22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Jer 20, 7-9 / PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 / Rom 12:1-12 / Mt 16:21-27

     My grandparents deeply believed in the American dream. They believed that if they worked hard they could make a better life for themselves and their family for generations to come. I remember one of my last conversations with my grandmother before she passed away. I was in a car with her, my dad and my brother, and she repeatedly asked us, a symptom of her dementia, what we wanted to be when we grew up and then went on to tell us we could be anything we wanted to be.

     Now my grandmother meant well and my parents did work hard to put us in a position to succeed. By my senior of high school I had worked hard and put myself in a position to attend a great university and do what I wanted with my life. It was just at that moment when I thought I had my life in the place I wanted it to be that I had my Peter moment and realized that while the American dream is alive and well if we take it too far there is a lie beneath it that can lead to destruction.

     For some reason, in His Divine Providence, God decided to use that moment when I thought I had my life planned out to put the thought of priesthood on my heart and like Peter, in today’s Gospel, I said to the Lord “ no that can’t be right, I already have another plan.” As the Lord continued to tug at my heart to be a priest I found myself in a crisis of faith; I laid awake at night asking myself the same question Jesus asked each and every one of us in last Sunday’s Gospel “who do you say that I am?”[1] I wrestled with my belief in Christ and the Catholic faith for a while both in prayer, asking God to give me a greater gift of faith and through study, coming to understand our faith, and by the grace of God I was finally able to say, like St. Peter, with my whole being “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”[2] No sooner had I made that profession of faith then the blinders fell from my eyes and the message of today’s Gospel that I must take up my cross and follow after Christ[3] became clear.

     Today’s Gospel definitively shows us that Christ knew the plan; He knew that He would freely consent to die the horrific death of the crucifixion for you and I. It was this revelation that helped me see who Christ truly was and made it possible for me to make my profession of faith. Coming to realize that Jesus came to freely die and rise from the dead greatly helped me assent to he faith. You see while there have been many religious leaders and thinkers who have promoted different ways of life and like our Lord died, unlike our Lord their bodies stayed dead. I don’t know about you, but I would rather follow Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. If only it was so easy. Certainly following of Christ sounds easy, but we all know it can be hard. It is hard because following Jesus requires just that following. In today’s Gospel Peter tries to be the to take on the role of Christ the teacher by telling Jesus He will not die, but Jesus puts him in his place as the disciple and reminds Peter and all of us that if we want to rise with Christ we must go to the cross with Him. If we want to enter eternal life perhaps it is time for a little Chinese fire drill allowing God to take the driver seat.

     We live in an exciting but dangers country. We live in a country where it seems possible for us to earn the whole world for ourselves, but in so doing we risk loosing eternal life. Last week’s Gospel challenged us to accept the Lord for who He truly is, the God-man who in a pure act of love suffered His horrific death and rose to bring us to eternal life. If we truly believe Jesus to be who He claims to be how can we not follow after Him. This week we are challenged to take the next logical step in the profession we made last week and follow after Him. How will we go forth today, having received the graces of this Mass, and focus on truly following after Him who is the way the truth and the life.[4] Perhaps this week we may need to fall to our knees asking for greater faith, perhaps this week we need to begin to study our faith by perhaps coming to a bible study or other faith formation program. Maybe we need to do some reordering in our lives so we can allow Jesus to lead and allow ourselves to become the disciples. Wherever we may be our Lord invites us this week to come and follow Him to the cross so that we might rise with Him.

[1] Mt16:15

[2] Mt 16:16

[3] Mt 16:25

[4] Jn 14:6

Crisis of Identity

     I don’t know about you but it seems to me that today more and more our world is quickly going to shambles. In our country nearly 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce (and that number shoots to 67% for the second and 73% for the third.)[1] 16,799 people were murdered in our country last year and over 8% of the labor force in our country is out of work. Yet even as our world seems to be falling apart around us we continue to put on a fake smile and go on with life pretending that everything is going just fine. Well IT IS NOT FINE. WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

     People pretend things are okay in our society in an attempt to numb the pain from the disaster that is our world. Last year America spent more than 10 billion dollars on cosmetic procedures and the porn industry rose to almost a 14 billion dollar a year industry all over 39,000 people committed suicide in our country.[2] People are turning anywhere they can to try to find happiness, often turning to passing pleasures like pornography and cosmetic procedures to numb our pain and as we see by the huge amount of people committing suicide the method of the world has proven a failure.

     Last year a high school student asked me if I had ever seen the show Dr. 90210. I don’t know if any of you have seen it but I logged onto Netflix, started watching, and was appalled to watch woman after woman come into the doctors and request breast augmentation and tummy tucks all because they felt it would give them self confidence and self worth. You, and I like those patients on Dr. 90210 and like all people are seeking a deep peace and joy. Before we can find this peace we must know who we are, what our identity is. I believe this is the heart of the problem. WE HAVE AN IDENTITY CRISIS. We place are identity in passing things because we don’t actually know what our identity is.

Let me pose the question to you. What is your identity?

     We often place our identity in all the wrong places. In fact we often place our identity in places we don’t even realize we are placing it. When we say we need the perfect model body we place our identity in our bodies. When we say we must become the CEO or get all A’s on every exam we take or make millions of dollars we are placing our identity in our success. (Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with working hard to get straight A’s or to become the CEO or to work out to have a healthy body but when that becomes our purpose in life we have lost our identity.) When we place our identity in these things we are trying to create our identity; after all it is the American way. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps; if we want something bad enough and are willing to work hard enough for it we can have it because after all we are Americans. The reality is this American dream is a lie. We don’t create our identity rather we receive it as a gift from God and are called to embrace it realizing God knows us even better than we do and only wants what is best for us.

     I have found one of the easiest and most eye opening ways to see that you and I cannot create our identity is to go to the beginning and end of our life. If we look at the beginning and end of our life from a purely secular view we would say we came from just a set of particles and return to a set of particle. If this is true that we are just some composition of matter that happens to be formed together by chance then we should put our identity in ourselves because after all that is all there is. But now if we look at the beginning and end of our life through our Christian lenses we see that we come from God who created us and are returning to Him. If we stop and recall that our life is a pilgrimage coming from God and returning to Him we realize that our true identity can only come from God.

     You and I were created out of love by God. We are not accidents. God wills for us to be here and it is in this supreme love of God that you and I will find our true identity. At our baptism we were called into the body of Christ. We are claimed for Christ. We have become heirs to the kingdom of God. We are not servants but rather children of God.

     At Jesus’ baptism the heavens opened and Jesus said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Likewise God the Father looks down on us and says “This is my beloved son or daughter with who I am well pleased.” My brothers and sisters we are beloved sons and daughters of God the Father. THIS IS OUR TRUE IDENTITY. It is in this and only in this supreme love of God that you and I will find true peace and joy, that we find who we really are, our identity.

     When I first realized I was a beloved son I knew it was true but did not know how to accept it. My mind was clearly aware that God called me to be His son but my heart was not in a place to receive that gift. Our world is so messed up we have forgotten how to receive. We live in the American Dream “if you want something go get it.” We don’t live in a world where receiving things is looked upon too favorable. Yet we cannot go and get our identity. It is freely given to us by God the Father, we need to accept it rather than earn it.

     This is the crisis of our world. We all want to feel the love but we think we have to go out and earn it. So we go out and we try to buy it in all kinds of ways, but the truth is it is already given to us by the Father we just have to stop doing and receive. We can try all we want to create that love but it will only be a passing love. Pope Benedict said it best when he said “Love finds its guarantee ultimately only in him who is essentially love: he who not only has love but is love.”[3] My friends only He who is love can satisfy our deepest yearnings for love and He who is love is reaching out for us and wants us to simply grab a hold of him. When we go out and try to create that peace we become workaholics, or addicts to drugs and sex, or worse we end up committing suicide and if we are spared these we become cynical or just deep down unhappy because we can never find that true peace unless we are willing to receive it from the Father.

     Many of us desire to live our life as a beloved son or daughter of the Father but don’t know how or if we don’t have the desire we would if only we understood what it means to be a beloved son or daughter. In many ways being that beloved son or daughter is like ridding in the car with God. I don’t know if you have a really close relationship with your father or if you have very close friends but if you do you may have had an experience where just being with someone is enough.

     You and I need to be with God everywhere we go. The silence at first may be odd but our Father loves us so much and all He wants is to be in that car with us. To see this we need look no further than the crucifix. When I look at Christ hanging there and imagine the torments he went through for me I cannot help but feel loved. To look at Christ suffering and realize the Father sent His Son, Christ to this earth to suffer that horrific death for me immediately puts into perspective how much the Father loves me. Once I have entered into that realization of love I immediately desire to thank the Father for that gift. If God was willing to send His only Son into the world to die for me what else would He not provide for me that I need?

     After coming to a realization of His great love for me I desire to enter into a relationship with Him. Just contemplating Christ’s death on the cross draws me into the desire to be in the closest relationship I can be with the Father, that of the son He calls me to be. I cannot think of a deeper connection then that between a father or mother and a son or daughter.

     If you are anything like me you are at the point where you want God to ride in the car with you but you want to drive the car. In everyday life I don’t like to be the passenger. When I go out with my friends I always want to drive because I like to have the control. Just as I like to drive when I am with my friends I like to drive the car I like to drive the car in my relationship with God. I like to have God besides me so He can protect me, give me gifts and so I can turn the wheel over to Him when the storms come or when the road gets rough. What is wrong with this picture? Well what am I doing driving the car when God who is perfect and thus is the better driver is sitting right beside me.  When you and I agree to get in the car with the Father we have taken the first step but we soon recognize that we are driving and if we ever recognize this, we need a Chinese fire drill. We need to get out and give the wheel over to the Father.

     All of us need to learn and be reminded of what the bible makes very clear. “Without me you can do nothing.”[4] While it is hard for us to imagine it is true without God you and I can do nothing. We are so small that if God simply ceased to think about us for a second we would cease to exist. When we step back to look at our world we realize we are only a spec in this vast universe. This image of us as a spec in the universe reminds us just how helpless we are without God and how much he loves us to allow us to achieve all that we do. If we realize that without God, who loves us more than we can imagine, we can do nothing, allowing ourselves to be in the passenger seat is easy. The problem is we often don’t realize the necessity of God and believe we can do it ourselves.

     Often you and I surrender only when things get difficult. God wants more. God wants us to surrender everything to His will the good, the bad, and the in between. This is not easy because we have an interior desire to do things ourselves, to live that American dream. But that American dream is a lie.

     Even after seeing how God has worked wonders in my life I still frequently put confidence in myself. I think one of the reasons for this is because I don’t want to be let down and I know others can let us down. It is part of the human condition that human beings let us down, but just as others let us down, we are also humans and let ourselves down, so why not put your confidence in the Father who is perfect who cannot let you down. It may not be the outcome that you envisioned but since He loves us unconditionally He cannot let us down if we just surrender to Him. If you are anything like me it is only easy to let God drive that car when things look dreadful. Friends, God is like a river that wishes to take us down the river to heaven guiding us along the way. Unfortunately we often remain like the little child who is standing on the banks too scared to jump in. WE NEED TO JUMP INTO THE RIVER AND LET THE FATHER TAKE US.

     Jumping in to the river or letting the Father drive the car is not easy. If we are going to enter into a relationship with the Father we have to take time daily to spend with Him. The highlight of my day comes first thing in the morning. I wake up early and get to the chapel to spend an hour with God and then follow that hour with mass. It is in this hour of prayer that I find the greatest peace. I find that peace amidst often a very crazy schedule not because of anything I am doing but rather because I am coming to my father who looks at me and says I This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. Sure I don’t always feel like going to the chapel and at times it is not all calm in my time of prayer but I know the Father is their constantly loving me and I need to spend time returning that love. Now it is not enough to spend time with him in the morning and forget about Him throughout the day. No I constantly must take small moments and at the very minimum recognize him at work in my life. Now everyone must appropriate prayer into their life in a way that suites their life style. To beginners I say pray as you can, not as you can’t. Do not be afraid to go to your priest and ask to meet with him. He will be happy to guide you in your life of prayer.

     I know you will find that as you spend more and more time in prayer you will find yourself falling more and more in love with the God. As we begin to fall more and more in love with God our identity as His son or daughter becomes more and more real. As we continue to see ourselves as the beloved son or daughter our outlook on life changes. As we begin to fully integrate that identity in our lives our life changes forever. We begin to get out of the driver seat and allow the Father to drive. We live our lives recognizing that the Father, who loves us as his son is at work in our lives and provided that we are cooperating with that grace at work in us we can be sure we are doing the will of the Father.

     When we see ourselves all the time as beloved Sons of the Father we will begin to experience an interior peace. Even when we are mad, upset or bad things happen to us we turn to the Father and not to passing pleasures. We will desire to run to our Father with our pains and sorrows rather than to pornography, cosmetic surgery or whatever your vice is. When presented with the temptation to sin we will not give into the sin nor will we run from it as though we are running from the wrath of God, but rather we will desire to avoid the evil because it hurts our Father. This does not mean that I always succeed in realizing my identity. Like you I often fall into sin. But when I finally re-realize my identity as a son of the Father I run back to the Father and am received just as the younger son in the prodigal son ran back to his Father and was welcomed back with open arms.

     Friends we have enough problems in this world, we don’t need to add to them. If we are to be the light to the nations that will bring change in our society we must let the light of Christ shine through us because our own self-created light is not strong enough. If we are going to change the world we need to start with ourselves. We need to live out our identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father. When we live out that identity we will radiate God’s love and the world will be attracted to us and then the world will be change.

     Realizing and living out our lives as daughters and sons of the Father will affect more people than just us. How can you love your spouse if you first have not experienced love? How can you be a loving mother or father to your son or daughter if you first have not experienced what it is to be a beloved son or daughter of the Father? It is only when we realize that we are sons and daughters that we see each other as brothers and sisters and then and only then can we treat others with the respect they need. I bet if everyone saw themselves as a beloved son or daughter of God and thus brothers and sisters with each other it would be hard to rape the other, it would be hard to look at a man or woman with lust and we would do what we could for the betterment of the other. See the effect an understanding of our identity can have?

[1] http://www.divorcestatistics.org

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

[3] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Theological Highlights of Vatican II.  New York: Paulist Press (1966) pg 235.

[4] Jn 15:5

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

IS 56: 1,6-7 / PS 67,2-3, 5, 6, 8 / Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 / MT 15: 21-28

     Like all of you I have been greatly disturbed seeing the images of our Christian brothers and sisters being murdered for their faith in the Middle East. While the images are chilling I find myself inspired by their heroic actions. Anytime someone is killed for their faith it is a horrific injustice, but amidst the injustice we are invited to learn and be inspired by their witness. Our persecuted brothers and sisters are daily making a bold statement; they are saying their faith, their love of Jesus Christ, is the most important thing in their life. Their faith is their pearl of great price for which they are willing to sell everything, including their life, to obtain it.

     I pray that the witness of our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East resonates with each and every one of us. I pray that their suffering brings us into a deeper relationship with our Lord. Rather than sit here and question our faith asking why God would allow such atrocities to occur I pray we take a moment to look at our faith and ask ourselves if we have gotten into the bad habit of seeing God as the “slot machine God.” Have we begun to believe the lie, that our faith is simply demanding and expecting that God will bend to our will, that somehow I put a coin into the slot and receive a pay out?

     In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters a woman who is seeking after faith. The Canaanite woman shows us that faith requires perseverance. Three different times in today’s Gospel the Canaanite woman was turned away by Jesus and it would have been very easy for her to simply walk away, but she stays with our Lord and begs for even the scraps of the table. The Canaanite woman knows Jesus can transform here. She knows Jesus alone will satisfy her deepest desires and so she continues to go back to Jesus. She shows us faith requires work.

     Pope Benedict, long before he was pope, summarized the need for true faith best when he said “we will know God to the extent that we give Him room to be present in us.”[1] If we want to have faith, which Pope Benedict says is “first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus,”[2] we must give Him room to be present in us. Often however we don’t give God that room, rather we interpret His apparent silence as Him being distant from us and we turn to other people or things in an attempt to break through the silence of God. We either turn to resenting God or we try to punish God by giving into destructive addictions.

     While I know encountering silence in our prayer can make us nervous, is silence really such a bad thing after all? Last spring I was flying to New York City to visit a high school and my dad was kind enough to take me to the airport. We had a discussion for a while and then things went silent in the car and that was just fine, my father and I have a very good relationship and I was very comfortable being in the same place with him in silence. There was just something enjoyable about sitting in silence with my dad. Fast forward to arriving in NY where someone who I didn’t know picked me up and after exchanging pleasantries the car went silent, and it was really awkward. What was the difference between those two car rides. While they both had some talking and then silence, I was comfortable with my dad because of the relationship we have. The same is true with God. Shouldn’t we who know that God loves us and wants a deep personal relationship with us be comfortable just sitting in silence with the Lord?

     A silent God does not mean a distant God. Simply because God does not appear to answer our prayers does not mean our faith is weak, or we haven’t put enough money in the slot machine yet to receive the payout, but rather just as with the Canaanite woman He is working in the midst of that silence to strengthen our faith. For I know that a silent God purifies and strengthens our faith.

     The Canaanite woman challenges each and every one of us to deepen our faith. We are challenged to grow from seeing our faith as simply a slot machine to see it as it truly is a relationship with Jesus. If God feels distant we should be like the Canaanite woman and be persistent in asking for greater faith. Even when God seems silent we should enjoy the car ride in silence with God. As we approach the altar to receive Lord let us surrender ourselves and offer our entire lives over to Him. Let us invite the Lord to deepen our relationship with Him so that in complete faith and trust we can say Thy will be done.

[1] Dogma and Preaching pg 325.

[2] Church Fathers and Teachers pg 160

Response to Incident in Ferguson

Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew in Ferguson        Like all of you I do not know what happened at that scene but as I have seen the events unfold I am reminded of just how precious life is. I am reminded with the great theologian Garrigou-LeGrange, that “pain invites us to have recourse to Him who alone can restore peace and give Himself to us.”[1] I do not know what happened but I do know life is precious and regardless of what happened I am deeply sadden to see the violent response of a few people and I ask you to join me in praying firstly for peace, for Michael Brown and his family, for Officer Wilson and his family, for the City of Ferguson and our entire community and I ask you to join me in entrusting Ferguson and all those involved in this case to Our Blessed Mother with the sure and certain hope that peace and justice may once again come to our community.

[1] Garrigou-LeGrange, Reginald O.P. Everlasting Life. Rockford: Tan Publishing.(1952). Pg. 31.

What is the Feast of the Assumption

     assumption

     Today the universal Church celebrates the great feast of the Assumption. This feast is so important that the Church maintains the day as a Holy Day of Obligation (all Catholics are required to go to Mass on this day just as if it were a Sunday.) But what is this feast of the Assumption? This short blog post aims to explain the Assumption, explain why it is logical and show a brief history of the teaching.

     The Feast of the Assumption is the celebration of Mary, the Mother of God, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”[1] As Catholics we believe the Blessed Virgin, at the end of her life was not buried and left to corruption but rather was raised up body and soul into heaven. While at first glance this teaching may seem odd or even incorrect with a little thought it becomes clear that this teaching is perfectly logical. The corruption of the body after death is a result of sin, it is one of the affects of original sin that remains even after original sin has been washed away by baptism. Before the fall into sin by Adam and Eve there was no corruption of the body. Since all of us inherit original sin are bodies are subjected to decay at the end of our life. The Blessed Virgin however was born without original sin (the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) and never sinned herself. Since there was no stain of sin on the soul of the Blessed Virgin she had none of the affects of sin and thus her body was not subject to decay.

     Unfortunately most of our Protestant brothers and sisters see this teaching as a modern invention and do not hold it to be true. While the feast of the Assumption was not definitively by the Church until 1950 the teaching has been a part of the tradition of the Church from the beginning.  The clearest evidence that the early Church believed Mary was assumed into heaven rests in the fact that there are no relics of the Blessed Virgin or a shrine at her burial site. The early Church collected the bones of holy people and held them as relics. The Blessed Virgin was held in the highest esteem and considered the model of holiness by the early Church. Certainly if the Blessed Virgin had been buried somewhere her relics would have been collected or at least her burial site would have become a place of pilgrimage. All of the Church Fathers held the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to be true and the feast of the Assumption was first celebrated around the year 600 in the Eastern Churches and in 700’s in the Western Churches. While our Protestant brothers and sisters are correct that the feast of the Assumption was taught definitively as doctrine only recently the teaching has been a part of the tradition from the beginning.

[1] Pope Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus par 44.

Memorial of St. Dominic Year I

NA 2:1,3; #:1-3, 6-7 / DT 32:35CD-36AB, 39A-D, 41 / Mt 16:24-28

     Sadly today many people in our world believe that to follow Jesus we must simply make a decision to accept Him as our Personal Lord and Savior and He will take care of the rest. In today’s Gospel Jesus calls us to more than acceptance; He calls us to discipleship.

     If we listen closely to Jesus’ call to discipleship we see that there is a paradox built into His call. In order to gain everything we must first lose everything, in order to gain eternal life we must first die. One who follows after Jesus is not promised worldly fame or fortune. Sadly today many people believe discipleship entitles them to a comfortable life, but Jesus comes to call us out of comfort into eternal life.

     In today’s Gospel we are invited to come and receive forever, but before the crown there is the cross and before the glory there is suffering, But why should it be any other way? Did our Lord not already endure our sufferings and trials? It is in enduring the trials and sufferings that come with living the Christian life that we unite ourselves to Christ who takes us to eternal life. St. Fuastina summarized it best in her diary when she said “My likeness to Jesus must be through suffering and humility.”[1]

     Dominic understood the call to discipleship. As a young man he was born into a very comfortable life and afforded a world class education, yet when he saw others in Spain dying due to famine he sold all he had to help them. Around the age of 25 St. Dominic entered religious life and soon was called upon to use his great education to help defend the Church against attacks made by a heretical sect. Like St. Dominic we are called to discipleship, we are called to use what God has given us for His glory, to undergo trials and persecutions, which help unite us to Him. We as disciples have been called out of comfort into eternal life. As we approach this altar today let us ask the Lord to give us the strength to carry our cross, to have the courage to follow Him on the path of Calvary as His disciple.

[1] Kowalska, St. Faustina. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). Pg 129.

Catholic Yoga?

Enlightenment in nature

     In recent years the popularity of yoga has exploded in the United States. Today most gyms offer yoga classes, some Christian communities offer, “Christian based” yoga and yoga apparel and literature fills the shelves of many stores. As the popularity of yoga rises many people have inquired into if a Catholic should participate in yoga.

     To answer this question we must first understand what yoga is. Putting aside the heterogonous foundations of yoga, it can be generally understood as “a reference to the state of body–mind–spirit harmony sought through various disciplines.”[1] Simply put yoga seeks after two common goals, the harmonization of one’s mind and body and entering of a state of unity.

     Many faithful Catholics are suspicious of yoga because of the Catechism’s warning against superstition. The Catechism warns that “to attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.” [2] In other words any attempt to reduce prayer to simply an outward posture is to fall into superstition.

     Certainly yoga could become a superstition if one practiced yoga as a spiritual pathway, if they practiced yoga as a means of searching after the harmonizing of their body and soul and entering into a state of unity by performing certain postures. If one truly subscribed to yoga as a spirituality one would certainly fall into superstition, yet that does not mean someone who uses yoga as a form of exercise or a means of physical leisure falls into superstition.

     While yoga can be used as a form of exercise or human leisure, it should in no way be used as a spiritual path. When yoga is used as a spiritual path it falls into three different heresies. Firstly it falls into Monism, which hold that the enlightened person becomes one with the divine. yoga, as a spiritual path, aims at uniting the human person to the divine, making the human person God, it attempts to accept the temptation of the devil who said “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know* good and evil.”[3] Secondly yoga, as a spiritual path, falls into the heresy of Gnosticism, the belief that freeing the body from the soul attains salvation. While Christians are called to detach themselves from anything that does not unite them to God,[4] this detachment is different from the detachment of yoga. In the Christian understanding of detachment one removes those things that impede his relationship with God while in yoga anything that detracts from the self must be removed. In other words Christianity profess detachment for a closer relationship with God who dwells within the Christian in virtue of his baptism, while yoga stresses a detachment from anything that is not the self and entrance into a void. Thirdly yoga falls into the heresy superstition. Implicit in yoga is the claim that one can be “productive” in “prayer” if only they do the right forms, “success in prayer.” For those who practice yoga as a spirituality prayer is rooted in what a person does, while the Christian understands prayer to be an unmerited gift. While effort is required in Christian prayer, the technique is not what guarantees a productive result, rather “prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part.”[5]

     The postures of yoga themselves are neither good nor bad. Simply maneuvering one’s body into certain poses does not force one to engage in a spiritual activity. Think of the many people who attend Mass on Sunday. During the Eucharistic Prayer everyone in the church kneels. While many of those present kneel as a sign of devotion and are actively engaged in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass some simply kneel to follow along with the crowd and their mind is completely somewhere else. While body posture can certainly assist one to pray, the posture by itself does not a have a spiritual effect.

     Anyone who attempts to use yoga as a spirituality is certainly living in violation of their Catholic faith. As a spiritual path Yoga is simply incompatible with Christian spirituality. If one uses Yoga as a means of exercise or for a source of physical leisure there certainly would be no conflict with their Catholic faith provided they are able to separate the postures of yoga from the spiritual end of yoga. Yoga can certainly be a dangerous trap so one should always be sure the separation between the spiritual and the physical body positions exists and stop immediately if they feel that divide can no longer be kept.

[1] Kripalu Center for yoga & health, “What is Yoga” at , http://www.kripalu.org/about_us/479/ (6 August 2014).

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 2111.

[3] Gen 3:5

[4] CCC 2556

[5] CCC 2725