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Catholicism and Buddhism – Clearing Up the Confusion

February 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Buddhism & Zen, Can I Trust?, Dan Burke

There is much confusion and misinformation in our time regarding the compatibility of Buddhism and Catholicism. Dr. Clark is both a faithful Catholic and a Chinese scholar (he reads Chinese fluently), his work is well researched, solid, trustworthy, and charitable. Joined with Carl Olson, an excellent theologian, there is no better combination of authors to shed light on this important topic. We are grateful for their efforts in this realm and submit this treatment for your consideration.


 

Catholicism and Buddhism by Anthony E. Clark and Carl E. Olson

CatholicismAndBuddhism

Near the end of his life the Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton said that he wanted “to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” A contemporary priest, Robert E. Kennedy, S.J., Roshi (Zen master), holds Zen retreats at Morning Star Zendo in Jersey City. He states on his web site: “I ask students to trust themselves and to develop their own self-reliance through the practice of Zen.” Meanwhile, the St. Francis Chapel at Santa Clara University hosts the weekly practice of “Mindfulness and Zen Meditation.” Similarly, there are a growing number of Buddhist retreats and workshops being held in Catholic monasteries and parishes.

Today there is a proliferation of resources and retreats dedicated to combining Zen Buddhism and Catholicism, suggesting that the Catholic Church has finally “awakened” from its “outdated” and “exclusivist” ecclesiology. While Buddhism has not been in the news recently as much as Islam, its influence and attraction has steadily increased in the West.

Is Catholicism really “parallel” to Buddhism? Can Catholic doctrine be reconciled with Buddhist beliefs and practices?

The Coming of Buddhism

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, with about 370 million adherents, or about 6% of the world's population. Although less than 1% of Americans identify themselves as Buddhist, interest in this ancient belief system is growing. Sections on Buddhism in major bookstores usually dwarf those dedicated to Islam or Hinduism and there has been a steady stream of articles and books about (and by) the Dalai Lama in recent years. Some stores even display the Dalai Lama’s works beside those of Pope John Paul II, hinting at the “similarities” of the Buddhist and Catholic faiths.

The influence of Buddhist thought in some Catholic circles has been evident since the 1960s. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council's call for respectful dialogue with other religions, many Catholics, including many priests and religious, dove headlong into studying Buddhism. Much was made (and still is) of the many “common characteristics” of Catholicism and Buddhism, especially in the realm of ethics. External similarities, including monks, meditation, and prayer beads, seemed to indicate a newly discovered closeness between the followers of Christ and Buddha. While some helpful interreligious dialogue and study was accomplished, some Catholics mistakenly concluded that Buddhism was just as “true” as Christianity, and that any criticism of Buddhism was “arrogant” and “triumphalistic.”

This attitude still exists, of course, as do attempts to combine the two faiths. It's not uncommon for Catholic retreat centers to offer a steady diet of classes and lectures about Zen Buddhism, Christ and Buddha, and even “Zen Catholicism.” Their bookstores feature titles such as Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings, and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha As Brothers. Comparisons are often made between Christian mysticism and Buddhist mysticism, at times suggesting that the two are essentially identical in character and intent.

The Attraction of Buddhism

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Holy Father notes that the Dalai Lama has worked to bring “Buddhism to people of the Christian West, stirring up interest both in Buddhist spirituality and in its methods of praying.” He points out that, “Today we are seeing a certain diffusion of Buddhism in the West.” So what makes this diffusion possible and so influential?

Buddhism is attractive for numerous reasons. Among them is the desire for spiritual vitality in the midst of the emptiness of secular life, the promise of inner peace, and the need for an explicit moral code. In his classic study, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development, Edward Conze writes, “To a person who is thoroughly disillusioned with the contemporary world, and with himself, Buddhism may offer many points of attraction, in the transcending sublimity of the fairy land of its subtle thoughts, in the splendor of its works of art, in the magnificence of its hold over vast populations, and in the determined heroism and quiet refinement of those who are steeped into it.”

Another key appeal of Buddhism is its non-dogmatic and seemingly open-minded character. For those who reject the dogmatic and objective claims of Christianity, or who believe that Christianity should avoid an “exclusive” or absolute approach to truth, Buddhism offers an easier alternative. In addition, some Christians find solace in believing that their faith in Christ and Buddhism are compatible.

As the Dalai Lama stated in a Beliefnet.com interview, “According to different religious traditions, there are different methods. For example, a Christian practitioner may meditate on God's grace, God's infinite love. This is a very powerful concept in order to achieve peace of mind. A Buddhist practitioner may be thinking about relative nature and also Buddha-nature. This is also very useful.” In other words, Christianity and Buddhism are two ways to the same end; Jesus and Buddha are two enlightened teachers who help man to that end. Or, as one reader on a Christian discussion forum states, “Buddha was just a philosopher who urged men to be selfless. Jesus was just a philosopher who urged men to be selfless. Love is just another word for selfless.” Such easy parallels between Christ and Buddha are, in the end, misleading and distort the teachings of the Church.

The Basics of Buddhism

Since Buddhism appears less concerned with dogma or doctrine than right living, is it compatible with Catholic doctrine? A glance at Buddhist basics will help answer this question.

Buddha (c. 563-c. 483 B.C), born Siddhartha Gautama, was the son of a king in India. Around the age of thirty he left his privileged life in court to became an ascetic, and spent several years traveling and meditating on the human condition, considering especially the reality of suffering. One day, meditating beneath a bodhi tree, he became enlightened (Buddha = “enlightened one”), and afterward began to teach his dharma, or doctrine, of the Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths are that (1) life is suffering, (2) the cause of suffering is desire, (3) to be free from suffering we must detach from desire, and (4) the “eight-fold path” is the way to alleviate desire. The eight-fold path includes having right views, intentions, speech, actions, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. The final goal of Buddhism is not merely to eradicate desire, but to be free of suffering.

Buddha also taught the “three characteristics of being”: that all things are transitory, there is no “self” or personality, and this world brings only pain and suffering. To accept the existence of anything involves giving birth to its opposite (i.e., love and hate, joy and fear, etc.), which results in a duality of “good” and “bad.” Nirvana, literally, “putting out a fire,” is the extinction of self and the escape from the cycle of reincarnation. A Buddhist might allow one to believe in an afterlife, but such an allowance is called upaya, an expedient means to a real end. That is, upaya allows belief to exist as a means to an end; all religious belief, including Buddhism itself, is merely a construction. According to Buddhist upaya, Christianity is allowable as long as it is viewed as a stage of spiritual progression, leading eventually to the extinction of self – nirvana. In the two major forms of Buddhism, Hinayana and Mahayana, the latter teaches that man is already “extinguished,” he just needs to realize it.

It is sometimes said that Buddhism is atheistic. Yet Buddhism is not interested in the question of God, so it is more accurate to describe it as agnostic. Buddhism “works” whether or not there is a God. A Buddhist allows others to believe in a God or gods, but such beliefs are merely convenient means to the final end, which has nothing to do with a God or gods. “God is neither affirmed nor denied by Buddhism,” wrote Merton in Mystics and Zen Masters, “insofar as Buddhists consider such affirmations and denials to be dualistic, therefore irrelevant to the main purpose of Buddhism, which is emancipation from all forms of dualistic thought.”

Important Distinctions and Deep Divides

Despite many external similarities, Buddhist meditation and contemplation is quite different from orthodox Christianity. Buddhist meditation strives to “wake” one from his existential delusions. “Therefore, despite similar aspects, there is a fundamental difference” between Christian and Buddhist mysticism, wrote John Paul II. The Holy Father continued: “Christian mysticism . . . is not born of a purely negative ‘enlightenment.' It is not born of an awareness of the evil which exists in man's attachment to the world through the senses, the intellect, and the spirit. Instead, Christian mysticism is born of the Revelation of the living God.”

Catholics believe that the Church is the Body and Bride of Christ, the seed of the Kingdom of God, and the conduit of God's grace and mercy in the world. Buddhists believe that Church, or Sangha, is in the end, upaya, nothing more than the expedient means to ultimate extinction. Rather than the Beatific Vision, Buddhist teaching holds that non-existence is the only hope for escaping the pains of life.

The Catholic Church teaches that while suffering is not part of God's perfect plan, it does bring us closer to Christ and unite us more intimately with our Suffering Lord. Buddhism teaches that suffering must be escaped from; indeed, this is a central concern of Buddhism. Christianity is focused on worshipping God, on holiness, and the restoration of right relationships between God and man through the Person and work of Jesus. The Buddhist, however, is not concerned with whether or not God exists, nor does he offer worship. Instead, he seeks after non-self (anatman).

Catholicism believes that truth, and the Author of Truth, can be known rationally (to a significant, yet limited, extent) and through divine revelation. In contrast, Buddhism denies existential reality; nothing, including the “self,” can be proven to exist.

Dialogue and Danger

Romano Guardini, in his classic work The Lord, stated that Buddha would be the greatest challenge to Christ in the modern age. In an age of terrorism, such a statement may appear to be an exaggerated concern, but Buddhism offers Christianity serious and subtle challenges. Because it appears to be peaceful, non-judgmental, and inclusive, its appeal will undoubtedly continue to grow. Because it offers a spirituality that is supposedly free of doctrine and authority, it will attract hungry souls looking for fulfillment and meaning. “For this reason,” the Holy Father states, “it is not inappropriate to caution those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East – for example, techniques and methods of meditation and ascetical practice.” As he correctly observes, “In some quarters these have become fashionable, and are accepted rather uncritically.”

Nostra Aetate, Vatican II's Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, states that “Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.” It continues to note that, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions” and believes that other religions, in certain ways, “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

But, the document insists, the Church “proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself” (par 2). While the Council affirms that Buddhism may contain a “ray of Truth,” it does not endorse appropriation of Buddhist beliefs into Christian practice. Rather, the Council insists that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Church.

In Buddha’s final words to his disciples under the sala trees, he said, “Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not rely upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them; do not depend upon any other teaching.” When the Fourth Evangelist described John the Baptist, he said, “He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light” (John 1:8). He continued by proclaiming that Christ “is the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John 1:9). Christ, the “true light,” did not teach His followers to extinguish their fires, such as is [the] meaning of nirvana, but to illuminate the world with His love, and to reflect the light of His truth.

Christ and Buddha compared

In his Fundamentals of the Faith, Peter Kreeft writes that “there have only been two people in history who so astonished people that they asked not ‘Who are you?' but ‘What are you? A man or a god' They were Jesus and Buddha.”

He then contrasts the striking differences between the two men: “Buddha's clear answer to this question was: ‘I am a man, not a god'; Christ's clear answer was: ‘I am both son of Man and Son of God.' Buddha said, ‘Look not to me, look to my dharma [doctrine]': Christ said, ‘Come unto me.' Buddha said, ‘Be ye lamps unto yourselves'; Christ said, ‘I am the light of the world.'”

It is presently common to find Christ brought down to the level of “philosopher” or “great teacher,” just as Buddha is sometimes elevated to a state of divinity. Yet there remain profound differences between the two.

Christ claimed to be the one and only true God who came to suffer, die, and rise again, establishing a unique and everlasting covenant with man. Buddha is believed to be one of many thatãgata (thus-come-one). The historic Buddha is just one of several thatãgata who come in various ages to teach man that life is an illusion and to strip away human desires and attachments.

Christ taught that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Buddha teaches that every person must find their own path to enlightenment, or nirvana, the extinction of self.

Christ preached the reality of sin, the nature of God the Father, and the need for repentance and salvation. Buddha preached the untenable nature of existence and the means to escape suffering.

Christ taught that God is completely Other, but also taught that God wishes to share His divine life, given through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Buddha taught individuality must perish and that everything is One.

Christ established a Church, with a structure of authority, based on His words and Person. Buddha left a teaching in which each person must find his own path.

Christ rose from the dead, once and for all, and is returning as King of Kings. He claimed divinity by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John, 8:58). For Buddhists, Buddha is a model, regardless of whether or not he was a historical person. Buddha suggests that, “There is no ‘I'; there is no ‘self'.” At his death, when he experienced pari-nirvana, or “final extinction,” he stated that the question of the afterlife was, “not conducive to edification.” What's important is that man escapes desire by being extinguished.

This post originally appeared in Ignatius Insight in February 2005, and in a slightly different form in the May/June 2005 issue of This Rock magazine [now Catholic Answers]

  • Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of East Asian history at Whitworth University. His
    Dr. Anthony E. Clark

    Dr. Anthony E. Clark

    research centers on the history of Western missionaries in China, especially during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He received his doctorate from the University of Oregon, where he studied Chinese history, philosophy, and religion. He is author of several academic and popular works, including books and articles on Chinese historiography, cultural interaction between China and the West, and his primary interest, the history of Sino-Western religious and cultural re-presentation during China's late imperial to early modern era. He has also been researching the history of Catholic martyrs in China and has recently [2005] finished writing a book on that subject. Dr. Clark has presented papers at numerous academic conferences and has also been a guest on “EWTN Live” and “Catholic Answers Live” to talk about Catholicism in China. He is also a contributing editor for This Rock magazine [now Catholic Answers]

  • Carl E. Olson

    Carl E. Olson

    Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author of Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”? He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Visit his personal web site at www.carl-olson.com.

Post and artwork/photography used with permission.

Editor's Note: Links to all posts in our “Can I Trust?” Series can be found HERE.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • sandra

    Absolutely brilliant article Dan. When I wrote to you a few years ago saying how much Buddhism was flooding Ireland (and now NI) since then it has increased by leaps and bounds. It is especially present in religious orders under name of centering prayer or CP brought here by Contemplative Outreach. Instead of the icon of Jesus being spread it is the icon of Fr Thomas Keating. That alone is enough to make anyone suspicious and, from a practical point if view, the prices for the resources ( if one was silly enough to purchase) are far from cheap. It seems only for the affluent.
    Sandra

    • Dear Sandra – thanks for your note. Have you had the opportunity to check out our courses at the Avila Institute? We would sure like to better serve the faithful in Ireland if we can.

      • Sandra

        Dear Dan,
        You are already sharing this with Ireland for I pass material to some of our priests, especially in my own parish. One priest has hit the local head lines last week (Maybe priest needs head examined?) for criticising yoga. President of Universal Society of Hinduism asked Pope Francis to discipline him (See Belfast Telegraph Feb 23rd). Worth a Google. Sandra

      • NYCFiredog

        If we had more cultivation of deep Spirituality of our Mystics like St. Teresa of Avila, people would not be seeking it elsewhere. Thank you for offering this opportunity and means to do this.

    • NYCFiredog

      What is the controversy of “Centering Prayer”?

  • Ioannes

    Thank you so much for posting this. The other day someone told me that if he would be interested in any religion it would be Buddhism, now I can say “oh your goal in life is to eradicate your self desires and inclinations by extinguishing yourself”?

    • Patricia

      Their is a difference between the Catholic version of Total Gift of Self (giving all that you have to God, for His purposes as an act of Love for Him) and the Buddist “extinguishing yourself to become nothing”
      O my God, my eternal Love, my whole Good, and never-ending Happiness, I desire to reserve nothing to myself, but freely and most willingly to sacrifice myself and all that is mine to Thee. -St. Therese of Lisieux

      • notarebel

        It is the opposite. The Christian feels everything and walks through it with God, and the Buddhist feels nothing.

  • I was a philosohy student in college and we had a few readings on Zen Buddhism. Honestly, it helped understand the difference between true humility and false humility. That humility isn’t putting myself down but accepting myself and what I am truly capable and not capable of. That said, I’m not inclined to Buddhism. Though many Chinese-Filipinos practice both Catholicism/Christianity and Buddhism because of their historical-cultural background.

  • Mark Dohle

    I think it is too early too tell. This will continue, I believe things will balance out. Also centering prayer is not based on Buddhist thought, nor is Fr. Keating some sort of Guru. Centering prayer is Christ Centered and is more on the level of ‘the prayer of simplicity”. I do think however that before anyone studies other religions, they should have a firm grounding in their faith and an understanding of the history and theology of the church.

    • Mark, thanks for your response. Can you elaborate on your comment, “I think it is too early too tell. This will continue, I believe things will balance out.” With respect to Centering Prayer, if you learned a truly Christ centered version of it rather than an approach to prayer inspired by Transcendental Meditation and the non-Christian east, you are in the minority. Regarding the “Prayer of Simplicity” – of course you know that the Christian tradition teachings that this prayer cannot be gained by a regimen of sit, breath, repeat.

      • marybernadette

        ‘I attended a ‘retreat’ for ‘Charismatics’ a few years ago with a Priest that I like very much. The topic was ‘we are more than conquerors.’ However, one afternoon Father introduced ‘centering
        prayer.’ I sensed the Holy Spirit warning me about this, because I attend any ‘prayer gathering’ trying to listen to the Holy Spirit.’ I was not trying to judge but thought of mentioning my discomfort to Father, then a man from behind me spoke up with his ‘concerns.’ Unfortunately, Father became ‘rather angry’ about it.
        I pray that today Father has realised himself of the ‘dangers’ of this kind of ‘prayer.’ It can open a person up to ‘demonic influence’ as you are not ‘taking every thought captive’ but ’emptying the mind’ as you go deep into yourself. Thank you Lord, for your promise of protection from ‘error.’

  • Patricia

    I found this to be an excellent, validity supported and clarifying article which succinctly compares/contrasts Christ with Budda and their teachings accurately! It would be wonderful if this could be sent to Dioceses for publication in local monthly Catholic magazines/ newspapers so that all could have access to this information. There are Catholic priests (especially RR) and sisters who are comparing the two as similiar and offering centering prayer and other techniques to achieve “enlightenment” and are listed in parish bulletin events each week. Some monasteries offer retreats for Catholics and non- catholics to come and learn centering prayer and contemplative techniques. A history text book used in a Catholic High School has a chapter combining Budda and Jesus and states that they are both men whose followers made them “to be Gods” and goes on to compare their “philosophies” of how to treat others etc. — no mention of the Triune God or that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or salvation History! In comparing World Religions, each has it’s own chapter, except the one which combines Jesus and Budda! These practices have contributed to apostasy and especially with our young people.
    I’m so glad you posted this article because most people won’t/can’t take the time and do the research themselves to know the truth. They feel if it is being offered through the parish by a priest, brother, or nun, it must be OK for a Catholic to do! These scholars have great expertise and have done a great job, and their work needs to be available to others. I was invited to participate in Centering Prayer and did a little research about it and came to the conclusion that our goal is not to put “nothing” in our hearts and minds, but to put “Jesus” in the center of our interior and exterior of out lives. He truly is our all in all!

  • nosidam

    I agree 100% with Patricia!
    There is always a small group of us who read these wonderful articles!
    Seems we always preach to the choir!
    Yes why can’t these articles be sent all over?
    There is so much online and available for those who “look-seek”.

    But there are huge amounts of people not searching and might only see something in a church bulletin or diosesean paper or insert.

    Yes many people are confused about much. Yes, clergy—religious. :’ (
    This is an excellent clear true comparison.
    It would be great to get it out there!

    And yes, I too years ago once tried centering prayer run by sisters who have a retreat house. They still do retreats with unorthodox ways.
    Many Catholics go there and have no idea they are off base.
    We must spread TRUTH out into the world.

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  • notarebel

    This article is very well written and clear. I have thought of Buddhism as on the level of self-help, self-improvement. It stops there. Although, and correct me if I am wrong, I heard there are some branches of Buddhism that acknowledge there is a God and encourage surrender to God, most do not believe in God as one divine Person, making a relationship with God impossible. In the writings of Buddha, “gods” are mentioned, but mostly to test people to see whether they would react to something negative. If they did not, they passed the test.
    Nosidam would like this article to be more widespread…maybe in a pamphlet form…to distribute. One way to make Buddhism less attractive is to help exisiting Catholics to grow spiritually. People feel a need for something, but they know they are not getting what they need in their own church just going to Mass on Sundays.

    • Patricia

      from the posting above:. People feel a need for something, but they know they are not getting what they need in their own church just going to Mass on Sundays.

      One can’t get anything MORE than the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ when we CONSUME THE WORD (Jesus is the Eternal Word) in sacrament and by listening to the Gospel as they are Jesus Himself Who is the Way, The Truth, and the Life!
      It is our individual responsibly then to take these graces, thrifts, and gifts, pray and meditate upon them, read about them, and apply them to our personal lives so that we can live the gospel and carry Christ to others.
      Perhaps additional catechesis or conversations with others individually in small groups or classes can help one internalize these gifts. When people have a chance to share in small groups, they verbalize how our beautiful Catholic Faith has helped them realize God’s presence and workings in their own lives and listen to how God is working in and through others. Perhaps we could say, that going to Mass and not putting anymore time or energy Into you faith is not sufficient for a full life in Christ. It is certainly not a “grab and go meal” that is self -contained to that one hour a week, satisfies our hunger and spiritual needs just one-a-week will do ya” kind of thing. The Mass is foundational and the source and summit of our faith, strengthens and refreshes us, but we must also have personal prayer, acts of love, works of charity, spiritual reading and faith sharing on various levels with a chance to discuss, express, and share our faith with others to approach the fullness of a Life in Christ.

      • notarebel

        This is a good point. The Hispanic community especially is going for the longer sermons and caring from the pastors in non-Catholic churches. In Mexico City the Catholic Church has fairly recently started a Bible Study and in a few weeks they had to have three sessions and it grew from there. That is how hungry Catholics are. There is a transition from believing what they were taught to forming their own spirituality and in this time, they almost always need more information, more testimonies, and groups are one of maybe six or seven essentials that they need at this time if they are to stay Catholic. Another one is that they need to have a forum for expressing their insights, maybe a jail ministry, or teaching CCD….they need to externalize what they are finding out is their spirituality to those who may not be there yet. Another is apologetics….they need to know why they believe, the significance of that belief, and why other beliefs are not as true, good, or whatever. There are a few more. This has to be done before they can go on spiritually, and is true for any religion. See how Moslems are expressing their firm beliefs by killing people who do not believe. That is extreme, but they are after the same task of making their beliefs their own, by words and actions. After this is accomplished, all this ceases, and surrendering to God is the main focus, and then on…. This is on Buddhism, and the Buddhists do not even get this far. They go from what they were taught to working on themselves.

        • LizEst

          This isn’t an especially Hispanic issue. Hunger for truth is evident across all strata of society. Thus, one of the reasons for this website.

          • notarebel

            Thanks, LizEst….I didn’t mean it to sound like a Hispanic issue. It is happening everywhere….English speaking Protestant pastors have told me that more than one third of their congregations are former Catholics, and they say they make great church members because they are used to going to church every Sunday. Some pastors are giving these people reasons to stay away from the Catholic Church and I cringe whenever I hear former Catholics stand up in these churches and before the whole congregation say that they used to worship Mary and now they are saved and are following Jesus. I have asked many former Catholics why they left the church, and it is never for doctrine reasons….they ALWAYS say they were looking for something more. They say they have what they wanted in whatever church they ended up in. Catholics have something more, but this tells me there are a lot of people who don’t know about it, and evidently, the Mass and Sacraments didn’t do it for them for some reason….Do they take it for granted, or just not do their homework? Maybe they need a more personal pastor or spiritual director to guide them. This they get in a Protestant Church that is smaller, and the pastor or assistant takes personal interest in each member. It is more like a club where you know everyone, you belong, you participate, and have perks in….than a Catholic church where it is you and Jesus and people talk about community, and you give the sign of peace to perfect strangers, and you get swallowed up in the crowd and then go home and watch football.

          • LizEst

            Thanks notarebel. The only reason I wrote what I did was that you wrote “the Hispanic community especially.” That’s why it sounded like you were singling out “Hispanics”. But, I guess I was mistaken. Moving on, the primary reason there has been a great exodus is that, for many years, the catechesis in the Church in a good number of parishes in the US at least (and probably elsewhere), has not been the best. That is turning around. But, we will see the effects of it for a long time. Meanwhile, the Church is growing. More and more people continue to enter the Church every year…this is despite what the popular press would have one believe. Many, many Catholic parishes are great communities, warm, welcoming, caring, with caring pastors, etc.

          • Patricia

            Research is showing that people used to BELONG to a church that shared their same BELIEFS. Now, they go to a church where they feel they BELONG, and then BELIEVE as the teachings there. Protestant churches do a big pull on the youth asking them to bring SEVERAL friends on a Friday night, perhaps, where they have brought in sand to cover a field to play “beach volleyball”, have a free barbeque, and then settle down for a short “fun way” of teaching and reflection. Mid- school and high schoolers literally eat it up because it is fun, it is free, they are only with their peers (very important for this age)…they fell cool and free and unstructured.
            They may begin to learn about God, but are they learning what they need for salvation? Unfortunately, they can draw Catholic youth away from the Sacraments, the true remedies for our soul, into this external facade of salvation.

            An important aspect of living our spiritual life is have opportunities to internalize the beliefs on a personal level and externalize the faith through discussion and activities/works. If we can internalize and externalize we live the faith through and through!

          • LizEst

            Our parish does this, too! And, we draw in kids from all religions. We have a very strong youth ministry.

          • Patricia

            Perhaps it would be a great idea to share the strong youth ministry ideas, not to imitate but to draw in and keep our youth. I have been in groups where people who had gotten involved in this ministry were asking for ideas from others! There must be lots of things that are working that could be a benefit to others!

        • NYCFiredog

          Having spent a few years in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, I have to disagree with your point on Buddhists working on themselves alone. They are very active in service to others when they are practicing fully. It was a Buddhist nun friend that introduced me to Catholic nuns that she worked with in service to the people in Nam and in Cambodia.

      • NYCFiredog

        Patricia. I think you’re onto something. Teaching on St. Teresa of Avilla and her methods of prayer will help take us deeper than just sitting in the pews passively on Sundays and hearing the homily and lining up for Communion. My time in Mindfulness Meditation helps me go and stay deep throughout the Mass even with a lukewarm Priest who lecturing on outer levels. We are a fast paced people who do not know how to slow down and sit in silence. If we can not sit in silence, we can never hear what God is trying to say to us. And praying and meditation in groups IS more powerful and multiplied in power. Where 2 or 3 are gathered in My Name…..

        • Patricia

          YES! YES!

  • LizEst

    Thank you for your comment, kayeloney. Although Louisa’s cause has been opened, we need to be careful here. There is a portion of her writing that states she was born without original sin. And, she talks about ushering in the third fiat. All this is a big red flag. Also, Luisa’s writings claim new revelation, another big red flag. She certainly lived a holy life. But, please be very careful with these writings. As reported by EWTN, in 2012, “Concerning the status of Luisa’s writings, the Archbishop of Trani has recently stated that the Moratorium on Luisa’s writings remains in force! Pre-empting the moratorium will only ensure the spread of theological errors and improper catechesis, as well as prejudice the Cause of Luisa Piccarreta. The archbishop encourages prayer groups on her spirituality, but asks the faithful to await the final verdict on, and proper interpretation of, the doctrines contained in the writings.”

  • LizEst

    Kay–Thanks for the information. Luisa’s writing is beautiful, but there are problematic things in it. It could be due to translation errors. But, that seems unlikely because her writing is in Italian which many people know and have access to. That someone has done their doctoral dissertation on Luisa does not mean that Luisa has been approved by the Church. That an Archbishop has authorized study groups on her writing does not mean that she has been approved by the Church. These study groups are part of the normal process of determining whether the cause should continue to go forward. The Church has not lifted the moratorium. What are your official sources for this information? I would like to read them on line. Thanks. I, too, have read her writings.

    • The one thing that bothers me about those writings of Luisa is that it is said that St. Joseph did not have the gift of living in the divine will (although Mary did), so as a result people living in the divine will would be holier than Joseph. It seems only right that St. Joseph is the holiest person after Mary as he was the one closest to Jesus and Mary in life. It seems right that the positions on the right and the left of Jesus would be given to Mary and Joseph.

  • marybernadette

    ‘Such an excellent article.’ ‘Jesus taught very clearly that unless we take up our cross and follow Him, we cannot be HIs disciple.’ How we carry our crosses with the help of His Grace, is the way of Salvation for ourselves and others. Pope emeritus Benedict, I believe, said ‘Life is about ‘suffering well.’ We can ask the Lord that when we do suffer, to have the ‘deep peace and joy of spirit, in doing this so.’ Of course, we also are surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ the Holy Angels and Saints, esp. Mother Mary, in helping us along the way!

  • LizEst

    notarebel– Be assured the Church is well aware of these issues of which you speak.

    Be the change you seek! Put into practice those things you would like to see happen in your Catholic parish. It doesn’t mean one has to start a new social group, although that might be one part of it. Still, Christ did not call us to be a social club, but rather to be a community of love, and to spend ourselves in bringing His love and care to others. And, the foremost way that we love and care for our sisters and brothers in Christ is to teach them Truth. He came to die for us so that we might have eternal life. We are to imitate Him in this; we are to go and do likewise. If the Church is only focused on those in the Church’s own community, then we are not hearing His message. Our missionary outreach has to extend way past our own parish community. If we are seeking to be consoled rather than to console, we are not hearing Jesus’ message. If we are seeking to be helped, to be prayed over, rather than to help and pray for, we are not hearing the message. If we are seeking to be loved, rather than to love, we are not hearing His message. …it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

    • notarebel

      Got it!!! And I am, but it has taken me a long time, because if you are not clergy or a nun nor have a title, it is difficult to get your event or group sponsored. And the adult ed, run by deacons or the director of religious education look at you like “that’s nice…maybe we can do that someday. Ho hum.” or “We don’t have space or money for that here. We would need to hire a janitor.” Is it better to start intra-parish small groups and have them in a home, and then just let your parish priest know what you are doing. Lay people trying to function this way in the church–well even if they have been in the parish and know the priests and deacons, are not encouraged to do such things. We asked advice from our parish priests as to how to proceed once we were organized, and then gave him a list of dates and topics we would be discussing for 2015. He has not stopped us.

      I guess it helped that I am the parish pianist for most of the Masses and the others are readers and Eucharistic ministers. Still, it does not get in the bulletin yet.

      • LizEst

        That your priests have not stopped you is a positive thing. They are going to want to see it succeed well, and for a good while, before it will get in the bulletin. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a number of years. Once it is well established, invite the deacons and priests to these small groups. Let them see how organized your groups are and how faithful to the Magisterium. Incorporate the pastor’s/bishop’s/Pope’s/Church’s agenda into the groups. If this is of God, God will grant the increase. Most every saint who has started a religious order had to face these difficulties. You are only seeing this on a small scale. So, don’t give up! That would confirm their non-endorsement. But, be humble as well. If the pastor tells you not to continue, it would be a bitter pill, but you would need to humbly submit your desires to what he wants. Many blessings on your endeavors!

        • notarebel

          Thank you, LizEst. That was very encouraging!

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    liz,
    Fr. Young of the Divinewillministries@live.com sent out a letter July 23, 2010 saying that the Second Thelologain assigned to evaluate the writing of Luis Picceretta by the Vatican Congregation for the cause of the saints has given a positive, that is favorable judgment. The offical censors librorum for the cause of Luisa have found nothing contrary to the faith. Pope Benedict XVI. Fr.Joesph Iannuzzi you can google his web site. Fr Young on radio Maria has a talk show on Luisa writing every Saturday morning, on their web site you can go to the a list of the past talks a listen to them up to the current talks. their is also Tony Hickey of Manchester, England who is doing talks around the country on the Divine Will and Luisa writing’s. Hope this helps you.

    • LizEst

      Please re-read EWTN’s note from 2012 (two years after what you cite), “Concerning the status of Luisa’s writings, the Archbishop of Trani has recently stated that the Moratorium on Luisa’s writings remains in force! Pre-empting the moratorium will only ensure the spread of theological errors and improper catechesis, as well as prejudice the Cause of Luisa Piccarreta. The archbishop encourages prayer groups on her spirituality, but asks the faithful to await the final verdict on, and proper interpretation of, the doctrines contained in the writings.” There is nothing out there that says that the moratorium has been lifted. If it had been lifted, it would certainly have been proclaimed far and wide by many official sources. Again, she had beautiful things to say and certainly lived a saintly life. I’m not disputing that. However, there are things in her writings that have caused concern.

  • Judy Silhan

    Excellent information on the truths of Buddhism. I will certainly share this with those who are choosing an “easier” path to the truth than the Catholic Church. Speaking of confusion, there is such with a movement called Chrislam. I am being told that Rick Warren supports it and he is popping up in many Catholic circles. Muslims do not honor our God either. Is the Catholic church, in trying to welcome all people of faith as Pope Francis seems to suggest, including Muslims as Christians?

  • NYCFiredog

    I agree with you Notarebel. We can learn quite a lot from our Protestant Brothers and Sisters. We have a tendency to be more passive with the Priest as the center of everything. I do sense a more active laity and more willingness to surrender more responsibility to laity in todays church. My Catholic Parish near Dallas Texas has a tremendous amount of lay ministries and lay involvement, but I think it’s out of our exposure to the Evangelical Protestant churches that this happens in our parish culture.

  • LizEst

    Not all priests and deacons treat the laity in the same way. Not all laity treat priests and deacons in the same way.

    • NYCFiredog

      Did I say that ALL do? But it is “Prevalent”.

      • LizEst

        I’ve run into both…and do not find it “prevalent.” Pray for those you encounter with this issue.

        • I agree with you Liz – I find this kind of problem more common when the laity generally exhibit a negative or disrespectful attitude towards them…

  • LizEst

    A priest does not have to have a stole on to give a blessing. Yes, humility is a great virtue for everyone to have and to work on.

    • NYCFiredog

      When I was refused by my Priest, I asked the owner of a Catholic book store if she knew a Priest that would help me (how sad is that?). She asked me “He was a Diocesan Priest, I’m guessing?” “Yes”. She wasn’t surprised, but she was saddened. She directed me to Latin parish 20 minutes away. This Priest sensed that I had a reason for asking for this, and he went into the Sacristy, put on his Priestly robes and stole and gave the full blessing. He was saddened when I told him why I had to come to him. How sad that a Layman knows more than his Priest on such a basic and necessary Sacramental Blessing and is chastened for asking. (my family was dealing with an ex who has many ancestral generations of Satanic worship and black magic through santeria). And btw, I do pray sincerely for my Priest and am very prayerful and on the lookout for my own contamination in this. I know what attacks and strains a Priest can be under. Or rather, I can only guess. But as it is necessary for all of us to examine our pride and humility, it is doubly so for our Priests who are guiding us. And that is one thing I am grateful for in our new Pope Francis. He is a humble Priest exhorting his Priests to a new humility. I do notice that it is the Marian Priests that are truly the holiest and most humble.

      As to your comment on Blessing with a Stole, answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

      Q: I was told that a priest’s blessing over a person or object, given without wearing his stole, is one given by himself as a man, whereas a blessing given while wearing his stole has more power in that it comes with the power and protection of the charisms given him as a vicar of Christ. Is this true? Should we ask them to wear their stole when they give a blessing? When children approach our pastor for a blessing with their arms crossed over their chest during Communion, he taps them on the head with the back of his hand and says: “God bless you.” Is the back of the hand appropriate? Is this a blessing? Isn’t he retaining the blessing rather? – E.S., Mississauga, Ontario

      A: Certain liturgical blessings, such as the blessing of holy water, naturally demand the use of a stole due to fidelity to the rite. In such cases both the proper vesture and the correct liturgical formulas should be used without cutting corners out of expediency.

      • LizEst

        Good points. Yes, it’s good to have the stole to keep fidelity to the rite. Fr. McNamara is correct. That should be the usual case. He chose his words well! He is not saying that the blessing is less effective, or is not a blessing, without the stole. Having the stole on does not constitute the form and matter of the blessing. The blessing comes from the office of the priest, who has been given authority to teach, sanctify and preach.

        If you have an issue with a particular priest, you should first take it up privately with him. If he won’t listen to you, bring a few others. And, if that doesn’t work, get the bishop involved. By the way, Fr. McNamara has written a number of posts for this site as well. We are thankful for all the assistance he has given us here.

        • NYCFiredog

          I was in private with him when I requested the Blessing in the first place. I don’t expect much of a different response from the first response he gave me since it will also be a looked at as a challenge to his Authority. I am not interested in this turning into a confrontation which I believe it would. I will just pray for him, and for my own attitude of true gratitude for this man’s sacrifice. I don’t expect to the one who he will receive instruction from however. He won’t take it from me.

        • NYCFiredog

          btw. Thanks for the suggestion which I answered below.

  • Patricia

    From two of your postings:
    I guess it is difficult for me to explain what I see when I visit the Protestant churches. I guess it helped that I am the parish pianist for most of the Masses and the others are readers and Eucharistic ministers.
    Please stay in the Catholic Church and don’t be discouraged. Stay and “BE the Change” to help keep people involved so they don’t leave and do what you described when you visit Protestant churches. Why, because Jesus is with us in Holy Communion and His Word. We go to church to WORSHIP God. Our focus is to be on HIM!

  • He is speaking in terms of the philosophy.

  • Regarding americanized eastern religion – you are dead on target. However, to state that a Buddhist’s oneness with the Universe is no different than a mystics union with God is like saying that a man’s union with his wife’s hand made clothing is no different than a man’s union with his wife. In fact, the reality is far worse. Man coming to union with the non personal creation is a pseudo union with something far lower in the order of creation than man himself – something on the order of man sitting on a pile of sand and claiming something called union has happened because of the way the man thinks and believes about the sand.

  • It is funny how you are generally positive about Buddhists you have met and the opposite about priests…

  • Pingback: Opportunities to Strengthen Our Faith and Communicate With Love | Brother Juniper made me do it()

  • LizEst

    …and read this timely post by Father Zuhlsdorf “Father Z” here about not needing a stole for confession (he’s pretty traditional): http://wdtprs.com/blog/2015/03/ask-father-stole-less-confession-okay/

  • It is funny how you are generally positive about Buddhists you have met and the opposite about priests…

    • Bob Gravlin

      After coming to Christ after being lost I tried centering prayer in good faith using the name of Jesus and I found it to be a type of self hypnosis so different from those few times I had a small touch of God’s love and presence. With Catholic contemplative prayer we start to meditate with our minds and emotions and God himself simplifies our prayer when He chooses. If we try to falsely simplify our prayer we can too easily find a false peace or stillness so inferior to the stillness where God is present.

  • Funny – even when you say something positive about priests you also bring up negative (which is fine, just an observation). My reflection is on the general tone of the discourse. I didn’t say you “never” say anything positive.

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    After reading many of the comments in here, I’m curious to what people mean by emptying their minds? When I was drawn into contemplative prayer I was taught to focus on Christ- not empty my mind. According to St. Teresa she said to focus on Christ crucified and not to allow pride to take us away from the humanity of Jesus(not sure I worded that exactly right). So this is what I did and it kept me safe from any demonic influences. I also learned it is impossible to “empty” one’s mind and most times to concentrate on the prayer unless God Himself lifts us into deeper contemplation. I know Buddhism teaches this but that’s not what contemplation is about- I have understood that contemplation leads us to focus on Christ and He takes it (us) from there? At least this has been my experience. Can someone correct me or straighten me out here? Thanks!

    • You are exactly on target. You have it right. No editor from our site or from our team disagrees though sometimes those who make comments may be confused.

      • SnowCherryBlossoms

        Oh I apologize if you thought I meant you were implying this- not at all! The article was very good. Just something I noticed in some of the comments which of course you have no control over! I also think the “Spirit” of Protestantism (by this I only mean the protesting of the True Faith) has a lot to do with the attraction to centering prayer. I have never met a protestant, fallen away catholic or worldly minded person that even knows what contemplation is or that it exists because they lost this when they split/left the Catholic Church. They have lost one of the greatest treasures on earth and in Heaven,, a great gift! So in their search for a deeper “spirituality” they sadly are drawn to things such as centering prayer or the new age movement..and whatever Satan will come up with next…and in the end they will find deception and self, not God.

  • You are correct. We don’t an any way support or agree with the errors put forth by Keating or the Centering Prayer movement.

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