Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic by Matthew Lickona

My Protestant sensibilities are put off and, yes, somewhat offended by what Mr. Lickona and the Catholic Church call “sacramentals”. A scapular is a sacramental (sacred object or action) worn by lay Catholics to remind them of their devotion to the church and to the Lord:

“The devotional scapular typically consists of two small (usually rectangular) pieces of cloth, wood or laminated paper, a few inches in size, which may bear religious images or text. These are joined by two bands of cloth and the wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back. In many cases . . . the scapular come(s) with a set of promises for the faithful who wear them. Some of the promises are rooted in tradition, and others have been formally approved by religious leaders. For instance, for Roman Catholics, as for some other sacramentals, over the centuries several popes have approved specific indulgences for scapulars.” ~Wikipedia

It feels superstitious to me, and Mr. Lickona admits in his book that the idea of sacramentals and indulgences sometimes bothers him a bit, too. Nevertheless, as I read about Matthew Lickona’s spiritual journey from cradle Catholic to mature and devout defender of the faith, I was impressed with the centrality of the things that I believe really matter: devotion to Christ and commitment to trust in His grace to carry us through the things that we don’t always understand.

“I am a Roman Catholic, baptized as an infant and raised in the faith, a faith which holds the exemplary and redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ at its core.”

“My faith is weak. I am anxious when I think about the future. I have trouble considering the lilies of the field. I ought to trust in the Lord, I know; it’s His will I’m trying to obey. But He has been known to give crosses as gifts, so I often look elsewhere for comfort.”

“I think about God and the faith, and I hope my thinking has some spiritual worth. But knowing a great deal about God is not knowing God. Faith in Him is bound up with knowing Him, and woe to me if my faith is borrowed from the true faith of others. Because if I do not know Him, I fear He will not know me, and the door will be shut.”

“Just as I don’t base my faith on a personal experience of God, I don’t imagine that any particular personal suffering would make me doubt his existence, any more than it would make me doubt that water is wet. I do not tie up God’s existence, or even His love, with the sufferings of the world. My God is the God of Job.”

My God, too is the God of Job and of Peter, (Mr. Lickona would call him Saint Peter) who said to Jesus, “”Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

As long as we’re both following Jesus for those words that give eternal life, I can ignore the scapulars and the statues of the saints and the other Catholic trappings that Mr. Lickona says draw him to Christ and that I see as distractions at best. I think Matthew Lickona and I would disagree about many things, but it seems to me after reading his spiritual memoir that he and I would agree about Jesus.

I’ll be content to let Him sort out the rest of it at the Judgement, and if Mr. Lickona wants to go swimming with his scapular firmly in place to remind him of the grace and mercy of Our Lord Jesus, who am I to argue?

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” Romans 14:4

Matthew Lickona’s blog, Korrektiv: bad Catholics blogging at a time near the end of the world

2 thoughts on “Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic by Matthew Lickona

  1. “Mr. Lickona would call him Saint Peter” and certain non-Catholics would lay claim to the title of saint for themselves and often their entire communities on earth without question and without examination.

    Perhaps it best to consider, Why proclaim Peter as Saint Peter? Another Catholic trapping or maybe just maybe a teaching lesson on sainthood. Peter was martyrd for the faith. He was willing to lay down his life for a friend, John 15:13. No Greater Love

    Martyrdom leaves no doubt on sainthood hence Saint Peter and Saint Paul and Saint Andrew and Saint Matthew and all the first 50-60 bishops of Rome who, like the vast majority of the first apostles, died for Christ.

    It is right and just to acknowledge what or who God created in these persons and therefore all Western Catholics and all Eastern Orthodox as well as numerous Protestant communities readily acknowledge the sainthood of Peter and make him known as Saint Peter.

    Mother Theresa would say, “the Church does not make saints, it merely acknowledges God’s creation in them” or “we are all called to be saints” but the real question perhaps not pondered by those of your ilk is,… how has my profession of the Christian faith throughout my life truly granted me the title of sainthood?

    PS. the majority of saintly Christian persons never considered themselves saints during this earthly life. In one word, humility, lead them to be so.

    The practice or more correctly tradition of removing the title of Saint from Peter and Paul and the rest of the New Testament writers in non-Catholic commentary, bibles and evangelising thought is not only odd but a purposeful denial of what is true and good and just. Most tragically it has been done to affirm later doctrinal developments amongst those who have separated under the guise of reform.

    Therefore, we are called to be saints but what make you personally a saint? food for thought and Not merely, “other Catholic trappings” to ignore ;)

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