; it is “love.” When our will is free, we will want our greater good, and love will enable us to will the common good over our personal good. When our will is free, it is not in bondage to sin.

Sin is anything that prevents us from freely and fully loving God, others, and ourselves. Sin is anything that causes us to “grieve the Holy Spirit,” hurt others, or hurt ourselves. Sin causes us to become fragmented, destroying our integrity and wholeness; it ruptures our relationships with others and isolates us from the human family; and it separates us from intimacy with the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity is to become aware of everything that makes us a slave or victim of sin, and to become free of our slavery through the grace—the power—of the Holy Spirit.

“The Twelve Steps to Spiritual Maturity” does not focus on any one addiction or sin, but sin, in general—whatever has a hold on us and prevents us from being free to love as Jesus loved. We don’t confess, or name our sins, publicly, but to God in the Sacrament of Penance, where we can receive the grace to over-come them. Recovery from sin is a life-long process, but the day will come when we will be fully mature and free; transformed into the image and likeness of God. In the process, we continue the mission that Jesus began—to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and in the hearts of all man-kind.

Step One:
We admit that we are powerless over sin and evil—that without God’s help, our lives are unmanageable.

I know of nothing good living in me—living, that is, in my unspiritual self—for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want. (Rom. 7:18-19).

Step Two:
We believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to wholeness and to union with God.

I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom.7:23-25).

Step Three:
We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the providence of God, the Father; the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son; and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.

He who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mk. 16:16). I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Jn.3:5).

Step Four:
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and our lives.

God, examine me and know my heart, probe me and know my thoughts; make sure I do not follow pernicious ways, and guide me in the way that is everlasting. (Ps. 139:23-24).

Step Five:
We confess to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs by receiving the Sacrament of Penance.

If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong. (1Jn.1:8-9).

Step Six:
We are ready to cooperate with God in order to have him remove our vices and defects of character.

As once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification. (Rom. 6:19).

Step Seven:
We humbly asked God to give us the grace to overcome our sins and defects of character.

Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you…If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Lk.11:9, 13).

Step Eight:
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and were willing to make amends to them all.

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them—I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. (LK. 6:47-48).

Step Nine:
We made direct amends to those we hurt, unless it would hurt them even more, to do so, and made “acts of reparation” (penance) for those whom we could not make direct amends to.

So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. (Mat. 5:23-24).

Step Ten:
We continue to examine our hearts, minds, and behavior, and when we are wrong, we promptly admit it, and make amends.

Examine yourselves to make sure you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is really in you? (2Cor.13:5).

Step Eleven:
We continually seek, through prayer, meditation, and the Eucharist, to deepen our relationship with God—always praying for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.

Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints (Eph.6:18).

Step Twelve:
After having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we are zealous to proclaim the Gospel, in word and deed, to others; to share with others the reason for our hope.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword. (Eph. 6:14-17).


By Lenora Grimaud

God created us in his image and likeness and gave us a “free will”—the freedom to choose good or evil. Humans often interpret this freedom to mean that God will never force his will upon us; He will never violate our freedom and save us unless we choose to be saved. But, is this really true? Can we have “free will” if we are not truly free?

Only God is God; only God is divine. He created humans to be “fully human.” To be fully human is to be fully mature, and fully free. Our free will is in accordance with our human nature. As mature humans we are free to choose—free to will what is good in accordance with our human nature. If we are truly free, we will choose only “good.” We know our will is free when we choose the good. We were created “good” by God. Sin robs us of our freedom to be fully human. It robs us of our “free will.” We are free to choose evil, but it is not our true self—our free self—that is making the choice, so our will is not free.

We were created to want—to desire and choose—our greatest good, and the greatest good of the entire human family. We were created to make the greatest good of the entire human family, a priority over our own personal greater good, because our personal good is dependent on the greater good of the whole human family.

When we are fully human and fully free, there is no conflict between our will and God’s will, because God wills the perfect good—the greatest good—for the whole human family. Even so, we cannot compare our free will with God’s will because God, alone, is divine, and His will is divine—in accordance with His divine nature and perfect love.

Therefore, God is perfectly just, and does not violate our freedom if He imposes His will upon us, or if He infuses us with His grace without our consent. To illustrate this, I share the following story:

When my son was a little boy, he was sent to his room for “time out” because his conduct was obnoxious and unruly. While in his room, he wrote a note and threw it over by the door, where his sister was peeking in at him. He knew his sister would take the note to me. The note said: “I hate my mother! She never listens to me and she doesn’t understand me!” Of course, I took no offense to his note, nor could I take seriously his blasphemous statement: I hate my mother. I only saw his pain, and the confusion and frustration that results from immaturity. I waited a little while and then went in and sat down beside him. I said, “I’m listening now!” I held him, and he just cried his heart out. Then, I asked him if he wanted me to pray for him. He said, “Yes!” I prayed in the Spirit, and he cried and clung to me. After awhile, he raised his head, smiling, and said, “I feel like I just had a good shower after being all muddy.” He had been feeling frustrated because he had no control over his behavior.

I could have tried to reason with him by saying, “Yes, sometimes I don’t listen, and sometimes I don’t understand you, but I listen a lot more than you do, and I understand you a lot more than you understand me, but, I don’t say "I hate you!" That would have only increased his pain and alienation. If he was a teenager, or if he had more self-control, it might be more appropriate to try to reason with him.

Little children make choices all the time, but they are not mature choices, or free choices, because they lack the maturity to be fully informed in order to make good and wise choices. Parents are perfectly just in using their authority to impose their own choices upon their children—to impose their will on their children, for their own good.

Little children are usually very trusting and obedient to their parents. When they reach adolescence, however, they really become obnoxious and disobedient. They are in transition, and naturally schizophrenic. They are struggling to develop their own autonomy and independence—to loosen the cord from their mothers, which will soon have to be cut. They often think they have all the answers to life and know more than their parents. They are developing an “ego” and often are controlled by their ego. They can be very arrogant, presumptuous, and given over to pride and egotism. Again, the wise parent knows that "this too, shall pass." (Wait until they have children of their own!)

I believe that God reacts to humans in much the same way that loving and wise parents react to their children. I don’t think that I am “projecting this onto God;” rather, I think that this is what God has projected onto the human family—if we are truly free, and have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” I also believe that God does not passively stand back and watch us destroy ourselves through our corrupted wills. He will go to any means to save us, whether we want Him to or not, because He knows that we “know not, what we are doing.”



By Lenora Grimaud

One of the charisms of St. Clare was the charism of “poverty;” poverty of spirit, as well as physical and material poverty. St. Francis revolutionized the meaning of “poverty.” Prior to St. Francis, poverty had become merely an ascetical practice or discipline. St. Francis introduced poverty as a charism, a gift, based on the incarnation of Jesus: “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus did not choose to come to us as a grown man, but he came to us as a tiny, helpless and dependent infant, born of a woman. The story of Jesus being found in the temple after three days of searching by his parents, (Luke 2:41-52) is another example of the obedience and poverty of Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God and knew that [he] must be busy with [his] Father’s affairs.” Even so, Jesus recognized and honored his parent’s authority over him. He returned with them and lived under their authority, and grew in wisdom and grace.

This gift of poverty is also a special love for the poor and the poor in spirit. It enables a person to be an advocate and servant to the poor; to see the poor as equal to all; to live in solidarity with the poor. It is a call to “minority”—to meekness and littleness; an abandonment and trust in divine providence. It is a call to serve and identify with the minorities. St. Francis and St. Clare were both given this charism, and it became the dominant charism of the whole Franciscan Family.

St. Clare lived in the city of Assisi, a small village of around 3,000 people. The poor were looked down upon by the rest of the people. They were denied many of the privileges and benefits granted to others in the Church, including a pew to sit in during the celebration of Mass. They were deprived of the “fullness of life” that Jesus came to bring to us. Clare was aware of the injustices placed upon the poor, and sensitive to their needs and suffering. She contemplated Jesus as the “poor and suffering Christ” of the Gospels. In him, she saw the poor around her. In the poor, she saw Jesus. She felt called to evangelize the poor by mirroring Jesus and the Gospels to them. She could only do this by entering into solidarity with them—becoming one of them. She served them by making herself their equal; less than their equal: “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are” (Phil 2:6). In Clare, the poor would see Jesus who humbled himself to become one of us. In this holy mirror, the poor would also see themselves.

In contemplating the poor Christ, Clare saw the infant Jesus in the crib; helpless; dependent; with nothing of his own. He could do nothing for himself. The crib was symbolic of Mary, his mother, who is also symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, the tabernacle, and the monstrance. Clare saw the poverty of Jesus at the beginning of his life, as a babe, and at the end of his life in his passion and death on the cross. So, Clare saw that she could serve Jesus and witness to the Gospel by embracing him in the poor; becoming one with them by living in solidarity with them, as Jesus did with mankind through his Incarnation. She would be his handmaid by becoming the “crib” to hold the poor in her arms.

St Clare’s call to radical physical poverty and her ministry to the poor was generated by the people in her midst; the poor and the needy. It was their need that called her forth to ministry. The poor around her determined what her ministry would be and how she would live out the Gospel, by calling her forth. There was no one around to take up the cause of the poor, to be their advocate, until the Lord raised up Francis and Clare. Clare lived out her whole life in Assisi with the poor. In her day, there were only two classes of people: the rich (wealthy merchants and the nobility), and the rest of the people (various degrees of poverty). The Church of that time sided with the rich. Clare chose to stand with the poor, even though she came from nobility and had many servants while growing up in her family life. She freely chose to leave it all, and to become a servant of the servants; a “handmaid of the handmaids.”

Today, the poor represent everyone who is in need, and everyone who is aware of their need for God. It is the homeless, prisoners, the handicapped, those who are ill, aids victims, the illiterate, those lacking in sufficient education, the deaf, the blind, the mute, unwed mothers, orphans, the bereaved, immigrants, refugees, those who are abused, single parent families, divorced and separated, children of divorced and separated, those who have lost their faith, those who have lost their hope, homosexuals, those who are outcasts, sinners, prostitutes, alcoholics and drug abusers, the emotionally and mentally ill, the unemployed—the list is endless. In every age, the “poor” represents all minorities—those who have no defense and no voice. The only one who are not poor, and can't be served, are those who are self sufficient; who refuse to acknowledge the need for God in their life; who trust only in themselves. In actuality, they are the poorest of all and have nothing, while the poor have everything.

St. Clare was well aware that riches and possessions have a way of blocking us from the freedom to really live in the kingdom of God. The more we have, the more we have to lose. The more we have to lose, the more we hold onto and cling to what we have, and the more attached and possessive we become. When our hands are full of what the world has to offer, they cannot be open and free to receive what God has to offer. For St. Clare, poverty was freedom; to let go of all that stands in the way of love and in the way of doing God’s will. It is freedom from all that can enslave us. Poverty is to acknowledge that everything we have comes from God, and to give up all personal claim to everything; to have nothing that we call “our own.” It is a spirit of sharing and unity; of all for one and one for all. There is no exclusivity, no spirit of ownership or possessiveness.

Originally, St. Clare and the sisters followed the rule of St. Francis. Clare and Francis, confronted with the absence of any legal foundation for the primitive “Form of Life,” were trying to create a base for the continued existence of San Damiano, using a formula that would meet with Church approval. Boldly, Clare appealed directly to Innocent III for a papal exemption from the usages of traditional monasticism which allowed for ownership of goods, and, even required such ownership. The exemption was called the “Privilege of Poverty.” This privilege represented for Clare a guarantee that her community could not be obliged to adopt an existing rule. She wrote, and fought for, her “rule” in order to set her sisters free from the existing rules. This was no small task, and she persevered to her death to gain the approval of the Church and acceptance of her rule. Pope Innocent gave approval when she was on her death bed. It seemed that Innocent had, therefore, helped her to create an entirely new form of convent community, which maintained itself on alms and the profits of manual labor in the same way as the Franciscans. At that time, Canon Law stated: “Lest too great a diversity of religious orders lead to grave confusion in the Church of God, we strictly forbid anyone in the future to found a new order, but whoever should wish to enter an order, let him choose one already approved.” Clare opened the door to change for religious orders for women. This attempt to be self-supporting without ownership of property became the core of life for Clare’s foundation. The most important words of the Privilege assured her that “No one can compel you to receive possessions.”



By Lenora Grimaud

There are many facets of the Charism of St. Clare. Her charism is more like a diamond with many fine points. Clare was true to her name, which means “light.” She had far reaching vision, reaching way into the future, giving her a global view of life. She was a prophet, one who goes ahead to “prepare the way of the Lord.” She was a woman who brought about change and moved people along into the future. She was the first woman who wrote her own “rule;” opening the way for women to come into their own and setting them free from many of the restrictions of the past. Today, this charism could be expressed in a way that would lead her Sisters toward change and pave the way for the future. Clare was futuristic and would prepare women for the next millennium. She was a woman of reform and renewal. She was also a woman who never lost sight of the “beginning.” She says in one of her letters: “But because one thing alone is necessary (Lk.10:42), I bear witness to that one thing and encourage you, for love of Him to Whom you have offered yourself as a holy and pleasing sacrifice (Rm. 12:1), that, like another Rachel (Gen. 29:16), you always remember your resolution and be conscious of how you began.”

Another important aspect of her charism was her understanding of “equality.” She “confronted the pope with the image of woman as equal” (Joan Chittister). Her concept of equality was not only for woman, but also for the poor and the outcast. She was opposed to all “class systems.” She was always for “equal rights.” However, Clare’s love of equality was harmoniously balanced by her gifts of reverence of authority; servanthood; and human relationships—community. These four aspects of her charism were wonderfully integrated and balanced so as not to produce schism or heresy. Clare had no problem with authority, recognizing its divine origin and necessity. Her image of authority and leadership was “servanthood.” She saw those in authority as being called to be servants to all those under their authority. Yet, she did not judge those in authority, but chose the model of servant leader for herself and her Sisters. This is what she taught; this is what she lived. She did not have her own agenda, but was there to do the will of God; to do what was the good of all; to put the needs, wants, and desires of others before her own—as long as it was for the common good and not contrary to it. She did not demand respect, honor, praise, or submission from others; she enabled it by earning it.

Clare’s concept of equality is much different than many people might think. Her intention was not to diminish the reverential treatment we give to nobility and authority. Her concept of equality, tempered by her reverence for authority, and call to servanthood was to treat everyone as equal to those in authority or nobility; to treat everyone as a V.I.P., and make herself their servant. This is the image and example she passed on to her Sisters. She would not want to treat a Bishop as a commoner or with less reverence, but to treat everyone as though they were a Bishop, including the poor man who comes to the door begging for food. This is the real meaning of Phil. 2:3-8. “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”

Clare had a special charism for “relationships,” seeing all creation in relationship with God. She honored all types of relationships, possessing unique insights into the nature of human relationships. She was mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She had to have been very “family” oriented because her own sisters and mother followed in her footsteps and joined her Order. She made a place for all. She also honored the relationships of father, brother, son, and spouse. In spite of her feminist bent, she longed to unite the masculine and the feminine. She would have preferred to live with the friars as her brothers, fathers, and sons, but it was not possible in her day. Her charism, today, may lead to the formation of a mixed community of religious men and women, and, perhaps, lay people, as well. It may lead to the formation of a community of women over 50, who choose to live a life that is more “distinctly” apostolic—contemplative; a community that is not involved in full-time ministry for remuneration, but relies more heavily on benefactors and divine providence. These are additional forms of community life, to the already existing Orders, that the charism of St. Francis and St. Clare could embrace. Clare was always striving to remove distinctions that separated people. Her desire was that all might be free to love and serve God; free to be their unique and authentic self before God and man.

St. Clare saw herself as a “Handmaid of the Lord, and a handmaid to the handmaids.” She was completely abandoned to the will of God and to his divine providence. She made herself a servant of all. She was also a woman of great courage and perseverance, proved by her standing up to the Saracens, and persevering to the end in order to get her Rule approved. She died the day after the Pope approved her Rule. The importance of her Rule wasn’t the Rule, itself, but that it freed the sisters from being bound by the existing Rule for Religious, at that time. It gave them the “Privilege of Poverty.”

These charisms flowed out of her relationship with Jesus Christ. This was the foundation of her life. She was a true contemplative. Her concept of contemplation wasn’t so much prayer, but relationship with Christ—“to gaze upon the Lord;” to be still and listen. Her real “cloister” was her heart—a place in her heart where she could be alone with Jesus; a place of solitude and intimacy with the Lord. The external “Cloister” became a replica of the “cloister” of her heart. She experienced the Lord in relationship as Lord, brother, Father, friend, and spouse.



By Lenora Grimaud

We are in the year of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. St. Paul was, perhaps, the most controversial of all the Apostles. This was not because he preached a different Gospel than Peter, James, and John, however. In fact, he made it a point to meet with them in Jerusalem in order to get their approval of what he preached: “I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed.” (Gal. 2:2). Paul was controversial because he was often misunderstood, especially when he wrote about the “Law,” or took a stand against false teachers. His teachings were frequently distorted by false teachers. St Peter referred to this when he preached to the Christians, urging them to live “lives without spot or stain,” and to wait patiently, for the “Day of the Lord.” Peter said:

“Our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that is his special gift. He always writes like this when he deals with this sort of subject, and this makes some points in his letter hard to understand; these are the points that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture—a fatal thing for them to do. You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground that you are standing on. Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory, in time and in eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:15-18).

One of the points that St. Paul made that was frequently distorted, is covered in his letter to the Galations, Ch. 2 thru 5. St. Paul taught that the Law cannot save us or make us righteous; that if it could, Jesus would not have needed to come, or to die on the Cross for us. Paul was preaching to Gentiles, not Jews. He was also reacting against a group of Jews who insisted that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the Old Covenant before they could become Christians and receive the New Covenant. Paul insisted that they were no longer under the Law, and the curse of the Law, but under the Spirit. Instead of doing good in order to fulfill the Law, they were to do what the Law required out of love, through the power of the Spirit, not out of fear; or an attempt to earn their salvation, through their own efforts. Paul taught that we are “saved by faith.” But, he never said “faith, alone,” although some people got that impression from his writings. Paul never rejected good works, the Commandments, or morality. In fact, Paul taught a higher morality than that of the Ten Commandments, and expected Christians to live it because they had received the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them.” (Mat. 5:17). He also taught: “For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:20). Jesus calls us to live a life of “Beatitude.” (Mat. 5:1-12). This calls for great love. This calls for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. This calls for us to be holy as Jesus is holy. The Ten Commandments didn’t disappear with the New Covenant. It was the hundreds of other laws that became a “heavy yoke” on the people, which disappeared. God never asks us to do the impossible—he never asks us to do anything without giving us the means and grace to do it. The Commandments were not difficult to obey, unless one was addicted to lawlessness: “For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach.” (Dt. 30:11). But, the Law could not enable the people of the Old Covenant to love. The Law could not save them, or bring them into an intimate personal relationship with the Holy Trinity, or fill them with the Holy Spirit, or be a mediator between them and the kingdom of God. They obeyed the Law out of fear, or for selfish motives. With the Holy Spirit they could obey, motivated by love and faith, as Abraham did. When we have faith and love, we naturally and spontaneously keep the Law. We don’t even have to know what the Law says because it is written on our hearts. There are exceptions, however, due to the effects of original sin.

St. Paul insisted that if Christians were saved from sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, it would be impossible for them to continue to live immoral lives. If we continue to sin, to break the Commandments of love, we are slaves of sin and need forgiveness, healing, or deliverance. Paul taught that we “must be content to hope that we shall be saved—our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were—but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet—it is something we must wait for with patience.” (Rom.8:24-25). Salvation is a process. When it is complete, we will be holy, as Jesus is Holy. There will be no obstacle to our receiving from God or giving to God—and our neighbor. In the meantime, “the just man falls seven times a day,” and we need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and healing whenever we fall back into sin, after Baptism.

Among those who protested against the Catholic Church, are those who preach that we are “Saved by faith, alone!” Unfortunately, for many people, this has come to mean: “Once saved, always saved” or “once forgiven, always forgiven.” This has led people to believe that salvation means to be saved from the Law, instead of saved from sin and death; to believe that salvation means we will immediately go to heaven when we die, no matter what kind of lives we live; that we are free to sin because Jesus died for our sins; that we will not be judged at the “Last Judgment;” that forgiveness is automatic and does not require repentance or changing our lives—we never have to ask for forgiveness once we become believers; that salvation does not require good works; that being part of the “elect” means we will be spared from suffering and death—from the “Tribulation” of the end times—and be taken up in the “Rapture.” This is not the teaching of the Apostles—who were all of one mind, heart, and purpose—including St. Paul. These distortions have caused some people to reject the “Law” and the morality of the Gospels; to believe that faith is nothing more than believing that Jesus is Lord—the only Son of God—and professing that belief with our lips. They reject that the life of faith includes holiness and good works—that we witness more by our actions than we do by our words. Scripture says that even the demons know, or believe, that Jesus is the Son of God—that he is Lord—and even profess it.

St. James reacted to the “libertines” who claimed that they were “saved” and no longer needed to do good works or obey the Law. He was probably talking about men who distorted what Paul said. James said:

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds—now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God—that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realize, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he "offered his son Isaac on the altar"? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: "Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified;" and that is why he was called 'the friend of God.’ (James 2:14-23).

There is no contradiction between what Paul taught, and what James taught. We are in danger of false teaching when we take Scripture out of context and isolate a selective passage from the whole message of the Gospel. It is true that we are “saved by faith,” but it is also true that good works are necessary for salvation. Under the Law, good works are usually the result of fear or self striving—an attempt to earn God’s love and mercy; to earn salvation. Under the New Law of the Spirit, good works are motivated by faith and love, without expecting anything in return.

The Word of God—both, the oral teaching of the Apostles, and later, the written Word—is the living Word of God. It must be received as a whole—not in disconnected, selective pieces. God is “One.” Whenever we extract a part of Scripture, and isolate it from the whole of Scripture, we distort it. It leads to confusion, contradiction, and heresy. Because it is the “living Word,” it is like cutting off a member of our body, such as a hand. When we receive it as a whole, there are no contradictions. The human body has two hands—both hands look alike and have the same purpose, but they are not identical, and one hand serves one side of the body and the other hand serves the other. Because they are not identical, and appear to be opposite, does that mean they are not both hands, or that they contradict each other? Both hands serve the whole body. There are many ambiguities and paradoxes in Scripture. That is why Jesus gave the Magisterium the power and authority to interpret it for us. As Scripture says: “we must be most careful to remember that the interpretation of scriptural prophecy is never a matter for the individual. Why? Because no prophecy ever came from man’s initiative. When men spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them.” (2Peter1:20-21). This includes the whole of Revelation—the whole of Scripture.

“Once saved, always saved!” What does that mean? The Catholic Church teaches that once Baptized, always Baptized. We can never be re-baptized. In Baptism, we receive an indelible seal upon our souls that can never be removed. It identifies us, and is our true identity. We become part of God’s family—brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ through rebirth in water and the Spirit. “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba Father,’ and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.” (Gal 4:6-7). This is only the beginning of salvation, however.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost, for all of us, the personal relationship they had with God. They were no longer able to receive the promise of the Spirit. They came under the Law, and being under the Law, they came under the “curse of the Law.” The curse is that “the wages of sin is death.” Even we, who came after Adam and Eve, were subject to the same curse, because to break only a part of the Law is to break the whole Law. We could not keep the Law (written on our hearts) because we inherited lawlessness—sin—from Adam and Eve. We could not keep the Law because we were under a curse. We could keep the outward observance of the Law, but were unable to live the Law of Love written on our hearts because we were spiritually blind.

Baptism gave us the gift of faith, which made us sons and daughters of God by adoption, through our “yes.” It set us free of the curse of the Law and brought us into the kingdom of God, and into a personal relationship with God—a state of grace. We were set free from original sin and the dominion of Satan. This was a definitive act which we cannot lose, except through free will—through sin. Whenever we fall into sin, after Baptism, we leave the kingdom of God, the state of grace, like the prodigal son who left home. We can always return, however, through repentance and the forgiveness of sins—through the Sacrament of Penance. Baptism happens only once, but forgiveness of sins is necessary every time we sin, every time we reject grace. In this life, we always have access to “eternal life”—the life of sanctifying grace in Jesus Christ. But, we are not guaranteed eternal life in heaven when we die, unless we are already in that state of grace. Jesus came, not only to save us from original sin and the dominion of Satan, which separated us from God, but to fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we could be delivered from personal sin, as well; and through love, be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus.

Baptism also made us members of the Church—the body of Christ on earth. Through Baptism, God has called us and set us apart to carry on the mission of Jesus—to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus came to save the whole world—believers and non-believers, alike. What we received, we did not earn, so how can we see our faith, our salvation, as meriting heaven for us while those who have not received, merit hell? St. Faustina said that Jesus fully reveals himself to every soul at that last moment between life and death, before the soul leaves the body, and gives them the opportunity to choose God or reject God. I believe this. So, why be Baptized? As the “body of Christ” in the world, we are Jesus in the world, establishing his kingdom on earth. If we are with him here, and he is in us, we are not too likely to reject him when we see him face to face. As Jesus in the world, it is our mission to teach the world how to love and to over-come sin; and to prepare them for the kingdom to come.

What purpose does the Law have for Christians? The Law is a tool to enable us to examine our conscience—not in order to condemn us or to fill us with guilt—but as a guide to help us grow in holiness. It is a tool to form our conscience; to point to the law of the Spirit—the law of love that was written on our hearts when we were created; the law of love that we were not able to see because sin blinded us from it. The Law is like a mirror that reflects the law within our heart. The purpose of the Law is to show us where we fall short; to teach us what sin is and what love is. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can see what the Law points to. It is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit that we can change our lives and become empowered to live the law of love written on our hearts. The Law helps us to see what we need to repent of; what we need to be healed and delivered from; what we need to be forgiven for; what we need to forgive. God did not save us so that we can remain in our sins. We examine our conscience in order to get to the root of sin, to be enlightened—aware of our sins so that we can be reconciled, not only with God, but with everyone.

Not all sin breaks our relationship with God and others. But, all sin is an offense against love. All sin, no matter how small, grieves the Holy Spirit within us because it wounds ourselves, others, and God. God is a relationship! Our relationship with God, and with humankind, is like a marriage. We were all created to be “one.” Married people hurt each other many times a day, and need to forgive each other and ask for forgiveness, over and over again. This is not difficult because they love each other. But, giving forgiveness and asking for forgiveness is usually not enough to heal, even these small wounds. Spouses need to make some act of reparation—an act of love—such as an embrace or hug, a gift, a smile, a card, a letter, an act of service, or some kind of sacrifice. The same is true with all relationships. This is what the Sacrament of Penance is about. It is a Sacrament of healing. Sometimes you hear married people say, “I love it when we fight because it is so much fun making up.”

Mortal sin, or serious wrong-doing, can sever a relationship completely. People who have gone through a divorce know what it means to have their relationship severed. They can’t continue to live in an intimate relationship with each other. Many of them saw it coming. They saw the writing on the wall, but were helpless to change it or save their relationship—they didn’t know how. For others, the divorce came like “a thief in the night.” It took them by surprise and they wondered, “How did this happen?” St. Paul says: “Examine yourselves to make sure you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is really in you? If not, you have failed the test, but we, as I hope you will come to see, have not failed it.” (2Cor.13:5-6). Marriage is only “until death do us part” for those who stay married. It takes more than “faith, alone” to save a relationship, and to keep it. It takes work—good works—and forgiveness.


BY Lenora Grimaud

The “New Age Cult” is a modern-day form of paganism. One of the hallmarks of paganism is that they take all of the “leftovers”—the food that people normally throw out—from all the religions and philosophies of the world and mix it together. What you end up with is “slop,” or garbage. It turns to maggots inside of you. When God gave the Hebrews “manna” in the desert, he told them to only take what they needed for each day, not to save it or store it up, or it would turn to maggots. “Moses said to them, ‘No one must keep any of it for tomorrow.’ But some would not listen to Moses and kept part of it for the following day, and it bred maggots and smelt foul; and Moses was angry with them.” (Ex. 16:19-20).

Catholics who drift from one denomination to another, taking a little from each one and not making a commitment to the teachings of the Church, are like “Pagan Catholics.” In this sense, Protestantism is like paganism—the people are not rooted in, or committed to the “One True Church”—the Apostolic Catholic Church—the Church built on the Apostles, with Jesus as the corner stone, holding it all together. This has resulted in thousands of denominations because they could not agree on what Scripture was really saying. Making a commitment of fidelity to one Church makes us accountable to the teachings and guidelines of that Church, which can be stifling, at times, but it also protects us from attacks from the enemy and false teaching—from becoming a church unto ourselves.

Catholics need to stay rooted in the Catholic Church, and to know what she teaches. They may have an “ecumenical spirit,” which is very noble and good, and a very important ministry in the Church. But, if they do not remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, they will separate themselves from the Church and become like the “blind leading the blind.” They become like “Lone Rangers,” and none of us are spiritual enough to take on that kind of mission. We become like a piece of drift-wood, carried along a stream, when we should be like trees, firmly planted in rich soil. If we do not become rooted we will continually be battered by confusion, doubts, and attacks from the enemy; and may even lose our faith in the end. We are each, only a part of the body of believers, and interdependent with the rest of the body. Even St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and pagans, had to continually check that he was of one mind with the other Apostles, and preaching the same Gospel. (Gal. 2:2). God wants to reunite all Christians into one body, the “body of Christ,” not to synchronize them and have them merely co-existing along side of each other.

The Catholic Church recommends that Catholics involved in ministry, especially prophecy and teaching, have a good spiritual director who can help them test what they receive against the Word of God, as interpreted by the Catholic Church. This was necessary for all the Saints—and God is calling all of us to be Saints. Some sources that I recommend in regards to Church teaching, which can be accessed on the internet, are:

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (Scott Hahn)
Catholic Culture
Catholic Answer
The Vatican
Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church

These web sites have extensive libraries, with thousands of articles that can be down-loaded. All of these web sites are in union with the Pope and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.