Thursday, January 23, 2014

Prayer

Was going through my Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church e-mails just now, and I thought I would share a couple of little bits about prayer.  Sometimes, it's good to be reminded of things we already know.

 Why is prayer sometimes a struggle?
The spiritual masters of all times have described growth in faith and in love for God as a spiritual, life-and-death combat. The battlefield is man's interior life. The Christian's weapon is prayer. We can allow ourselves be defeated by our selfishness and lose ourselves over worthless things or we can win God.
Often someone who wants to pray must first conquer his lack of will power. Even the Desert Fathers were acquainted with spiritual sluggishness ("acedia"). Reluctance to seek God is a big problem in the spiritual life. The spirit of the times sees no point in praying, and our full calendars leave no room for it. Then there is the battle against the tempter, who will try anything to keep a person from devoting himself to God. If God did not want us to find our way to him in prayer, we would not win the battle. (YOUCAT question 505)
Is it possible to pray always?
Prayer is always possible. Prayer is vitally necessary. Prayer and life cannot be separated.
You cannot keep God content with a few words in the morning or evening. Our life must become prayer, and our prayers must become life. Every Christian life story is also a story of prayer, one long attempt to achieve ever greater union with God. Because many Christians experience a heartfelt longing to be with God constantly, they turn to the so-called "Jesus prayer", which has been an age-old custom particularly in the Eastern Churches. The person who prays it tries to integrate a simple formula the most well-known formula is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" into his daily routine in such a way that it becomes a constant prayer. (YOUCAT question 510)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

So you want to be a saint?

Looking for a path to self-betterment?  Try getting married and having kids.

I can't imagine a better way to make it to sainthood.

Of course, this implies that you are the kind of person who will compromise, be patient and work hard at staying married and raising healthy kids.

Because your marriage and your kids will require constant patience, and compromise.  You will consistently be reminded of all your shortcomings, and you will be required to admit to them and work at overcoming them.  Your faults will consistently be brought up, if not directly, then at least indirectly, by the consequences of things done, left undone or done badly.  Every fail will be revisited.  Every shortcoming will haunt you. You will be forced to learn patience in the dead of night after one more sleepless night in a row of sleepless nights.  You will learn to bite your tongue instead of lashing out.  You will learn humility, you will learn that you are not perfect.  You will learn that you do NOT in fact know how to communicate and that you need to learn again how to communicate. And then just when you think everything is going well, your kids will suddenly turn into their own persons, and have different points of views, and you will have to deal with that as well.  And sometimes you will have to let them make their own mistakes, and you will have to learn to step back and stop trying to control everything, and then you will question everything you do, are you doing too much, are you doing too little?  Should you be be showing anger at the seemingly outrageous thing they just did, or should you be showing understanding, because maybe they're going through something really hard?

It will be one long learning process, one long rearranging of yourself, readjusting of yourself, re-committing to your engagement.  Some days you will want to scream.  Some days you will shake your fist at God and ask Him, could He stop it already with the potter's hand, turning you into the perfect vessel, and doesn't He think you're good enough yet?

Apparently He does not.  Because He will just keep at it, throwing you curve balls, opening trap doors and keeping you on your toes.  Because you haven't learned your lessons well enough yet.  Because you need to pray harder, and you need to let go and let God.  Because even top athletes still go through constant training, in order to achieve near perfect results.  Because if you don't stay on your toes, you lose your edge.

Signs

I came across this on Facebook just now, and... I kind of felt the need to put a little input into it, just from the perspective of a 41 year old woman.

First off, these aren't signs that you are falling in love.  These are signs that you are attracted to him.  Love comes after, and it has nothing to do with these things.  Love is a choice.  You found a guy you were attracted to.  Good.  He turned out to be an awesome guy.  Even better.  You think (mostly) alike on all the important issues, you complement each other, you argue, but you make compromises, and you try to understand where the other is coming from.  You don't need to compromise on the big stuff, because you agree on that.  You can talk to each other about pretty much anything.  You share the important things.  You care about the well-being of each other.  You respect each other.  The more you get to know him, the better you like him.  The more amazing he is.  You like him despite his faults.  He likes you despite yours.  You can easily see yourself living your whole life together.  NOW you're falling in love.  And when he's not the only thing you think about anymore, when just the sound of his voice isn't enough to make you smile, when you no longer re-read his texts over and over, when you aren't constantly smiling every time you think of him, it doesn't matter, because those things weren't love.  Love is a choice.  Love is choosing to stick by someone you really like, and respect and admire for the rest of your life.  Love is a gift.  And it keeps giving and giving and giving, and it doesn't stop; not when you are mad, not when you are upset, or hurt or just not feeling it.  You choose to care about his well-being.  You choose to do special things for him.  You choose to ask him how his day was.  That is love.

Love is caring for the other person, even when you're angry.
It's important to make this kind of distinction, because later on in life, once you're married, you will come across other people you are attracted to.  Attraction is a natural thing, and not bad in itself.  It's what you do with it that is either good or bad. Eventually, the feelings of attraction WILL die out and this is also normal.  On the one hand, it's good to know that this doesn't mean you're not in love with the guy (or girl) you chose to marry anymore.  On the other hand it's also good to know that feeling attracted to someone new will likely only be temporary, and it certainly doesn't mean you are in love with them instead now. You cannot let pure feelings direct your life.  They come and they go, and they can't always be relied upon.

Love ISN'T just a feeling.  You DON'T just fall in and out of it, you grow into it, and it gets stronger and stronger, because you choose to work at it.  Love is a mutual thing.  You both care for each other.  When one person does not care, and desires to harm the other, then love is absent.

Learning to show restraint towards feelings while still single is important.  If you throw yourself into a relationship without restraint, how will you see the warning bells and avoid ending up in a serious relationship, hard to get out of, or married to the wrong person?  Practicing restraint while still single allows you to more easily ignore feelings of attraction to other people once you are married.  And, eventually, the feelings disappear.  Because they are temporary.  You're not in love with that other person who's not your spouse, despite whatever you may be feeling, because you choose to not act on it.  Because you've already chosen to love the one you're with, even when you don't feel it.  THAT is love.  You find someone you like, and you stick by them.  Loyal like a dog.  And you ignore the rest.

And it is this sticking by them, this constant caring for them, that eventually develops a much deeper sentiment than pure attraction ever will.  That genuine affection, that deep knowing exactly how the other is going to react to this or that situation, that depending on each other for this or that thing, the automatic falling into roles, the inside jokes, the gentle teasing, the making up after a fight, the making it work even when it seems it can't work anymore, and making it over the next hill.  Nothing compares to that deep sentiment of sharing a life together and choosing each other over everything else, even when the feelings weren't always there.  THAT is love.  And when you get to that point, that is when you know that you are still only starting to fall in love with this person you've been with for years.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crazy white men among the Cree

What do you get when a white family moves north to live among the Cree?

Dad grew up a pioneer in what was still a sparsely-settled province of Alberta. Mom grew up on a farm in New Brunswick that had been in the family for generations. Dad was a Catholic French-Canadian, whose family had been in Québec for centuries. Mom was an English speaking Anglican of Scottish and Loyalist descent who lived in an area where people were suspicious of French-speaking people. Dad liked the outdoors, hunting, snaring, trapping and camping. Mom was afraid of horses, so she rode the bony backs of cows home instead.

Dad (on right), on a hunting trip
What do you get when you put the two of them together? Besides a Dad who knows the name of just about every fruit-bearing tree and potato plant available in North America; a mother able to tell the difference between McIntosh, Empire, Spartan and Cortland apples (as well as a few different breeds of cow); Midnight mass at Christmas complete with Réveillon; Maritime fiddling records steeped in Scottish tradition; reducing, re-using and recycling before it was in style and summer vacations to both ends of the country, you get some interesting memories.

Mom (on left) with her sister, on the family farm
Queenstown, New Brunswick
Somehow, (after a year of theology courses at St Paul’s University in Ottawa) Mom and Dad ended up North with the family in Moose Factory Ontario; neither East nor West exactly, and neither French nor English, but among the Cree people. Because we kids weren't mixed up enough, they had to add another culture to the pot.

Moose Factory is an island, so it goes without saying that in order to get anywhere in summer, you need a boat. To get to the mainland or to Charles Island Provincial Park, you could always get a water taxi. But if you wanted to explore any of the other islands around, it was much more practical to get oneself a boat.

Anyone who had a boat in Moose Factory had a freighter canoe with a 40 hp motor. Those were your real boats. The hunter’s boat, the taxi boat, the man’s boat, the anybody-who-was-somebody’s boat. Dad was a deacon in the Catholic Church with five mouths to feed and not a lot of extra money. A good boat and outboard motor didn't come cheap so he couldn't afford one.

Going over to Moosonee in the mid-70's
Cecil (on Dad's lap) Rose Anne and myself (in front)
Then, one day, he saw it; the inflatable rubber raft in the Sears catalogue. Dad mentally rubbed his hands together. Finally he would be able to take his family on boat excursions to nearby islands and not have to pay a fee or arrange a trip with someone else.

Dad’s boat arrived in due time and, all excited to try it out, we drove over to the back of the island (where the Cree Village Ecolodge now stands) parked, took the trail down past the Maybee’s house to Nurse’s beach. This was going to be amazing.

Once down at the beach, Dad took out his little pump and proceeded to blow up the raft. After about 10 minutes, we got bored and took off to play along the beach. Half an hour later, possibly more, Dad called us back. We proceeded to get into the boat. Now, the sides of the boat were blown up, but the bottom part was barely inflatable and remained flat. Until we got into it. At this point, being rubber and not solid, it sunk under our feet to the bottom of the river.

Some of us managed to get in, despite the tendency of the bottom of the boat to give way as soon as someone new got in. Then my father had to push us off from shore. This was no easy feat, as the boat was now sitting on the sand at the bottom of the river, thanks to the weight of our bodies on it. Dad had to scrape us off from shore, and then try to hop in while spreading out his weight enough so that the whole boat didn’t just collapse inward and send us all to the bottom of the river. It was a very delicate maneuver, but somehow he managed it, and we were off.

The small outboard motor roared to life. Okay, it sputtered to life. No, it murmured to life. I think the mosquitoes buzzing around were louder than the motor.

From Nurse’s Beach to Charles Island, it’s about half a kilometre. In a freighter canoe, with a 40 hp motor, it would have taken us all of 2 minutes to get to the other side, if that.

Dad’s motor couldn't have been more than 2 hp. It was attached with some kind of rubber strap and kept slipping. It took us at least 15 minutes to get to the other side. Your grandmother (or your Kookum) could probably dog-paddle faster than that.

Then he had to turn around and come back for the others. It took a whole hour before everyone was standing on Charles Island.

After that, Dad, being the problem-solver and manually good with his hands, made a few adjustments to the boat. He carved a solid bottom for it out of a piece of plywood. No more danger of sinking the moment you stepped into to it. At the stern, he added a wooden support for the motor. He put together a make-shift trailer for the boat, so it could be inflated and set up ahead of time and then taken to the beach.

Every time we’d go to Charles Island, he’d hitch the boat on its trailer to the back of the van, Mom would pack a lunch and we’d all pile into the van and head off to Nurses Beach. When we got older we’d duck in the back so no one could see us. As if the whole island didn’t recognize the van, the “white man’s boat” and our Dad in the front. As if none of our peers would guess we were there.

One day, when we were still quite young, Dad decided to go camping. Mom wasn’t much of a camper and there were younger kids to take care of, so he took Rose Anne and I, the two oldest.

Dad had previously taken us to Hayes Island, to clear out some of the brush in order to make room to pitch a tent. That Friday afternoon was beautiful, warm and sunny. We took the boat down to the flats and set out a second time, with all the camping supplies, for Hayes Island. Dad pitched the tent and Rose Anne and I swam a bit off the rocky shore. We built a fire, roasted marshmallows and finally called it a night. The evening was fine and we were more than comfortable in our sleeping bags.

I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of my father fighting with the tent in the howling wind, trying to keep it upright. Our sleeping bags were wet and cold with rain. The temperature had dropped 10 degrees.

Poor Dad had to fight with the (white man’s) tent all night. Rose Anne and I huddled together, trying to keep warm. When day broke, the wind settled down, but we were stranded, as the rubber raft had floated away.

Around noon, we were finally rescued. Someone across the river in Moose Factory had seen Dad’s attempts to use clothes as a flag, to try to catch anyone’s attention, and sent people over in a boat to get us. The rubber raft was found and brought back as well.

I don’t know if Dad ever lived that one down.

Family (with a friend) January 1, 1984.
Moose Factory, Ontario
In Moose Factory, people still remember us as "those weird white men", what with our tendency to do things our own way.  Mom the ex-school marm, used to call us home with a bell, the way farm workers in the fields were called for lunch or school kids called in from recess.  This was a novelty in Moose Factory.  We kids still hear about it to this day.

Mom, still being a school mistress at heart, used to come in to the school and sit in on our classes, just to see what and how we were being taught.  She would do this at least once a year.  No other mother, I repeat, NO OTHER MOTHER did this.  She also made a point of inviting all of our teachers over for supper at least once in the school year.

In the early days, I remember my parents providing water for neighbours who came over with pails, because they didn't have any running water.  Not everyone had an indoor toilet either in those days.  Many had just an outhouse.  We were lucky to have one toilet and a chamber pot in the basement.  My parents also often provided a place to spend the night and a few cans of beans and other necessities to people who temporarily needed it.

Moose Factory changed a lot in the years we spent there, by the mid-eighties, most people had modern homes and running water.  Our home had been renovated and we now had two toilets (the chamber pot was never seen again).

My parents left Moose Factory in 1996.  They hadn't returned to visit again until summer 2011, when we kids took them up to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary and Dad's 35th ordination anniversary.

Mom and Dad, July 2011 in what used to be Dad's garden.
Moose Factory, Ontario

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fail

Man butchers new-born babies capable of surviving outside the womb. Makes jokes about it. Also kills woman who went to him for abortion. Mainstream media adamantly refuses to cover story. But those of us who find this despicable are the ones who need to stop "inbreeding"?  Sheesh.  When you have no valid argument, just resort to insults...
Read more here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/04/politico-and-atlantic-coms-turn-to-explain-gosnell-blackout/

(WARNING: graphic imageshttp://www.jillstanek.com/2013/04/four-reasons-why-media-isnt-covering-gosnell-mass-murder-trial/

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/acknowledge-dr-kermit-gosnells-actions-require-immediate-review-abortion-laws-if-it-can-save-one/VW3tHX3j

http://articles.philly.com/2013-03-20/news/37846890_1_adrienne-moton-women-s-medical-society-clinic-kermit-gosnell

Join the tweetfest: https://www.facebook.com/events/440055226080593/

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saint Monica and other Saintly Wives

I've posted about Saint Monica in the past, a few years ago, but I find her story (and that of Saint Rita) interesting.
Because of her name and place of birth, Monica is assumed to have been of Berber origin.[3] She was married early in life to Patritius (or Patricius), who held an official position in Tagaste (present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria). Patritius was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica's married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius's mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was, of course, a gulf between husband and wife; her alms deeds and her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. (Wikipedia)
Patritius died shortly after converting to Christianity, and Saint Monica decided not to remarry.  Saint Rita also did not remarry and entered a convent, and there are many instances of other, perhaps more happily married women such as Elizabeth Ann Seton who, once their husbands pass away, decide to enter convents or start up their own convents.

As a pre-teen (and teen) reading the Father Lovasik Lives of the Saints series, I used to wonder why they all ended up in convents.  Why didn't any of them just re-marry?  Especially the ones who didn't have happy marriages the first time around.  Here was their chance to finally find that happy-ever-after.  I could understand why those who'd had happy marriages might not want to re-marry, it made sense to me, back then, that after a happy, full life with someone, you might just not be interested in starting over with someone else, but why did they all consistently decide to remain single and almost all consistently enter convents?

That was when I still believed in happy-ever-after, the kind of fairy-tale happy-ever-after where you are so in love and so in tune with each other that life together is harmonious and you hardly ever disagree, and when you do, you never harbour hard feelings, or keep grudges, because even when you disagree you never hurt each other, even inadvertently.

That kind of happy-ever-after doesn't exist, not even in the best of marriages.

As a 40+ year old adult, I now see couples who break up and many who almost immediately start looking for a new partner, and I find myself wondering the opposite.  When one marriage (or the equivalent of marriage) has failed or even if there was a happy marriage, but a spouse has died, why do people want to try again?  When you have spent years making compromises, learning what not to do or what not to say in order to keep the peace, when you have put a huge effort into making something work, why would you want to start over again with someone new?

It has a lot to do with a person's idea of what marriage is.  People still think that marriage is the happy-ever-after, everything-will-be-easy-from-now-on thing from fairy tales and if one marriage doesn't work out easily, then you try another, and another, and another.

Romance is not love and love is not romance.  You can have both in a relationship, but it is equally possible to have one without the other.  Love is not necessarily a feeling, it is a choice.  We choose to love our children no matter their faults or our own weaknesses, but for some reason, we are not only incapable of loving our spouses despite their faults, but also incapable of loving them despite our own weaknesses.

Marriage has the inconvenience of throwing things up in your face that you would rather not know about yourself.  It is impossible to live with a person and not have them discover your imperfections, your weaknesses, your bad habits, your faults.  It is equally impossible for them to, at one time or another, not bring these things up, refer to them or make them evident to you in some way, directly or indirectly.

God seems to have a twisted sense of humour sometimes.  Why else would He "trick" us into believing marriage would be magical and beautiful and that we would live happily ever after, only to find out that we would have to work at controlling our own tempers, that we would be confronted with our own faults, that we would inevitably have to change and become better people in order to have that fairy tale happy-ever-after and that this would be an on-going, never-ending, never-easy thing to do?  The only magic in marriage comes, not from without, but from within, in our capacity to see the magic in the ordinary, in our capacity to create magic from nothing; in our ability to be innovative, creative and both forgiving of and able to find beauty in imperfection just as our creator is innovative, creative, forgiving and able to find beauty in each of us.

Marriage has the capacity to turn us either into saints or into bitter, unhappy people.  It really all depends on how willing we are to accept our own shortcomings.

But... when a person has put that much effort into a relationship and the relationship is over, why would anyone want to start over?  After the initial sadness and loneliness after the death of a spouse or the failure of a marriage, wouldn't a person just be glad to not be responsible or accountable to anyone else anymore?  Maybe that's just me though, being the introvert and dreaming of life on a desert island, surrounded with nothing but monkeys and parrots and coconut trees.

I get Pope Benedict XVI, I really do.  At some point, you just don't want the responsibility of the whole world on your shoulders anymore.  At some point, you just don't have the energy anymore, you've done your bit, and now you just want to go and hide and be contemplative.  Not that I think he was running away, he just knew that it was time for someone else to take up that cross, the weight of the world, and carry it for a bit.  I think his prayers will do us just as much good as his direction did when he was pope, and in a way, the fact that he resigned, instead of dying in office has not only given Catholics a new father for the church but also a "grandfather".  That's how I see it.  He hasn't abandoned us, like so many felt, instead his role has changed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pomp and Ceremony

 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  (Matt 22:11-13)  


I came across another version of the "Which of These Made a Vow of Poverty?" memes on facebook the other day, and I re-posted it with my own commentary, but I'd like to add a few things; one was pointed out by a friend, and the other I came across while reading Bible stories to my two youngest.

WHAT is the point of this meme? That it is morally wrong to wear ceremonial robes to a ceremony? So what now? We can't wear wedding dresses to a wedding? We can't wear graduation robes to a graduation? Military personnel should abstain from wearing their dress uniform at military ceremonies? Hollywood actors should wear rags to the Oscars? Native peoples shouldn't wear beaded, leather, ceremonial clothes to pow wows?


Pomp and Ceremony has its place in pompous and ceremonial occasions.  
"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me" (Matt 26:11)  

Oh right. I forgot. It's only Catholic clergy that should wear rags. Because apparently they're all sitting on a hoard of treasure somewhere (not doing anything with it except buying ceremonial robes) like Smaug in the Dwarf's mountain. Since they also all apparently took "vows of poverty", this clearly forbids them to wear ceremonial garb as long as there are still poor people in the world.

Obviously, not buying ceremonial garb, and using that money to buy food for the starving people is going to change things. Because buying food for the poor makes governments stand up and make just laws about things like minimum salary and not taking advantage of people and not letting big companies come in and do whatever they want with impunity. Yep. Problem solved.

I'd like to point out a couple of errors, the first of which is the fact that not all priests take vows of poverty. Only certain orders do. The second is this: while Jesus DOES want us to be concerned with the poor and to fight injustice in the world, he DOES NOT condone forgetting everything else, honour, respect, friendship, and yes - even pomp and ceremony in our ardour to do so.

I came across this story while reading stories from the Bible to my children last night:
A woman came to (Jesus) with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."
Clearly, when it comes to showing the proper respect to God, whether it be in dressing appropriately, as in the parable of the wedding where he who did not bother to dress in his best clothes was thrown out, whether it be anointing Christ's head with alabaster oil, (which was very costly) kneeling or bowing in the proper circumstances, spending quiet time in prayer, or some other thing, God is pleased.  There will always be poor people.  This should not stop us from honouring special occasions with expensive items, celebrating religious ceremonies with elaborate feasts afterwards or from showing the proper respect to Christ and his Church even if that means wearing fancy clothes while some less fortunate may have none.  We cannot dress and feed everyone in the world, but if we have done it for one other, we have done it for Christ.  I am sure that most of these cardinals have done it for more than one other.  The best way to eradicate poverty is not in giving all of one's money or belongings away, but in working towards eradicating injustice.  The point here being not to impoverish ourselves in order to be "in communion with" the poor, but rather to work with them in order to give them the same rights, the same opportunities that we have, that they might pull themselves up to the same level.  Evidently, the fact that injustice is pretty much impossible to eradicate should not stop us from trying!  Once again, I quote Samwise Gamgee: "there is some good in this world, and (...) it's worth fighting for."


A friend of mine pointed out that in the photo so self-righteously used, the children lining up to be fed were probably ironically being fed by Catholic Relief Services.

For the record, I prefer a Church where the clergy is capable of recognizing the solemnity, mystery and beauty of the liturgy by wearing the appropriate ceremonial robes. Thank you very much.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

To be a Just Man


I've been reading Plato's The Republic, among other things, and listening to the priest's homily on today's gospel brought a few of these things together.


The scribes and pharisees bring an adulteress before Jesus, in order to condemn her.  Instead of condemning her, Jesus says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  When everyone has left, Jesus asks her "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replies, "No one, sir." Then Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."

The point of the priest's homily was that Jesus did not come to condemn us, but as a physician come to heal the sick, he comes to save us from our sins.  He comes to make us holy and just people.

In his talk on the importance of apologetics, John Njoroge asks the questions: Why is Christianity not having the desired effect on people in Africa?  Why is there still so much injustice and evil being done, when people BELIEVE and go to church?

He points out that when asked which of the commandments was the most important, Jesus answered: "The most important one, is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:29-30)

The problem with the Christian faith today is that we are no longer taught to love the Lord with all our mind.  Logic and thought are left out of religion and the focus is put on relationship and emotion.  So people BELIEVE but somehow, this belief is NOT changing their lives.  Somehow, they are getting the message that Jesus came to die for our sins, but they are not getting the message that the Kingdom of Heaven starts here on earth, that Jesus wants us to have that little bit of Heaven here on earth, that he wishes us to "go and sin no more."
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."  (James 2:14-19)
Belief in God does no good, if it does not transform you.  This is why even protestants such as C.S. Lewis believe in Purgatory (see this talk by Evangelist Jerry Walls)  God's DESIRE is to make us in his image.  That is to say, like God.  We can never be as God in substance but, if we let Him transform us,  He will make us like Him in character.  Jerry Walls explains in his talk, based on C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, that, unless we are perfect ourselves, we can never truly appreciate Heaven.  Purgatory, contrary to some views, is not a punishment dealt to souls by God, but a begging of the souls to be purified so that they can be in Heaven with Him.  Heaven is not so much a place as a state of being.  If it is true that we make our own Hell, that Hell is the absence of God, and that we are the ones who bring ourselves to that state of being by rejecting God, then it is equally true that we make our own Heaven.  In order to be in a state of Heaven then, we MUST be pure.  Only God can purify us, and He can only do that if we let Him.

He goes on to mention that the soul recognizes that this may hurt somewhat.  The purification process is not an easy one.  It is not without pain and suffering that we are remolded into perfect beings, but this remolding, this recognition of the tendency inside us to sin and the effort to eradicate that tendency, is necessary in order to be in Heaven.  It is logical then to also believe that an impure soul, even if he had gained entrance to Heaven, would not want to stay there, would not be at ease or happy there.  Souls in Hell can never enter Heaven, not because God does not will it, but because THEY do not will it.

In Book One of The Republic, Socrates argues that it is better to be a just man than to be an unjust man.
Socrates: You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured one another?
Thrasymachus: No indeed, they could not.
Socrates: But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act together better?
Thrasymachus: Yes.
Socrates: And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?
Socrates points out that, even among unjust men, there must be a minimum of justice because absolutely unjust men would cause each other absolute evil, no common action could take place and they would destroy each other.  Injustice always becomes its own enemy.
Socrates: And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person; in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not at unity with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?
Thrasymachus: Yes 
He then goes on to point out that, in much the same way that the end purpose of the eye is to see, and the end purpose of the ear is to hear, and that their excellence is in seeing and hearing, "the same is true of all other things; they have each of them an end and a special excellence", and if "deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot fulfill their end".
Socrates: Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfill? For example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned to any other?
Thrasymachus: To no other.
Socrates: And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Thrasymachus: Assuredly.
Socrates: And has not the soul an excellence also?
Thrasymachus: Yes.
Socrates: And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that excellence?
Thrasymachus: She cannot.
Socrates: Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and superintendent, and the good soul a good ruler?
Thrasymachus: Yes, necessarily.
Socrates: And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and injustice the defect of the soul?
Thrasymachus: That has been admitted.
Socrates: Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill?
Thrasymachus: That is what your argument proves.
Socrates: And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the reverse of happy?
Thrasymachus: Certainly.
Socrates: Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?
Thrasymachus: So be it.
Socrates: But happiness and not misery is profitable.
Thrasymachus: Of course.
Socrates: Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable than justice.
Because of his tendency to sin, man cannot be in a state of Heaven.  In order to turn injustice into justice, retribution is demanded.  But God's idea of justice is not punishment, since injustice, as we have seen, inevitably punishes itself; we sinful creatures punish ourselves, God has no need to punish us.  What God desires above all is to bring us to Him and to make us like Him.  Only God can transform us and make us like him, but He could only do this by becoming human himself, and dying with us, in order to raise us up to eternal life.

To have faith in God then, is not only to believe in God but, as C.S. Lewis puts it:
[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” (Mere Christianity)
What God truly asks from all of us is this:
Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)