An indulgence is the remission (removal) of temporal punishment for sin in response to certain prayers or spiritual works. In common parlance an indulgence would reduce the time spent in purgatory if one should need to go there on one’s way to heaven. An indulgence does not take the place of a confession; confession and repentance of sin must have already taken place. [Read more…]
We recently discovered a great opportunity to pursue healing online, and we wanted to share it with you here! It’s called The Pray More Healing Retreat.
Healing is something we all need, whether that’s healing from sin, from illness, from loss, from abuse… God heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds.
The Pray More Healing Retreat is a self-paced, online retreat. It’s just like an in-person retreat that you can experience at home — anywhere, anytime.
They have six speakers for this retreat, and altogether, 20 videos focused on healing, suffering, and growing closer to God through your circumstances. They also share study guides for each talk and a transcript of each talk if you’d rather read through those talks listead of listening or watching them.
The speakers are Maura Preszler, Tim Glemkowski, Amy Thomas, Gary Zimak, Bonnie Engstrom, and Mario St. Francis Herrera.
Some of the retreat talks are about healing from specific problems — things like anxiety and worry, abuse, miscarriage, divorce, addiction or sin.
Other talks are about God’s faithfulness in the darkest of times.
Some are about what to do when you don’t receive the healing you’ve been praying for and working towards.
All things are possible with Christ, including our healing — particularly the healing of our hearts and souls.
You can register for the retreat here:
All of the materials will be released on Monday, August 6th.
Why do Catholics pray to saints? Why do Catholics worship Mary? These questions and others like it stem from confusion about a Catholic doctrine called the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints is the belief that every living Christian is connected to every other member of the church, whether alive or dead, through Jesus Christ. [Read more…]
What Confirmation is not
Some say that Confirmation is a pledge of sorts to God and a sign of adulthood in the Church. In this view, confirmation is the sacrament where someone decides to take the faith for him or her self as an adult. The problem with this line of thinking is that it makes the sacrament something that we do for God. In fact, sacraments are God’s gifts to us. Sacraments are not what we do for God, but what God does for us. Confirmation is about what God does and how we respond to God.
Confirmation was once a part of the baptismal ritual; it took place immediately after baptism, sealing in the Holy Spirit and anointing the new Christian with a threefold ministry as priest, prophet, and king. The specific oil that is used is called chrism. It is only used in two sacraments: Confirmation and Holy Orders; both are sacraments in which the person is anointed for ministry. In Holy Orders, a man is anointed for the ministry of ordained priesthood. Confirmation is an anointing that completes baptismal graces and gives someone the supernatural grace necessary to live out the mission given to all believers. Therefore, Confirmation is an anointing for ministry, for work to build the kingdom of God. It is not graduation from church.
Bishops and Priests in the early Church
As we have seen, in the early Church Confirmation was given to a person immediately after Baptism. This was the case whether the baptized person was a baby or an adult. In the Eastern Churches, Confirmation still immediately follows baptism.
Confirmation became separated from Baptism because of a change in the structure of the early Church. In the earliest days of the Church the bishop performed all the duties that you might see a parish priest do today. This still holds true today, as the bishop is the “ordinary minister” of the sacraments of a geographical area. The priests of a diocese share in the bishop’s sacramental power, but they are not on the same level of bishops. This is why bishops can perform the sacrament of ordination but priests cannot.
Although having the bishop perform most sacraments in the early Church worked initially, eventually the Church grew beyond this. The individual Churches (basically equivalent to modern dioceses) became so spread out that it would make it difficult for the bishop to lead the entire community in one celebration, especially in areas with a large Christian population.
Gradually bishops appointed presbyters (priests) to go live in the villages, preside over Eucharist, preach, and to keep in touch with the bishop so that he knew what was happening in the outlying communities. However, not all parts of the Church had the same idea as to how initiation should be carried out.
East and West
The Eastern Church was primarily concerned with maintaining the integrity of the rites of initiation. They reasoned that it was preferable for a priest to anoint the new Christians rather than doing each part a different time, as might be necessary if they had to wait for the bishop.
The Western Church, however, wanted to preserve the idea of initiation into a whole community, with recognition by its visible head. Therefore, the bishop was the only one who could perform the anointing. (In some cases today priests are allowed to perform Confirmation, usually with converts to the Church. Still, the vast majority of Confirmations are performed by the bishop.) Sometimes this meant people would have to wait a few years to be confirmed because the bishop could not come out to the town regularly. This is how Confirmation became a separate sacrament from Baptism in the Western Church.
As you can imagine there was debate among the communities as to which was most important. Did it matter more to preserve the ancient rite of performing the sacraments? Or was it more important that Confirmation be reserved to the bishop, the visible head of an individual diocese? Both sides are recognized as valid perspectives by the Catholic Church. However, in the Latin rite (or the Roman Catholic Church), most often Confirmation is not celebrated at the same time as Baptism.
Development of Confirmation in the Roman Church
Ratramnus of Corbie, a ninth century monk French monk argued in favor of the position of the Western Church. He said that it has to be the bishop that confirms. The bishop ordains priests and Confirmation is in some sense the ordination of the laity. He also said that it is the sacramental celebration of the priesthood of the people of God and the universal priesthood of the faithful.
In the Western, or Latin Church at the Papacy of Pope Pius XII, (1939-1958) some priests, by special indult (permission), were given authority to confirm under special circumstances. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, priests were allowed from the early 1600s to confirm infants at the time of baptism. The Pope permitted this due to the long distances that the priests would have to travel in order to serve the people. Because of high infant mortality, if Confirmation were delayed, the priest might not be able to return, or have a bishop visit before children died. The Church always wants to assure that we all are able to receive any and all graces we need on our journey to heaven. Therefore, the Church sometimes has provided exceptions when the needs of souls were different due to unusual circumstances.
Preserving the Order of the Sacraments
Theologically, the Eucharist is the completion of a Christian’s initiation. In the early Church and in the Eastern Churches today, a baby is baptized, confirmed, and then receives first communion. In the Western Church, converts to the Church also receive the Eucharist after Confirmation. This is the proper theological order of the sacraments.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the sacraments of Christian initiation — baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist — lay the foundations of every Christian life. … The faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life” (No. 1212). The Catechism goes on to say that “The holy Eucharist completes our Christian initiation” (No. 1322).
So why did Confirmation end up being celebrated after first communion in the Western Church? At one time, the Church delayed both confirmation and first communion until later in a child’s life. Young adolescents received Confirmation and then their first Eucharist. Then, in 1910, Pope Pius X issued the decree Quam Singulari Christus Amore (How Special Christ’s Love). This decree said that Communion should not be delayed beyond when a child reaches the age of reason. The age of reason, when a child can understand right and wrong and take responsibility for his or her actions, is usually considered to be around age six. While the Church followed Pius’s decree and moved the sacrament of first Eucharist to much earlier in a child’s life, in the US, Confirmation still remained a sacrament for adolescents.
Today, some dioceses are working to restore the proper order of the sacraments. These dioceses perform the sacrament of Confirmation when children are younger before they receive first communion around age six or seven. It is a growing trend, but most Catholics still receive their first Eucharist years before they are confirmed.
Towards a developed theology of Confirmation
Confirmation is a sacrament that is misunderstood and underestimated. The Catholic Church would benefit from a more developed theology of Confirmation that helps young people understand the importance of this sacrament and not to look at it as an end to religious education, but the end of the beginning of a life in service to God.
The Scriptures are a diverse compilation of writings encompassing a few thousand years of human history. As such, it can be difficult to understand them if you don’t recognize this context. St. Peter even writes that St. Paul’s letters can be hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), even though Paul wrote around the same time St. Peter did!
However, it is not impossible to understand the Bible. In fact, it is essential to do so. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Here are 5 ways to help make the Bible easier for you to understand.
1. Understand what the human author intended
The stories in Scripture take place within a particular time and context. The authors faced similar circumstances as our own, but within their own historical context. Many New Testament books (such as the Gospels) were written to specific Christian communities addressing their particular needs.
Find a good resource on the historical context in which the particular book you are reading took place. A good resource will explain:
- who did the writing,
- to whom it was written,
- the situation in which it was written
It is also important to understand the literary genre the authors of Scripture used. One of the most important documents from Vatican II, Dei Verbum, expresses the importance of understanding the literary context of the Scriptures:
[S]ince God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture… should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.
… For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.
The historical context is vital to understanding the Scriptures. For example, the context of Genesis can tell us that the creation stories are not intended as historical or scientific texts. Therefore, it is possible to read the Bible without denying scientific evidence about the history of the created universe.
2. Be open to the message
Read from the Scriptures, not into the Scriptures. Let God try to communicate to you what he wants you to know. It’s easy to fall into a habit of reading a preconceived notion into a passage to fit our own ideology, but a more fruitful way is to let the Scriptures speak to us.
To ensure that the message you read is in accord with God’s intended message, look to the Church and the Bible as a whole for guidance. This can prevent you from reading your own ideology into the Scriptures. Taking one or two verses from the Bible and ignoring the context of the Church and the rest of the Bible often results in errors in understanding what those verses mean.
For example, take Jesus’ teaching on judgment. Many people read, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1), and decide that this means that we shouldn’t say actions are wrong. However, the Church recognizes that moral guidance is necessary, and this sometimes involves helping someone recognize when they are doing something wrong so that they can repent. Furthermore, if you read the rest of the Bible, you’ll see that God instructs the prophets to tell people exactly how they are sinning. We are not supposed to judge others in the sense that we should not say, “This person did this wrong thing so this person must be an awful person.” But we can say, “The thing this person did was wrong.”
3. Take time to reflect
Proper understanding comes through allowing yourself some time to think about what you read. Meditate on it. Think of how it might apply to your life. What is God trying to communicate to you through that passage? Although the human authors of Scripture wrote in a particular context and to a particular audience, God is the primary Author of Scripture. Therefore, the Scriptures were also written to you. That means that there is a message in the Bible that God speaks to you. An oft-used analogy is that the Bible is God’s love letter to each of us.
Some in-depth questions might be:
- What does this text tell me about God?
- What does this text tell me about the people of God?
- What does this text tell me about myself?
4. Read it more than once
Something as rich and vast as the word of God never exhausts its meaning on the first (or the hundredth) read. Re-read it as many times as you need to help unfold the various dynamics that might be taking place. A word or phrase might jump out at you on a second or third reading. Perhaps looking to a commentary will help you understand something better, and then you can go back and re-read the passage. If you feel like tuning out a Gospel at Mass because you’ve heard it all before, focus on the details that you may have missed before.
Re-reading the Bible is not only a good idea in the short term, but also in the long term. A passage that didn’t touch you a year ago might be exactly what you need to hear today. For example, if you’re going through a difficult time reading the Psalms of lament will probably be more comforting than the Psalms that express joy in God. But when you come out of that difficult time, the Psalms of rejoicing might be great guides for your prayer. This is one reason that Biblical stories we’ve read a hundred times still have something to say to us on the next reading.
5. Discuss the Scriptures with others
Reading the Scriptures in a group allows for a chance to discuss it and hear how God is revealing himself to other people. In fact you might learn how God is revealing himself to you through your discussion with another person! Hearing another person’s perspective on the Scriptures might also help you see details and messages you missed in your own reading.
It can be very helpful to discuss the Scriptures with a trusted friend. Another context in which to reflect on the Scriptures is a Bible study. Many parishes have Bible studies. If a knowledgeable person leads the study, it can help you understand both the historical background and the message God intends to send through the Scriptures.
The value of the Bible
The Church teaches that “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (Dei Verbum). Knowledge of the Scriptures is essential for understanding Christianity as a whole. This is one reason for all of the Scriptures read at Mass and portrayed in religious art: even those who are illiterate can become familiar with the Bible.
The great treasure of Scripture is even greater when we come to a fuller understanding of each book and how to read it. God truly speaks to us through the Bible. What a wonderful gift!
One thing that many people find difficult to understand about the Catholic Church is the Church’s emphasis on Mary. Why would we say “Hail Mary” and pray the Rosary when we could be talking to Jesus? Doesn’t that go against the meaning of the Gospels, where we learn that we must love Jesus above all else? Why should we have such a prayer to Mary? [Read more…]
Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday, is the liturgical season after Easter. It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Pentecost begins the eighth Sunday, or 50 days, after Easter Sunday. The descent of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era for the people of God. [Read more…]
Crying out the name of Jesus Christ as a profanity when one is mad seems to be a popular expression; however, it is a problem if this is the only time we call upon our Lord. [Read more…]
This Sunday, April 8, is Divine Mercy Sunday. Let’s explore the history and theology behind this feast.
St. Faustina and the Message of Divine Mercy
St. Faustina Kowalska was a Polish nun who lived in the early 20th century. She had a series of visions of Jesus, and in these visions Jesus spoke to her especially about his mercy. One of the first things he asked Faustina to do was to paint an image of him as he appeared to her, with rays of red and white/blue coming forth from his chest. This represented the blood and water that flowed out of Jesus’ side when his side was pierced after his death. In turn, the painting represents the mercy flowing from the heart of Christ for all sinners.
Jesus Speaks to St. Faustina
Jesus told St. Faustina again and again about his great love for sinners and his desire to have mercy on them. There are many quotations from Faustina’s diary that tell of Jesus’ message of mercy. Here are just a few:
I have opened my Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be confirmed in good. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death. (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 1520)
Jesus also spoke to Faustina about the great Sacrament of Mercy, the sacrament of Reconciliation:
Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. (1602)
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
One of the important things that Jesus revealed to St. Faustina was a prayer known as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Jesus asked that the Chaplet be prayed at 3pm, in remembrance of the time of his death. He also promised that praying the Chaplet would be one way even the most sinful of souls could prepare to meet Jesus’ mercy at their hour of death:
Say unceasingly the Chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace form My infinite Mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite Mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My Mercy. (687)
Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy can be prayed on Rosary beads.
Begin with an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a recitation of the Apostles’ Creed.
On the bead before each decade, pray: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divintiy of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
On the ten beads of each decade (the ones you would use to say the Hail Mary in a Rosary), pray: “For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
After praying five decades, pray three times: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Conclude with: “O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.”
Divine Mercy Sunday
Among other things, Jesus asked that a feast for his Divine Mercy be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter (technically, this is the Second Sunday of Easter, because Easter lasts for 50 days on the liturgical calendar). St. John Paul II officially established the feast in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar in the year 2000. As a result, Catholics worldwide now celebrate this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus wanted to establish this feast to remind the world of his great mercy:
This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies. Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it. (420)
The Divine Mercy Sunday Indulgence
John Paul II also established a plenary indulgence (an indulgence that removes all temporal punishment for sin) for the Feast of Divine Mercy.
In order to obtain this indulgence, a person must either:
- Go to a church or chapel and take part in prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy
- In the presence of the Eucharist, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a prayer to the merciful Jesus. This prayer can be as simple as, “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”
In order for this to be a plenary indulgence, other conditions apply. The person obtaining the indulgence must:
- Be completely detached from all sin, including venial sin.
- Go to sacramental Confession.
- Receive the Eucharist.
- Pray for the intentions of the Pope.
It is ideal to go to Confession and receive the Eucharist on the same day the indulgence is obtained, but a person can do that within a reasonable time before or after that day (the Apostolic Penitentiary The Gift of the Indulgence specifies that it should be within about 20 days).
If someone does not meet all of these conditions, they can still obtain a partial indulgence (this removes some, but not all, of the temporal punishment for sin).
Celebrating Divine Mercy
It is always a good idea to meditate on and thank God for his divine mercy. In this time, when we celebrate the Resurrection and Jesus’ great love for sinners that brought him even to the Cross, it is especially fitting to reflect on Jesus’ mercy for us. The only appropriate response to our sin is to repent and throw ourselves onto Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Through this mercy we find salvation.
What is Humility?
Many people think that humility means that we think badly about ourselves. That, however, is not what humility really is. Humility is seeing ourselves as we are. We recognize our lowliness before God. Knowing that we are not perfect, we accept the fact that we are flawed, and we trust that God will do the work in us that needs to be done (so long as we allow him to). In humility, we also can recognize our good qualities, virtues, and talents, and we thank God for these gifts.
Humility is, in a sense, self-forgetful. It involves focusing on ourselves less, rather than focusing on our bad qualities.
Humility and Lent
Some important things we emphasize during Lent are doing penance, practicing self-denial, giving to others, and repenting of our sins. These are all ways to cultivate humility. We focus less on ourselves and more on others. We turn to God seeking his grace to help us become more virtuous.
The Litany of Humility is a prayer than invites God to give us the grace we need to grow in humility. It is a way of reminding us of what humility is. Praying the Litany of Humility is often very difficult, because it is very hard to let go of ourselves and put others first. However, in its very difficulty, it can be a powerful prayer to bring us closer to Christ.
The Litany of Humility is attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) who served as the Secretary of State for Pope St. Pius X.
Do you constantly worry about what others talk or think about you? Do you ever feel frustrated or empty when you’re not the center of attention? The Litany of Humility is all about our Lord assisting us in humbly following in his footsteps and taking aside, or at least offering up to Him, all those fears and doubts that come when we are self-centered.
Although this prayer is wonderful to pray regularly, it is an especially poignant prayer and meditation for the Lenten season. Our ultimate example in humility is our Savior Jesus Christ, who willingly suffered in silence on our behalf each one of the things listed in this litany.
THE LITANY OF HUMILITY
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.
Clearing Up Some Misconceptions
Some of the lines in the Litany of Humility may seem unhealthy to modern ears. Therefore, it is useful to examine these petitions in more detail to see what they really mean.
For example, human beings are created for love. We are created to love others, and our desire to be loved is part of being human. That is why God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone. The Litany of Humility does not mean that we are supposed to be isolated and not care at all about having loving relationships. Instead, it means that we shouldn’t desire excessive love. We should want people to love us in a healthy way rather than always seeking more and more to an unhealthy degree.
It is normal for us to want people to seek our opinion, to prefer us to others, and to approve of and praise us. While this is normal, these desires can be unhealthy. Ultimately, what matters is that we decrease and Jesus increases, as John the Baptist said (John 3:30). Decreasing in the eyes of other people allows Jesus to increase in us.
Just think of the peace that can come if we truly desire the things we pray for in this Litany, and if we are truly freed from the fears mentioned in the prayer! We can spend so much time worrying about what other people think of us, and this can steal our joy. When we start to consider first of all what is good for others, regardless of what it brings to our own reputation, we are less distressed when we do not get the recognition we feel we deserve.
Ultimately, while the Litany of Humility can be difficult to pray, it is about finding freedom and peace in God instead of relying on other human beings for our happiness.
The Humility of Jesus
Jesus Christ Himself gave His life for us in the most poignant example of humility that we can imagine! The Creator took on our flesh and our sins for our salvation, to be born in a manger and die on a cross between two thieves!
As St. Paul once wrote, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2:7-9).
The last petition of the litany of humility strongly suggests what holiness includes: loving God and neighbor above all else, putting others’ needs before ours. We are not to worry how we “rank” in godliness. Otherwise we might as well be like the Pharisees our Lord scorned who took more delight in the trappings of religion, rather than in love of God and neighbor, so that “all their works they do in order to be seen” (Matt 23:5).
This Lent, may we pray to receive a true spirit of humility. When Easter comes, may we be closer to God, and may God be greater in our lives than he was on Ash Wednesday.
“I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” – God
“Of course I don’t worship anyone other than God,” you might say. But is God really a priority in your life? During this season of Lent, we have a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to God. We can devote ourselves to prayer and service and sacrifice, and in so doing, make God ever more a priority in our lives. [Read more…]
What is Lent?
The season of Lent is a Catholic liturgical season consisting of forty days of fasting, prayer, and penitence beginning at Ash Wednesday and concluding at sundown on Holy Thursday. The official liturgical color for the season of Lent is violet. Lent begins on February 14, 2018. [Read more…]
February 14 is Ash Wednesday. Catholics and some Protestants celebrate Ash Wednesday. The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the blessed ashes that are applied to the foreheads of the faithful. We receive them as a sign of the beginning of the season of Lent, the season of penance and preparation for Easter. [Read more…]
Contrary to popular belief the Bible was not written by God dictating to the human authors to write what he said word-for word. Rather, the Scriptures are inspired by God. The Holy Spirit guided the authors to be moved in such a way that their writings were of God. [Read more…]
What wonderful consolation is found in those words. It speaks to God and His unfathomable mercy and His strong desire that we not be condemned but be saved. [Read more…]
Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at Mass. When we proclaim this Creed, we state that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Catholics believe that the true church can only be identified as one that bears all four qualities. [Read more…]
A grave misunderstanding about Catholicism is the notion of good works. The term good works seems to have a negative connotation to it in certain other Christian circles.
In order to clarify the Catholic position on what good works are and the role of works in salvation I propose that for the purpose of this article we substitute the term positive actions for good works. This new term will help to clarify misconceptions especially in terms of salvation, grace, and merit.
Positive Actions and Negative Actions
In some anti-Catholic literature the author seems to be trying to get his reader to think that Catholics believe that if they perform many positive actions after being baptized (justified by God) that they will go to heaven.
Well, this statement is partially true, but standing alone it is not the whole truth of what Catholics believe. Let’s contrast two ideas.
To sin means to offend God. It means that we damage or sever our friendship with him. We do this by performing an action that goes against what God has commanded us to do in order to stay in good standing with him. Thoughts as well are considered actions because thinking is doing something just as is breathing, walking or reading. Because thoughts are often involuntary, whether a thought is sinful or not depends on how we react to it. Anger is not necessarily a sin, but feeding resentment is.
Sin is an act or action. God will, one day, judge each of us human beings and decide which ones are worthy enough to spend eternity with God in heaven.
How or by what is God going to judge us? God will judge us by how we respond to the grace he offers. This includes our acts and actions, as well as our faith in him. A full response to God’s grace involves responding in faith and responding in the way we live.
We will be judged by the things we do and what we do not do. We can see this in the parable of the sheep and the goats that Jesus tells his disciples (Matthew 25:31-36). Those who enter heaven are those who have helped Jesus through the good they have done for others.
Good and Evil and Friendship with God
According to Christian theology God is the universal standard by which good and evil (synonyms are positive and negative respectively) are measured and God is 100% good.
God wills for each and every one of us to be good.
The fewer negative actions we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.
Therefore, the more positive actions we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.
Hence the more good works we perform the more we remain in friendship with God.
The bottom line is that God will judge us in the end by our actions done throughout our entire lives. Throughout our lives we can choose to remain in God’s friendship or not. We have free will to choose whether to obey God or not and if we choose to disobey God, which is to sin, then we choose not to remain in God’s friendship.
Yes, we must have faith that our savior is Jesus Christ, but at the same time our actions must reflect that faith.
Faith and Works: Both Necessary
So, in a sense, good works are essential to get to heaven, but not alone. Nor is faith alone sufficient, although faith is also necessary. James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. In Romans 3:22 we see that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Catholic theology supports these teachings of the Bible and holds them in balance.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2008 says that “good works are done to glorify God and are done in honor of him.”
The Catechism goes on further to state in paragraph 2010, “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification at the beginning of conversion,” (emphasis my own).
Also important is this quote from the same section saying, “These graces and goods are the objects of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.”
The Catholic Church does not believe that good works alone will get anyone into heaven nor does it believe that faith alone will get anyone into heaven. However, good works in conjunction with faith do have merit.
Our good works are done not on our own, and they have merit because they are a response to God’s grace.
For example, imagine that a father gives money to his young child, who has no money of her own, to buy Christmas gifts for her family. The child can respond to this gift that her father has given her by spending the money on toys for herself. She might respond to the gift by hoarding the money. Or she might please her father by using the money he gave her to buy gifts, as he intended. Because she has used the gift wisely, she pleases her father, and he is likely to give her money in the future to continue buying gifts for her family. She would not have been able to buy anything if her father had not given her the money, but likewise it is her free choice to respond to that gift.
Likewise, God gives us grace to do good things. We can choose to respond to that grace by performing positive actions through our free will. When we do so, we please God, and he will give us further grace to continue growing in friendship with him through our choices to do good things by his grace.
Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at mass, when we state that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Catholics believe that these qualities express the nature of the true Church. [Read more…]
When was the first Eucharist celebrated?
The Christian tradition holds and the Catholic faith will always uphold that the first Eucharist was the Last Supper. At that moment Christ changed the bread that they ate and the wine that they drank into his body and blood respectively. It is fitting that it is named eucharist which means thanksgiving (Greek) for it was a sacrifice; Christ’s perfect sacrifice for all of us. The institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper can be found in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians. 11:23-26. [Read more…]
Purgatory is an intermediate state of purification between death and heaven for those who die with venial sins for an amount of time appropriate to the amount and severity of the sins as deemed by God to remove the temporal effects of sin. It is the final purification so that one’s soul can enter heaven unblemished. [Read more…]
What is Anointing of the Sick?
Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament which gives one grace as strengthening, and peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that are associated with disease, illness and dying. Along with the sacrament of Confession, it is considered a sacrament of healing. [Read more…]
Each and every Sunday over a billion Catholics worldwide are obliged to attend Sunday mass at a parish near them. Why? For starters it is a precept of the Catholic Church, one of the most basic things the Church requires of Catholics. Code of Canon Law # 1247 states:
“On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of the mind and body.”
Who can receive a Catholic baptism?
Anyone who has not already been baptized can receive the sacrament of Baptism in the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized,” (paragraph 1246). Baptism leaves an indelible (permanent) mark on the soul and there is no way nor any reason that one could be re-baptized.
There are no age restrictions for baptism; you cannot be too old or too young to be baptized.
Who can perform a Catholic baptism?
Anyone can perform a baptism, however this is typically done only in extreme cases in which someone’s life is in danger. The Catholic Church has ordinary ministers for sacraments and those are bishops, priests, and sometimes deacons. An ordinary minister is one who has the authority to perform the sacrament under normal circumstances. The ordinary minister of a sacrament can sometimes delegate this authority to others. For example, a bishop is the ordinary minister for Confirmation, but he can give permission to a priest to do a Confirmation. A priest does not have the authority to do a confirmation without the permission of his bishop. However, priests do have the authority to do baptisms without the permission of the bishop and sometimes delegate the responsibility to a deacon if one is available.
In the Catholic Church today, people are usually baptized as infants by a priest or deacon. There are extreme cases, however, when even an unbaptized person can baptize someone. All that is required is the will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian Baptismal formula.
The Trinitarian formula is:
I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
If a non-Christian baptizes someone, it is usually because that person is dying and truly desires to become Christian. How is this type of Baptism valid, you ask? Well, the Church believes in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation (1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:5).
Can someone be baptized twice?
Baptizing someone twice is not necessary so long as the person was baptized in water using the Trinitarian formula described above. The only way someone could be “baptized twice” is if the original baptism was not valid. However, this would not actually be a second baptism because the first “baptism” was not a real baptism.
One way a baptism could be invalid is if the person baptizing uses a formula like “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.” In very unusual cases, someone might be baptized without water. This would also be an invalid baptism, even if the Trinitarian formula were used. In response to a water shortage, Pope Gregory IX actually issued a decree saying that it was not valid to baptize someone in beer!
Does the Catholic Church accept baptisms from another church?
Yes, the Catholic Church recognizes any baptism that uses water and in which the person baptized was baptized with the Trinitarian formula. Some churches do not use the Trinitarian formula for baptism and thus their baptisms are not valid.
Why are children baptized?
Children receive baptism primarily to remove original sin, but can serve as a great family tradition to initiate one’s child into the faith of the family. Infant baptism has been debated for centuries. First, let us appeal to the Bible. John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.'” Note that Jesus says “no one” can enter heaven in that passage. In the spirit of brevity here is the short answer straight from the Catechism:
“The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized,” (Acts 16:15,33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16).
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1252)
Early Christian Evidence of Infant Baptism
There is significant evidence in the early Church that children were baptized.
St. Irenaeus wrote one of the most important works of the early Church Against Heresies, in the late second century. He states that people of every age, from infants to the elderly, have been reborn in God. Given that early Christians described rebirth in its relationship to baptism, the most reasonable interpretation of Irenaeus’s words is that people of all ages were baptized within 150 years after the Resurrection of Jesus.
By the mid-third century, there was controversy about infant baptism. However, this controversy was not about whether it was okay to baptize infants. Rather, the controversy concerned whether to baptize babies as soon as possible or whether to wait until the eighth day after birth to baptize. The reason for waiting until the eighth day was to reflect the Jewish custom of circumcision. The Jewish practice was to circumcise baby boys on the eighth day. St. Paul had explicitly compared baptism to circumcision in his letter to the Colossians (2:11-12), so it makes sense that this comparison might lead to controversy about when to baptize infants.
The Gift of Baptism
When it comes down to it, baptism is a gift from God to humanity. Baptism initiates us into the family of God and cleanses us of sin. We do not need to earn this gift. God gives it freely to all who are open to it. For someone who is baptized as an infant, the personal response of faith comes as the child grows to respond to the graces given in baptism.
Baptism is connected to faith, and this connection is not lost when an infant is baptized. The Apostolic Tradition (usually attributed to St. Hippolytus) was written in the early third century. It states:
Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.
Today, the Church still recognizes the connection between faith and baptism. When a child is baptized, the parents’ faith speaks for the child who is too young to have explicit faith on his or her own. This is why the Church requires a reasonable hope that the parents will raise the child in the Catholic faith before a child is baptized.
What does the Grace of Baptism accomplish?
Baptism does five things specifically.
- It forgives all sins that may have been committed prior to a person’s baptism including original sin, mortal sins, and venial sins, and it relieves the punishment for those sins.
- It makes the newly baptized person “a new creature.”
- It turns the person into a newly adopted son of God and a member of Christ. Baptism incorporates a person into the Church, which is the body of Christ.
- It brings someone into the flock of the faithful and brings them to share in the royal priesthood of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Catholic baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers and it also brings about the sacramental bond of the unity of Christians. Paragraph 1271 of the Catechism says it best:
Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.”
- Last, but certainly not least, baptism leaves and indelible spiritual mark (character) of belonging to Christ on the soul. Nothing you can do will take away this mark even if you sin a million times. Those sins may prevent you from being open to the salvation God offers through baptism, but you will always carry the mark of a Christian on your soul, therefore making re-baptism impossible.
Can someone receive the Grace of Baptism without being baptized?
Yes, those who die for their faith but were never baptized receive the grace of baptism. This is often called baptism by blood – being killed for your faith and never, not even for a second, compromising it. Also, those truly seeking baptism, but are unable to receive it due to extenuating circumstances (for example, if they die before they can be baptized) can receive the grace. This is called ‘baptism by desire.’ If the person has an explicit desire for baptism and is repentant of their sins then they will receive these graces.
What is the form and matter of Baptism?
The form of a sacrament is the words that are said when performing or receiving the sacrament. In the case of Baptism this would be, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The matter of a sacrament is the physical signs that are used. In the case of baptism, water is the matter of the sacrament.
What is the role of Godparents?
Godparents for Catholic Baptism are like sponsors for Confirmation. However, they take on a different role since usually only children have godparents for baptism. Their role is to take over or assist in the faith development of the person being baptized. This is especially important in the event that the parents cannot or do not adequately raise their children in the faith. Godparents can also be helpful through their prayers and example even if the child’s parents fulfill their own promise to raise the child in the faith. Therefore, the faith of the godparents is important in fulfilling the baptismal promise of being raised in the Catholic faith.
The Act of Contrition is traditionally used in when confessing one’s sins in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. One of the requirements for forgiveness is contrition, that you are actually sorry for your sins. Contrition doesn’t have to mean that you feel bad, because our feelings are often out of our control. Rather, contrition means that we reject our sins and resolve to avoid committing them in the future.
A pious practice is also to pray the Act of Contrition daily after doing an examination of conscience. A nightly examination of conscience involves looking at your day. You will examine where you failed to do the good you could have done (sins of omission) and where you have done wrong (sins of commission). Then express repentance for those sins. Your examination should also involve seeing where you did the right thing and where you resisted temptation. Then you will thank God for the grace he gives you to follow him faithfully. This examination gives you a good idea of where and how God is acting in your life. A nightly examination of conscience also shows you the areas where you fall short so that you can invite God to bring his transforming grace into those areas of your life.
The Act of Contrition
There are actually several versions of the Act of Contrition. It is not essential to use one prayer rather than another, although some prayers are more commonly used. You may even use an Act of Contrition that you make yourself. If you do this during the sacrament of Confession, however, the priest may have some confusion because he will not be used to hearing it. One way to counteract his confusion is to make sure you say “Amen” at the end of your prayer.
There are elements that must be part of every Act of Contrition. This includes versions you memorize or versions you create:
- An expression of being sorry for your sins
- A resolution not to sin again
- Often this includes a statement that shows we are aware that we can only avoid sin by God’s grace.
Praying a memorized prayer that the Church approves can be very useful because you know that it has those elements in it already.
A Common Version
O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because of your just punishments but most of all because I have offended you, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin.
This is the traditional Act of Contrition prayer. In confession it’s not required that you pray this exact prayer. It is often provided on a sheet in the confessional and it is certainly acceptable. Because it is often provided, it is a great prayer if you don’t have an Act of Contrition memorized or if you get nervous and blank out on the prayer you have memorized. You can just read it as you pray and then you will be sure that you are saying a proper Act of Contrition.
Note that it includes the essential elements: a statement that we are sorry for our sins, as well as a resolve to sin no more and to avoid the things that tempt us to sin. It also shows that God’s grace is necessary for us to put into practice our resolution not to sin again.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
This is a less commonly prayed version of the Act of Contrition, with simpler language than the previous prayer. It, too, contains an expression that we are sorry for our sins and a resolution to sin no more as we rely on God’s help. This prayer also includes a plea for mercy. Because Confession is the sacrament of mercy, this is an excellent part of the prayer.
A Simple Version
O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.
This is a great version for children to pray, because it is very simple but still contains the essential elements of an Act of Contrition. Even though it is simple, it contains the expression that we are sorry for our sins and that we resolve to avoid sin in the future.
Keep In Mind
It may be difficult for you to pray that you intend not to sin again. As fallen human beings, we are aware that most likely, we will sin again after Confession. We may even sin again in the same ways. The Catholic Church knows this. There is a reason that the Church allows people to receive the sacrament of Confession again and again.
What we mean when we say that we resolve not to sin again is that we are committed to rejecting our sins. We should not go to Confession thinking, “I’m going to apologize for my sins and then I’m going to leave and commit them again. It’s okay because I can always go back to Confession.” Rather, we should think, “I will do whatever I can not to commit these sins again. Even though I know I might fall back into my sin, I don’t want to do that. I will try my best not to do that.”
Living out what we pray in the Act of Contrition will allow God’s grace to transform us. It is okay to confess the same sins again and again, because transformation takes time. If we allow God’s grace to transform us, however, we should eventually see a change in what we confess.
There is something wrong if at the age of 30 you are confessing exactly the same things you confessed at the age of 15, or if at the age of 50 you are confessing exactly the same sins as you confessed at age 30. But if you confess at 30 many of the same sins you confessed at 29, that’s not a problem. As you grow in faith, you will probably find that some of the sins you used to commit you don’t commit anymore, and you will therefore stop confessing them. Likewise, you will become aware of sins you did not realize before, and you will start confessing them. Gradually, your confessions will change.
The Act of Contrition is not merely a requirement to receive absolution in the sacrament of Confession. It is also an excellent prayer that allows God to transform us into the saints he calls us to be.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your mother and father.” Why is it so important for us to honor our parents? How do we honor our parents? And how can we fulfill this commandment if our parents hurt us?
Why We Honor Our Parents
We honor our parents first and foremost because they gave us life. We owe our existence to them. This is something we all get from our parents, regardless of how good or bad they were as parents otherwise.
Of course, most of our parents do much more for us than give us life. Whether biological or adoptive, our parents fed us, clothed us, housed us, and raised us. Maybe they even gave us the foundation for our life of faith, which is a priceless gift. Being a parent is a very difficult task. From changing diapers to buying school supplies every year to dealing with the challenges of our teenage years, our parents made sacrifices for us. For this, we honor them.
We also honor our parents because they have legitimate authority over us. Especially when we are young, we should obey them. The Catholic Church teaches that this commandment can be extended to apply to others with legitimate authority over us. As we get older, our parents’ authority over us lessens. There are always others, however, to whom we owe obedience. So obeying teachers, following the law, and listening to our bosses are ways in which we live out this commandment in other relationships in our lives. (Of course, if our parents, teachers, the civil law, or bosses command us to do something immoral, our obligation to obey them does not apply.)
How We Honor Our Parents
When we were children, it seemed fairly simple to know how to follow this commandment, even if it was difficult to live it out. Obviously, honoring them meant obedience to their rules, even if we didn’t like them. It meant that we did the chores they assigned us. If they punished us by telling us we couldn’t watch television, it meant not watching television. At times it was frustrating to have to follow rules that we thought were arbitrary or unfair. Even so, it was usually pretty clear what the commandment meant we should do.
As we get older, however, it becomes more difficult to know how to follow this commandment. Obviously, a 30-year-old should not have the same relationship with her parents as a 3-year-old. In fact, it would be unhealthy for her parents to tell her what to do the way they did when she was growing up. When we are adults, we should be making decisions for ourselves. We might seek our parents’ advice, but it is ultimately our decision whether to accept a job offer, to whom we get married (or if we get married at all), and how to raise families of our own.
Because we have more freedom as adults, honoring our parents is going to look different from person to person. There are some ways we can honor our parents that work for the relationship we have with our parents, but might not work for another parent-child dynamic.
That said, what are some concrete ways we can honor our parents? Here are a few:
- First and foremost, we pray for our parents.
- We can listen to their advice, when it is appropriate, showing that we honor their opinions and perspective.
- Keeping in touch with our parents is another important way to honor them.
- We should care for our parents as they age. How we care for them obviously depends on our geographical distance from them, our financial ability to help with their care, and the time we have available. We should do what we can to help them and at the very least not abandon them in their old age.
- Finally, just as we pray for them in life, we should pray for the repose of their souls after they die.
When Your Parents Don’t Seem Very Honorable
Of course, not all of us are fortunate to have good parents who love us rightly. Sometimes parents have an unhealthy relationship with their children. Some parents even neglect and abuse their children. In these cases, is God demanding that we remain in dysfunctional or abusive relationships that cause us harm?
Of course not! We should still honor our parents, but God understands that honoring our parents means something different when our parents have not fulfilled their obligations to us. The appropriate and healthy way to relate to a kind, loving parent is very different from the appropriate and loving way to relate to an abusive parent.
When Paul is telling the Colossians how to live as Christian families, he teaches that both parents and children have obligations to each other:
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col 3:20-21).
Even if we have a good relationship with our parents, they may be unwise or foolish. If so, following their advice might make them feel better, but it won’t be good for us. We have no obligation to follow bad advice, even when it comes from our parents. There are other ways to honor unwise parents and show our love for them.
In more extreme cases, engaging in any sort of relationship with a parent might be unhealthy. Even as adults, we can be hurt by abusive parents. If calling them, visiting them, or inviting their input into our lives is genuinely harmful to us, God does not require us to do so. Perhaps a relationship can be re-established if both parent and child can grow to the point that their relationship does not cause harm, but if that is not possible, the child is not obligated to hold onto an unhealthy relationship, even one as important as the parent-child relationship. In this case, we can honor our parents by forgiving them (as hard as that may be) and praying for them.
Reflecting the Love of God
At their best, parents reflect the love of God in their own love for us. God frequently compares himself to a father, and sometimes to a mother, to show us just how much he loves us. Although we are obligated to honor our parents, this obligation is for our good. When parents fulfill their obligations to their children and children honor their parents, the relationship gives joy to both parents and children.
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue, from the Greek for “ten words” or “ten laws”) are some of the most basic rules that Christians follow. God loves his people, so he makes sure we have rules to live by, because these rules tell us how we flourish and function best. When we sin against the commandments, we not only disobey God but also do harm to ourselves and others, even if we don’t recognize it at the time.
A Numbered List of the Ten Commandments
- I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
- Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
- You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Catholic and Protestant
This listing of the Ten Commandments is the one Catholics use, but most Protestants use a slightly different set of Commandments. Their list includes a commandment against making graven images (which Catholics see as part of what the First Commandment commands). Then, the last commandment is simply, “You shall not covet,” instead of having two separate commandments about coveting. The content is basically the same for all Christians, but the numbering is different.
Why do Catholics use a different listing from most Protestants? Well, if you look up the Ten Commandments in the Bible, you might notice that they aren’t numbered. The Ten Commandments are sometimes separated into different verses, where each verse is a Commandment. This can make it easy to think that the numbering of the Commandments is from the Bible, but the division of the Bible into verses came millennia after the Ten Commandments were first written down.
The practice of presenting the Decalogue as a numbered list developed much later in history, with the early Church Fathers. St. Augustine, the most influential Church Father in the Latin Church, listed the Decalogue based on the law presented in Deuteronomy 5. However, the Decalogue is also found in Exodus 20, and most Protestants go by the way they are presented there.
Did Catholics Change the List?
Some Protestants accuse Catholics of changing the listing of the Ten Commandments to avoid listing the commandment against making images. The order that Catholics use, however, is from a period of Church history long before Protestantism even existed. St. Augustine died in 430, and the Protestant Reformation did not begin until 1517.
Furthermore, Catholics understand that it is not wrong to have statues. The command against graven images is a command not to worship images, not a command not to make images at all. In fact, God commanded Moses to make statues to adorn the Ark of the Covenant, where God’s presence dwelled (Exodus 25:18-20). God even worked miracles through an image of a bronze serpent that Moses made at God’s command (Numbers 21:5-9).
The Hierarchy of Commandments
In addition to the Ten Commandments, there are many other commandments in the Old Testament. For example, there are many commands about how to perform sacrifices or celebrate certain Jewish feasts. Jesus summarized the purpose and meaning of these commandments. When someone asked him what commandment was the greatest, Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
Love of God
When we look at the Ten Commandments, they follow this same hierarchy. The first three Commandments deal with our love for God. We must love God above all things. Loving God above all things mean that we love and honor his name. It also means that on the day God tells us to rest, we rest, and we devote the day to special worship of God.
Love of Neighbor
The last seven Commandments tell us how to love our neighbor. We have a special duty to our parents, who gave us life. That is enough reason to honor them, because without them, we would not be alive to experience any of God’s blessings.
Just as our lives are a gift, we must respect that gift in others, and it is wrong for us to take the life of another person (self-defense is an exception to this rule).
We must treat sex with respect, because it has a meaning that involves procreation and unity. To commit adultery is to violate the meaning of sex, which is intended to unite spouses. We have a responsibility to honor our spouses, and to respect the marriages of others. The ninth Commandment shows that this respect is not only a matter of actions (i.e. not committing adultery), but also a matter of respecting others’ marriages in our hearts and minds.
When we steal from others, we are by definition depriving them of what belongs to them. This shows a lack of love for our neighbor. For every right we have, there is a responsibility. People have the right to keep the things that belong to them, but they have the responsibility to look after the poor rather than hoarding their possessions.
When we lie, we can greatly hurt our neighbors. When someone deserves the truth from us, we have a duty to tell it. Lying is especially bad when we lie about others, because we can ruin their reputations.
Finally, we are not to covet our neighbors’ goods. It is okay to see good things that others have and want to have those good things, too. The problem comes when we think that we deserve to have something just because someone else has it, or when we let our neighbors’ possessions make us resentful that we do not have those things, too. At worst, we might commit the sin of envy. This means that we go beyond wanting what other people have and even want them to lose the good things they have. If we envy, we aren’t just sad that we don’t have something good, but we are also sad that someone else does have something good.
The Purpose of the Commandments
The Commandments teach us the best way to love God and to love our neighbor. As human beings created out of relationship (the life of the Trinity) for relationship, we are happiest when we have good relationships with other human beings and with God. The Ten Commandments tell us basic ways to live to promote healthy relationships. Sometimes it might be hard to follow the commandments (both the Ten Commandments and the other laws of God), and in a fallen world following the commandments sometimes results in sharing Jesus’ cross. Even so, the Ten Commandments are a sign of God’s love for us, and one of the many ways he teaches us what is good for us.
It is common for many protestants to think that Catholics do not read the bible. They often think that the Catholic Church even discourages reading the bible. In more extreme cases some people think that the Church tries to hide biblical truths from lay Catholics.
If you’re Catholic, you probably know that this is kind of ridiculous but many protestants have grown up hearing these sorts of claims.
Catholics Read the Bible at Mass
Did you know that the Catholic Church reads the entire Bible to her congregation over the span of three years?
The Bible is read during the first part of the Catholic Mass: 3 readings on Sundays and 2 readings Monday through Saturday, also known as daily Mass. At each weekend Mass Catholics hear an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading, all relating to a central theme. Then the priest gives a homily (or sermon) typically on that theme or sometimes directly regarding one or more of the Scripture readings. At daily Masses is typically one Old Testament reading and a Gospel reading.
Catholics also sing the Scriptures during the Responsorial Psalm which takes place between the first and second readings, and Scripture is also sung throughout the hymns which are primarily based on the Bible.
Catholics Read the Bible at Home
While it is true that many, many Catholics never really read the bible on their own, that is not the case for all Catholics. It is also not true that the Church discourages it! In fact, Saint Jerome said “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” That was back in the 5th century!
Catholics are certainly encouraged to read the Bible for personal devotion and study outside of Mass. Additionally, there are many excellent Bible studies held at parishes around the world.
Not only do Catholics read the Bible, they experience the Bible like no other Christians in the Mass. Sprinkled throughout the Mass, in the prayers the priest prays or the responses from the congregation, are rituals and quotes directly from the Bible.
You see, the Catholic Church celebrates, lives, and teaches everything through the Scriptures. The Catholic Church is the most biblical church in all of Christianity.
Why the Misunderstanding?
So why is it, then, that so many protestants think that Catholics don’t read the bible? There are a few reasons.
First, it’s probably because many of them have met Catholics who don’t know much about the bible. This is a sad, but true reality. All people, including Catholics, should read the bible more, we can all agree on that!
Next, is that in there has been much in-fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Due to that there has been misinformation spread about Catholics. This is where the idea of the Catholic Church not wanting lay people to read the bible comes from.
Finally, one possible reason is that many protestants put a heavy emphasis on memorizing scripture passages. This is a great practice and Catholics should do this as well. However, it’s less of a focus for Catholics so it can come off as if we don’t know the bible because we can’t cite chapter and verse very easily. That doesn’t mean we don’t read it, however.
From our perspective, the Catholic Church invented the bible. Sounds kind of funny to most people. By that I mean that there were many books that were considered for being a part of the New Testament and the Catholic Church chose which ones to include. You can read more about what Catholics believe about the bible here.
There are many prayers that Catholics pray on a regular basis. Most Catholics learn these prayers from the time they are very young.
The Value of Memorized Prayer
To have a relationship with God it is necessary to pray. Prayer should always be a conversation with God, and learning to talk to God in our own words is vital. However, memorized prayers that we can recite are also valuable. If they were not, when his disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus would not have given them a prayer (the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father) that they could memorize and recite (Matt 6:9-13). We do not repeat this formula mechanically; rather, the Holy Spirit enlivens our prayer as a true expression of our hearts.
There are several things that make memorized prayers a valuable tool in our spiritual life.
- Memorized prayers give us words to pray when we can’t think of ways to pray on our own.
- Saying the same prayers as millions of other Christians allows us to pray together when we are gathered in Jesus’ name (cf. Matt 18:20).
- Memorized prayers contain a theology within them that can teach us about God, the saints, and ourselves.
Common Catholic Prayers
Three of the most common Catholic prayers are:
- The Our Father
- The Hail Mary
- The Glory Be
The Our Father
The Our Father is the most important Christian prayer. It is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and they handed it on for millennia. Catholics pray this prayer at every Mass, and other Christians pray it as well. This means that the Our Father is a prayer that can unite Christians in prayer even when we have differences in our beliefs.
Whole books could be written about the Our Father. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church includes over 100 paragraphs about this prayer. Even if you don’t want to read whole books about the Lord’s Prayer, it is valuable to know a little bit about its meaning.
Tertullian, an early Latin theologian, said that the Lord’s Prayer “is truly the summary of the whole gospel.”
Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive” (Matt 7:7). The Our Father contains a list of petitions, teaching us what to ask God for, and in what order we should ask. We start asking for things that glorify God: that God’s name will be honored, that God’s kingdom will come, that God’s will will be done. Next, we pray for ourselves: that God will provide our daily needs, that he will forgive our sins, that he will preserve us from temptation, and that he will deliver us from evil.
In this prayer, Jesus not only teaches us to ask God for what we need, but also how to view God. We view him as the transcendent Being whose name is above all names, whose kingdom is above all kingdoms, whose will should be honored. Yet we also address him as “Father.” We recognize that we are children of God, and that he has adopted us into his family (cf. Romans 8:14-17). We ask in a spirit of trust that God is powerful enough to supply our needs and that he is a loving Father who desires to give us all that we need.
There are many other things we can learn from this prayer. Just a few of them are:
- We are a community of believers (God is “Our Father”, not “My Father”)
- It is notable that this prayer also literally unites Christians in community, as it is not a prayer exclusive to Catholics
- We must forgive others
- Prayer is the way in which we overcome temptation
- Through Jesus, we experience victory over evil
The Hail Mary
The Hail Mary is another very popular Catholic prayer. For some, it may be hard to understand why we pray to Mary at all. Put simply, we pray to Mary to ask for her intercession, just as we would ask our family and friends on earth to pray for us. Mary is uniquely close to Jesus: she is his mother, after all! Asking for her prayers gives us a powerful intercessor.
The Hail Mary is a very biblical prayer. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” reflects the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary when he greeted her and asked her to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28). When we address her as “Mother of God,” we echo the words of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, who said, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
Next, we ask Mary for her intercession: “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” The two most important times anyone can pray for us are now and at the hour of our death. Now is the moment in which we respond to God. We must not put off our response until some future date, and we must not rely on our past deeds to sustain our relationship with God. Rather, we must respond to God’s call and grace in every moment as we live it. The other most important time for someone to pray for us is at the hour of our death. Where we spend eternity depends on whether we die in friendship with God.
The Glory Be
The final prayer we will look at today is the Glory Be. The Glory Be is a short, simple prayer. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Yet it contains a deep theology.
The Glory Be expresses our faith in the Trinity. This is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith, and tells us the secret of God’s inner life. The goal of our life is to glorify God, and God deserves the glory.
Furthermore, God is unchanging in the past, present, and future. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, his glory is also unchanging.
The most confusing part of the Glory Be may be the last words: “world without end.” Christians know that eventually God will bring an end to this world and we will live in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1). In the original Latin, the words are in saecula saeculorum. This literally means, “into the ages of ages.” In the Mass, it is usually translated as “forever and ever.” The words, therefore, mean that while this world lasts, the glory of God will never pass away. It endures into eternity, the world without end.
If you ask people what the Bible is, most of them will be able to tell you that the Bible is the Sacred Scripture for the Christian faith. This is true. But if you ask people what Catholics believe about the Bible, you will probably hear a lot of different answers. Many people may not even have an answer. So what do Catholics believe about the Bible? Let’s take a look!
Who Wrote the Bible?
Who wrote the Bible? Was it God? Or was it human beings? The answer for Catholics is a resounding “Yes!” The Bible is the word of God in the words of human beings. God is the primary author of the Bible, so we know that whatever Scripture asserts to be true is in fact true. When we understand it correctly, the Bible will never lead us astray.
The Old and New Testaments
The Bible is divided into two main parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written before Jesus’ life, and the New Testament was written after. There are many different kinds of books in the Old Testament, including history, poetry, and prophecy. The Old Testament contains wisdom and knowledge about God and about ourselves. It also foreshadows and points to Christ. Even though it was written before Jesus came, the Old Testament is important, and Catholics don’t ignore it.
The Gospels (the four books that focus specifically on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) are the heart of the New Testament. The rest of the New Testament is mostly epistles (letters) written by Paul or other Apostles.
The Old and New Testaments are closely related to each other. Catholics read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament and see how the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. The events in the Old Testament are not less valuable even though they are foreshadowings of a later reality. Instead, they are vitally important evidence of God’s loving care for humanity throughout history. Catholics must read New Testament in light of the Old Testament, which prepared God’s people to understand who Jesus was when he came.
St. Augustine once described the unity of the Old and the New Testament this way:
The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.
The Bible is Inspired
God inspired human beings to write the Bible. These men used their own abilities and perspectives to write the books that became part of the Bible. For example, Luke says he did research into the sources of the information he put into the Bible. Luke was also a skilled storyteller, and he tells the life of Christ in a very engaging way. God did not dictate the Gospel word-for-word to Luke. Instead, he allowed Luke to use his own unique talents in writing his Gospel.
Luke is truly the author of the Gospel of Luke, but because he was inspired by God, God is still the primary author. When Catholics say Scripture is inspired, it means that God worked in a very special way in the writing of the Bible. The human authors of the Bible wrote whatever God wanted written, no more and no less. If someone today says that God inspired them to write a book, this is a different use of the word “inspired.”
Interpreting the Bible
Catholics believe that whatever the Bible asserts to be true is actually true. Does this mean that God must have created the world in seven 24-hour days, or that Jesus wants us to cut off body parts if they lead us to sin? No! Not everything stated in Scripture is asserted. The truth the author of Genesis wanted to convey was that God created the world out of love with a plan. When Jesus said that you should cut off your hand if it causes you to sin (Matt 5:30), he was using hyperbole to tell us how important it is that we avoid whatever causes us to sin.
When interpreting the Bible, it is important to understand the authors’ intentions in writing the books. A book like 1 Kings is historical; a book like the Song of Solomon is poetic; a book like Revelation relies heavily on symbolism. Therefore, when interpreting 1 Kings, the Song of Solomon, and Revelation, Catholics use different standards in figuring out what the books are trying to tell us about God and about ourselves.
The Church and the Bible
Because God inspired the Bible, Catholics need to interpret the Bible in the light of the Holy Spirit. At heart, the Bible has one author, so when Catholics interpret the Bible they understand that the Bible will never contradict itself.
The Holy Spirit guides the Church in a special way. He guided the Church in its process of discerning which books belonged in the Bible, and he continues to guide the Church in its interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, Catholics do not interpret the Bible for themselves but rely on the wisdom of the Church in understanding what God is saying through the Scriptures. St. Augustine once said,
I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.
Every Catholic Should Know the Bible
Even though the Church is the primary interpreter of the Bible, every Catholic should make the Bible a part of his or her life. Even for those who cannot read, whether because they are too young or are in a country where literacy is uncommon, the Church proclaims the Bible at every Mass. The Church says that Catholics should read the Bible frequently. Catholics know this is vitally important because, in the words of St. Jerome,
Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
Catholics (and others) can see in the Bible God’s love letter to human beings, and his love letter to each person. Catholics should always be grateful for the Bible. this wonderful way not only to know about God, but also to form a deeper relationship with God.
Image: By James Chan – https://pixabay.com/en/bible-rosary-prayer-pray-holy-706658/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41861793
The sacrament of Confession is the sacrament Christ instituted in order to forgive sins. As such, it is classified as a sacrament of healing. When we confess our sins and receive absolution, we have a powerful experience of God’s mercy. The Church recognizes that part of this mercy means that the deeply personal things we confess will not be revealed or used against us. Therefore, the Church binds a priest by the seal of the confessional, which means the priest cannot tell anyone the sins you have confessed for any reason.
Canon law is the law of the Church. It deals not with moral laws (what is right and wrong), but rather with the laws set up to govern the Church. Instead, Canon law deals with rules governing the Church and its members. To see what rules the Church has for a priest hearing confessions, it’s important to look at canon law.
Canon 983 states, “[I]t is absolutely forbidden for a confessor [this is the priest hearing the confession] to betray in any way a penitent [this is the person going to confession] in words or in any manner and for any reason.” Furthermore, if there is an interpreter, for example if the confessor and penitent speak different languages or if one of them is deaf, the interpreter is also bound to secrecy. If you are standing in line for confession and overhear someone else’s confession, you are also not allowed to tell anyone what you heard.
What the Priest Can’t Say
What this means is that the priest cannot say or do anything that would reveal what you said in Confession. Obviously, he can’t say, “John confessed to me yesterday that he lied to his wife.” But he also can’t say anything indirectly to reveal that John lied to his wife. He can’t even hint at it. If he is invited to John’s house, he can’t act in such a way around John that would reveal John’s lie, even if he doesn’t say anything.
The priest cannot reveal what he heard during Confession for any reason. He cannot reveal it even if someone confesses committing a crime. He can encourage the person confessing to hand him- or herself in or make things right, but he cannot go to the authorities himself. If the authorities come to the priest, he does not have to lie and say that the person is innocent, but he cannot reveal what the person confessed. The priest cannot even say, “I can’t tell you if he committed the crime because I heard his confession.”
If you think that a priest should be required to tell people when he hears that someone has committed a crime, keep in mind that people are more likely to confess to a priest if they know he will not turn them in, and then the priest can encourage them to do the right thing. Furthermore, the Church does not want to get into a slippery slope with every priest deciding for himself what sins are serious enough to reveal. In many countries, the laws recognize that the sacrament of Confession is privileged, in a similar way to doctor-patient and attorney-client confidentiality.
What the Priest Can Say
It is possible for a priest to talk about Confessions in general if there is no way the identity those people confessing could be revealed. For example, a priest might talk about the differences between the sins most men confess and the sins most women confess, or the differences between the sins most married people confess and most single people confess, if it is appropriate for a pastoral purpose. Although a priest could not say, “John lied to his wife,” he could say that some issues married people bring to the confessional include lying to their spouses.
A priest could also say something like, “When people confess this kind of sin, this is the kind of penance I usually give.”
On rare occasions, a priest might be more specific. Even then, however, he is not allowed to say anything that will reveal whose confession he is referring to. If a priest is teaching people how to go to Confession, he may use examples from his experience, but he must not do so unless there is absolutely no way anyone’s identity could be revealed. For instance, a priest who is trying to explain why it is important to be direct when you confess might mention a time when a penitent’s attempt to use a euphemism for sin led to a misunderstanding. But if the priest does this, he must not do so in any way that would reveal the identity of the person with whom he had the misunderstanding.
Your Sins Cannot be Held Against You
Canon law also prohibits a confessor from using his knowledge of what you confess in confession against you, even if he wouldn’t reveal your sins to anyone else (Canon 984).
The seal of the confessional binds the priest who hears your confession, but it does not bind you when you confess. If you want to, you can talk with your priest outside of the confessional about your sins or anything he said during Confession if you need more spiritual advice or want to clarify something. You can also tell anyone else about your confession, both what you said and what the priest said.
Keep in Mind
It is easy to think that your confession will stand out to a priest because it stands out to you. However, priests hear many thousands of confessions over the course of their ministry. It is very unlikely that your confession will surprise or shock a priest. Because he hears so many confessions, he has almost certainly heard other people confess whatever sins you will confess. The sheer number of confessions he hears will make it harder for him to remember yours in detail. Furthermore, some priests report that they experience “holy amnesia,” an inability to remember confessions as well as they remember other things.
So go to Confession (here’s how) with confidence that the priest will keep your sins secret! God’s mercy is waiting for you!
From their childhood, Catholics learn to pray the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At Mass, the priest’s prayers frequently mention the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as well. The reason for this is that Catholics believe that God is not merely Unity (as all monotheists believe), but also Trinity. But what does this mean?
A Few Definitions
What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. A “substance” or “nature” is what something is. God, as a Trinity, exists in three Persons. A person is “who” someone is. In our experience, one human person each possesses one human nature. A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still two separate beings. In God, however, three Persons possess the same divine nature. If you were to ask each Person in the Trinity, “Who are you?” each person would answer something differently: “I am the Father;” “I am the Son;” “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you were to ask each Person, “Who are you?” you would get the same answer from each Person: “I am God.” Not, “I am a God,” as a human would say, “I am a human.” Rather, each divine Person, while not identical to the other divine Persons, is one in being with the other two divine Persons and is fully God. The word we use to describe this in the Nicene Creed is consubstantial. While we say in the Nicene Creed that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, it is also true that the Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
Jesus Revealed the Trinity
Jesus’ life was the greatest revelation to us of God’s inner life. He claimed for Himself things that belonged only to God, like the power to forgive sins. His words and actions led the religious leaders of the time to believe he was a blasphemer, someone who shows a lack of reverence for God or who claims the attributes of God for himself. Yet Jesus also prayed to the Father and spoke to and about the Father as a separate Person. Jesus also promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with his disciples after he was no longer with them in his physical body (John 14:26). After Jesus’ death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven, early Christians understood that the Holy Spirit was also God. Yet Jesus was clear when he talked about the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit was someone other than himself or the Father.
Jesus was also clear that there is only one God, however. While he spoke to the Father as someone other than himself, he did also claim to be one with the Father. Jesus was the Messiah promised by the God of Israel, and that God was one God. Israel knew that there was only one God. Early Christians realized through what God had said through the Jewish prophets and through what Jesus said and did that God is one, but that God exists in three Persons.
The Doctrine Develops
During the first several centuries of Christian history, the Church encountered many different ways of thinking about God and about who Jesus was in relationship to the Father. The result of this was that the Church developed a more sophisticated language to talk about God. That is where we developed the use of the terms person and nature to make distinctions about God. The Nicene Creed, written at the Council of Nicea in 325 and revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381, was the result of the Church’s continued thinking about the Trinity. Catholics typically say the Nicene Creed at every Sunday Mass even over 1600 years later because the Trinity is so essential to the Christian faith.
Our earthly experience does not give us a lot of preparation for understanding the Trinity. When we meet other human beings, each human person possesses one human nature—there is only one nature per person and only one person per nature. Because the Trinity goes beyond our earthly experiences, analogies may be helpful in understanding it. On the other hand, any one analogy taken too far will not describe the Trinity accurately.
The story goes that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Trinity. That story may not be true, but the analogy is that just as there are three leaves on the shamrock, so there are three persons in God. This can be helpful in seeing that three things can also be one united thing. However, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not three parts of God.
Another analogy for the Trinity is that God is three in one, just as H2O can exist as a solid, a liquid, and a gas. This, too, can be helpful in understanding that there is something about God that is one and something about God that is threefold. However, ice, water, and vapor are three modes of being of H2O. To take this analogy too far would be to think that God exists in three modes and can express being God in three ways. However, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not just modes of being. We might say that this analogy emphasizes the oneness of God at the expense of God’s three-ness.
The family is a great analogy for the Trinity. The family is united in love, and the three Persons of the Trinity live in a relationship of love with one another. A pregnant mother contains another person within her, which is similar to how the Divine Persons cannot be separated from each other. The Holy Spirit is sometimes defined as the love between the Father and the Son, and when a husband and wife express their marital love, sometimes a new human person results. We even use the familial terms Father and Son to describe two Persons of the Trinity. However, this analogy also has its limits.
Obviously, a human family of three persons contains three separate human natures, not one. Furthermore, the human child begins to exist after his or her parents exist, whereas the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are coeternal (meaning that each Person of the Trinity never began to exist and will never stop existing: God always exists, without beginning or end). We might say that this analogy emphasizes the three-ness of God at the expense of God’s oneness.
The Bible tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). As a Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another completely and entirely. Love is truly the essence of God’s inner life. At times the Trinity may seem like a dull doctrine, but Jesus showed us this truth about who God is to reveal God’s inner life to us. God loves us and wants us to know him. God created us out of love, and we are created for love. We are created out of relationship for relationship. Faith in the Trinity, therefore, is not merely a doctrine but a dogma that shows us who God is and who we are as creatures made in his image.
The sign of the cross permeates a Catholic’s prayer life, from the public prayer of the Mass to private prayer around the dining room table. The priest opens Mass by leading the congregation in the Sign of the Cross. At the end of the Mass, he blesses the people “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and they cross themselves as he blesses them. At home, when Catholics pray before meals, they usually open and close the prayer by making the sign of the cross. In Catholic schools, the prayers the school prays in common usually begin and end with the sign of the cross.
The sign of the cross often introduces and closes other prayers, but it is a prayer in itself and can also be prayed on its own. Sometimes Catholics make the sign of the cross, with or without words, at other times as well. Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. Some may make the sign as they drive past a cemetery as a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there. Sometimes Catholics may make a quick Sign of the Cross when receiving bad news, or when sirens pass, as a way of praying for those involved.
Praying the sign of the cross is so common that we often rush through it without thinking much about it. But the sign of the cross is an ancient tradition with deep theological meaning.
How to do the Sign of the Cross
From childhood, Catholics are taught to make the sign of the cross, saying:
“In the name of the Father, [while touching the right hand to the forehead]
and of the Son, [moving the hand to the chest]
and of the Holy Spirit. [touching one shoulder, then the other]
You’ve probably seen your Catholic friends do it or at least you’ve likely seen it on TV as it is often referenced.
The History of the Sign of the Cross
The first “sign of the cross” that early Christians made was tracing a small cross on their foreheads. Around the year 200, Tertullian, an early Christian theologian, wrote about this sign: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.” By the fifth century, other Christian writers reveal that the sign of the cross was also being made on the lips and on the chest. Over time, Christians began making large crosses over their bodies as Catholics do today. It is unknown exactly when and how that developed, but the sign of the cross as we know it today is probably about 1000 years old.
The Theological Meaning of the Sign of the Cross
The sign of the cross, in words and in action, reminds us of the two central realities of our faith: who God is (the Trinity) and what God has done for us (the Cross). These are the core of why Catholics do the sign of the cross. Let’s examine these both in more detail.
When we pray “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we are invoking the Trinity. While many religions teach belief in God, Christianity is unique in its belief that the one God is a Trinity of Persons. This is a great mystery that not even the most intelligent theologian or the holiest saint could ever fully comprehend. We only know that God is a Trinity because God revealed this to us.
What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. A “substance” or “nature” is what something is. God, as a Trinity, exists in three Persons. A person is “who” someone is. In our experience, one human person each possesses one human nature. A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still two separate beings. In God, however, three Persons possess the same divine nature. If you were to ask each Person in the Trinity, “Who are you?” each person would answer something differently: “I am the Father;” “I am the Son;” “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you were to ask each Person, “What are you?” you would get the same answer from each Person: “I am God.”
The sign of the cross both reminds us of who God is and invites God into our prayer and into our lives.
While our words in the prayer of the sign of the cross are an invocation of the Trinity, the shape of the cross we make during this prayer are a reminder of the cross of Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross was the action by which he destroyed death, so the sign of the cross is a constant reminder of our salvation.
The Power of the Sign of the Cross
From the earliest days of the Church, Christians understood that the cross of Christ has great power. Even the sign of the cross is powerful because it is a reminder of the instrument Jesus used to defeat Satan. Tertullian (see above) recommended that the faithful mark themselves with the sign of the cross at all times because of its power in bringing Jesus’ sacrifice into their daily lives.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem expresses the power of the Cross very well:
Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. … It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils… for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. (Catechetical Lecture 13)
The sign of the cross is a powerful way of making us mindful of the Trinity and inviting God into our prayer and into our daily lives. It brings the power of Christ’s cross to us and can be a powerful help against temptation and an excellent way of reminding us of the great things Jesus has done for us. Pray the sign of the cross often and be mindful of what it means in the life of the Church and in your own life!
Image from https://flic.kr/p/cowdWs
For Catholics, the sacrament of Confession (also known as Reconciliation or Penance) is a wonderful opportunity to encounter the mercy of God through the ministry of the priest. God always offers grace and forgiveness through Confession, but you can increase your openness to this grace by making Confession a prayerful experience before, during, and after confessing.
Sometimes the hardest part of Confession comes before we even receive the sacrament! It is common to feel anxious about going to Confession and to be ashamed of our sins. What is important to remember, however, is that going to Confession is like going to see a doctor. The more honest we are about what is wrong (whether it is being honest about our sins in confession or being honest about our symptoms with a doctor), the easier it will be for us to experience healing. Preparing well to go to Confession can help you not only make a good Confession, but also feel less anxious about going to Confession.
Preparation for Confession can be broken down into three steps:
- Invite the Holy Spirit into your preparations
- Do an Examination of Conscience
- Write down your sins (this is optional but can be very helpful)
Invite the Holy Spirit
In the spiritual life, we are always guided by the Holy Spirit, so the first step to spiritual preparation for Confession is to invite the Holy Spirit into your heart. Ask him to show you your sins and to inspire in you a proper spirit of repentance. This can be a simple prayer, as simple as saying,
“Holy Spirit, come into my heart and show me my sins. Give me a proper spirit of repentance and the grace to make a good confession. Give me your peace that I might not be anxious but rather trust in your abundant mercies.”
Examination of Conscience
Once you have invited the Holy Spirit into your preparations, it is time to make an examination of conscience, searching your conscience to discern where you have fallen short through actions, thoughts, words, and even inaction.
Fortunately, there are many resources to help with your examination of conscience. Sometimes your church will have pamphlets that contain an examination of conscience. You can also find several examinations of conscience online. Today, there are even phone apps for Confession that include examinations of conscience. If you are not sure what prayers to say during Confession or how to respond to the priest, or if you don’t have an Act of Contrition memorized, these resources often also have guides to Confession that will walk you through the process of receiving the sacrament. Here’s one we have put together.
Many examinations of conscience are organized along the themes of the Ten Commandments, listing specific sins that violate each commandment. Some of them also include the precepts of the Church as part of the examination. You should also try to be aware of other ways you may have fallen short not mentioned in these guides. The more frequently you examine your conscience, the more you will be aware of sins you have committed. It is a good idea, although not required, to examine your sins on a regular basis even when you are not going to Confession immediately afterwards.
Write Down Your Sins
It may help to write down your sins as you examine your conscience. This way you will not have to worry about forgetting your sins when you walk into the confessional. This will help the process of confessing your sins because you will know exactly what to confess. It can also help the final stages of preparation for Confession, because instead of trying to make sure you remember all of your sins you can spend the last moments before you enter the Confessional saying a final prayer that you may make a good Confession. You might have to wait in line, and this can be a helpful time to say some final prayers of preparation.
You might pray along these lines:
God, thank you for showing me the things that wound my relationship with you. Calm my nerves and give me the grace to make a good Confession, not holding anything back due to shame or anxiety. Thank you for the gift of this Sacrament.
Depending on where you go to confession, you will usually have a choice of going face-to-face with the priest or behind a screen. Either way is fine; it’s just a matter of what you prefer. The priest is not allowed to tell anyone your sins, so don’t worry about the priest knowing who you are if you go face-to-face. The priest will keep your confession a secret whether or not he knows who you are.
When you enter the confessional, the priest will begin by making the Sign of the Cross. Make the Sign of the Cross along with him and say, “Amen.”
Then, say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was [then tell him how long ago your last confession was].”
Now it is time to confess your sins. You should begin by saying, “These are my sins.” Then list your sins. It is not necessary to go into great detail as long as you confess your sins fully and honestly. For example, if you lied to a friend, you don’t need to talk about all of the circumstances surrounding the lie. You can just confess that you lied, and if the priest thinks he needs to know the circumstances, he can ask you when you are done confessing your sins. You must confess any mortal sins you have committed. It is also a good idea, although not required, to confess your venial sins. When you have confessed your sins, finish with, “For these and all my sins I am heartily sorry.” This will cover confessing any sins you may have forgotten about or are not aware of committing, as well as letting the priest know that you are done confessing your sins.
The priest may offer you some advice or ask further questions about what you have confessed, but this is not essential to the sacrament.
Next, the priest will ask you to make an Act of Contrition. Although you are not required to say any particular Act of Contrition, and you can even make up your own, most people like to have an Act of Contrition memorized or written down. If you don’t have one memorized, the same places you can get an examination of conscience (a pamphlet about confession, a phone app, or the internet) will often provide you with an act of contrition. If you do not have it written down or forget the words of the Act of Contrition when you are in the confessional, you can also ask the priest to guide you through an Act of Contrition.
One common Act of Contrition is:
Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. I detest my sins because of thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend thee, my Lord, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
After you have gone to Confession, there are several steps you can take to integrate the graces of this great sacrament into your life as you leave the confessional and head back into the world.
- Do Your Penance (this is required)
- Pray in thanksgiving for God’s mercy
- Resolve to avoid sin in the future
How to Do Your Penance
When you confess your sins, the priest will give you a penance. Usually your penance will involve saying certain prayers. Sometimes the priest may ask you to do a good work in addition to or instead of saying a particular prayer or prayers. Often you can pray these prayers before you even leave the church building and go out into the world again.
Thank God for His Mercy
In addition to your penance, there are other ways you can prayerfully respond to the experience of Confession. Thank God for the grace of a good Confession and for his forgiveness and mercy in the sacrament. You may want to pray a prayer like this:
God, I thank you for your abundant mercies. No sin of mine is beyond your power to forgive, and your forgiveness has restored my soul to friendship with you. Thank you for never ceasing to love me even when my actions show that I do not love you fully. Thank you for seeking me out as the shepherd seeks the lost sheep.
You may also want to pray for the priest who heard your confession.
Resolve to Avoid Sin
If you have written down your sins, it can be very satisfying to rip up the paper on which you wrote your sins and throw it away as a gesture expressing your freedom from the sins you have confessed and your resolve not to sin again. Whether you do this or not, you should ask God for the grace to sin no more, to avoid the near occasion of sin, and to resist the temptation to sin.
God, I always want to live in friendship with you. I ask that you give me strength to resist and reject sin in all of its forms as I continue to grow in love of you and in my understanding of your immense love for me.
One wonderful thing about the sacrament of Confession is that it provides you with the grace to resist sin in the future. That means that in addition to absolving you of your past sins, Confession also helps your future growth in holiness.
Image by Alexandre Eggert from Blumenau, Brazil – esperança – hope, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7211444
The Catholic Church has many ways to pray and show our devotion to God. There is the Rosary, the Mass, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc. There are all kinds of prayers that the Church prays together throughout history. One of these ancient, yet still beloved devotions is the practice of praying novenas.
A novena is a set of prayers that are prayed 9 days in a row. This often leads up to a feast day or special event.
The practice of praying novenas is an ancient prayer practice that goes back to the time of the Apostles. We find the biblical reference from the book of Acts:
“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts 1:13-14
Here they prayed for 9 days in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Later, in chapter two of the book of Acts, it says that the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. Well, pentecost is a greek word that means the 50th day. (This was the name hellenistic Jews gave to the Feast of the Harvest referenced in Exodus 23:16) Jesus ascended to heaven after the 40th day. Which leaves 9 days in between.
It’s not clear from history when exactly the practice of praying novenas began. However, we know that it was modeled after these 9 days.
Over the centuries, various practices surrounding 9 days of prayer became common.
If you would like to join in praying a novena, we recommend PrayMoreNovenas.com where you can easily sign up to receive the prayers by email on each day of the novena.
Initially, it may be confusing to understand how Catholicism relates to Christianity. When you ask Protestants what religion they are, most of them will say, “Christian.” When you ask Catholics the same question, however, nearly all of them will identify as “Catholic.” Yet Catholics believe in Jesus and read the Bible. So how does Catholicism relate to Christianity?
In fact, there are many kinds of Christianity. There are several kinds of Protestants, and these different types of Protestants do not always agree with each other. There are various branches of Eastern Orthodoxy. Generally speaking, Catholics and Orthodox have more in common than Catholics and Protestants do. Finally, there are Catholics. You are probably familiar with Roman Catholics but there are also Eastern Catholics. There are several types of Eastern Catholicism, and they are very similar to Eastern Orthodoxy but they are in communion with the Pope.
So the answer to the question, “What is the difference between Catholics and Christians?” in short is, “There are no differences. Catholics are Christians.” Indeed, Catholics believe that while other Christians are really and truly followers of Christ, the Catholic Church alone possesses (as a gift from Jesus Christ himself) the fullness of the truth Jesus came to reveal.
Even though Catholics are Christians, Catholics may seem very different than other Christians. Let’s look at some of these differences. Because most of the non-Catholic Christians you will meet are probably Protestants, we’ll focus on how Catholic beliefs relate to Protestant beliefs. While there are many differences, we will look here at two of the major ones: the role of Scripture and the role of good works.
Scripture and Tradition
Catholics and Protestants both believe that the Bible is the word of God. Protestants believe that the Bible is the only source of revelation about faith and morals. This is called sola scriptura, meaning “Scripture alone.” Catholics, on the other hand, believe that God’s revelation comes to us in two ways: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Therefore, Catholics believe that the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture and to decide when an interpretation of Scripture is false. For Protestants, on the other hand, what their pastors or Church leaders say is a valuable source of guidance and can be a lens through which to look at Scripture, but these sources do not have the same authority for Protestants that the Catholic Church has for Catholics.
Because Catholics follow Tradition as well as Scripture, it may seem that Catholic Church does not value Scripture as much as Protestants do. On the contrary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which sums up the beliefs of the Catholic Church, says (quoting a document from Vatican II),
The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful… to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’” (CCC 133)
It is true that some Catholics do not know the Bible very well. The Church encourages all Catholics to read and learn more about the Bible. One way she does this is by presenting the Bible to Catholics at every liturgy.
The Bible and the Mass
The Bible is an important part of every Mass. First and foremost, the Scriptures are read at every Mass. Over the course of three years, a Catholic who goes to Roman Catholic Mass every Sunday will hear around 15% of the verses in the Bible, and over 40% of the verses in the New Testament. A Catholic who goes to Mass every day, including Sundays, will hear around one third of the verses in the Bible and almost three quarters of the verses in the New Testament.
Furthermore, the entire Mass has Scripture woven throughout. For example, when he elevates the Eucharist, the priest will say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” This echoes John the Baptist’s words in the Gospel of John: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). In the book of Revelation, an angel says, “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). The people’s response (“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”) is also Biblical: it is similar to what a centurion tells Jesus when asking Jesus to heal his servant (see Luke 7).
Faith and Works
Another important and significant difference between Catholics and many other Christians is their theology of faith and works. One of the central tenets of the Protestant Reformation was sola fide, meaning “by faith alone.” What this means is that we are saved, or justified, by faith alone and not by works. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that both faith and works are necessary for salvation.
Many people, even many Catholics, misunderstand the Catholic Church’s teaching and believe that according to the Catholic Church, we have to earn our way to heaven. This is not at all what the Church teaches. Our salvation is a work entirely of God’s grace, but God’s saving grace requires a response from us. Faith is essential to that response, but so are actions (works). Actions are not just evidence that we believe. They are a key element in working out our salvation (cf. Philippians 2:12). In fact, the only time the words “faith alone” appear together in the New Testament is in the book of James, which says, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24).
Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are often sources of debate between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Of course, there is far more to these debates than a short essay can convey. Despite these debates, be assured that Catholics are Christians! Like our brothers and sisters who are Protestant, we love the Bible, and we worship Jesus Christ as our Lord and God and trust in his power to save us.
What happens to children of an annulled marriage is something that needs to be worked out between the two parents and the courts. [Read more…]
Pope Francis plans to call all catholics around the globe against climate change, something that can anger many of the Vatican conservatives.
According to Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican, cited by The Guardian daily, the pope wants to have direct influence about the vital conference of climate of ONU which will take place in Paris on 2015 and will be the culmination of decades of negotiations that will help to determine the future of the planet.
“The idea is to have a reunion with the leaders of the principal religions so that all people become conscious of the state in which our climate is and the tragedy of social exclusion. If the current tendencies continue, this century will be witness to the climate change and destruction of the ecosystem with tragic consequences”, said Sorondo.
The pope has announced a plan to emit an “encyclical” of the Catholic Church about climate change. However, it will not be easy for Pope Francis to convince 1,200 million of catholics around the globe about the importance of the subject. Even in the Vatican there are some that are skeptic about the impact of global warming.
I am al in favor of the pope and his fight against climate change and hope he has great influence in people around the globe to have a positive effect on global warming.
I grew up in a household that put up the Christmas tree a few days after Thanksgiving. Our tree would be up until sometime after Christmas, usually coming down the first week of January. There was never a defining moment when the Christmas decorations went up or when they should come down. We didn’t talk much about Advent other than we knew it was happening and the church would display those cool purple and pink candles set in a wreath.
It was only several years later after moving out of the house that I really took to heart the meaning of Advent and properly put the focus of Christmas on the correct dates. [Read more…]
Kneeling at Mass is one of many postures during the liturgy. At different times we are to kneel, sit, or stand depending upon what is taking place during Mass. Each posture takes on a certain significance within the liturgy, especially kneeling. [Read more…]
God calls each of us to a particular vocation in life. The Catholic Church defines both particular vocations as three states of life: single, married, religious, and also a general vocation of all baptized believers. [Read more…]
Limbo is a theory developed by Medieval theologians as the place where unbaptized persons go when they die. Limbo is not an official doctrine of the Catholic Church nor has it been rejected by the Church. [Read more…]
Sundays in Lent are not considered part of the forty (40) days of the Lenten season and therefore one is not required to uphold one’s Lenten penitence. For example, if you gave up eating desserts for Lent, you may have a piece of cake on a Sunday. [Read more…]
Wow! I went to check the news this morning and I was hit with a whopper. Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign at the end of this month! That’s less than three weeks from now. I am stunned. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 as part of a deal to end the Great Western Schism. [Read more…]
Recently Google updated its algorithm to remove pornographic images in search results for non-pornographic searches according to a recent FoxNews.com report.
Google tweaked its search algorithm overnight, effectively making it much harder to stumble upon pornographic images. The company says this will minimize the likelihood that a random search for, say, bicycling, would return sexually explicit pictures.
I applaud Google’s efforts to clean up web search and to reduce the risk of exposure to children. While Google doesn’t eliminate porn from search results, it did make innocuous searches less infiltrated with porn which I consider a small victory.
“The effective de-ranking of adult content in an attempt to prevent inadvertent exposure to adult content is a trend we have seen in recent months by the major search engines. New top-level domains such as .xxx are only making it easier for consumers to find exactly what they want but at the same time making it easy for those wishing to avoid content.”
I feel like I am bombarded by sexual images all the time from news stories on the web to innocent searches. This makes the internet a safer place for children and gives parents the ability to teach their kids how to use the internet without having to worry about exposure to dangerous content.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a teaching tool by which other teaching methods can be derived. It is a concise explanation of Catholic beliefs compiled from many documents written by bishops over the centuries. The Catechism is not considered a sacred text like the Bible.
The foundations of the Catechism are the Scriptures and the lived Tradition of the Church. Catholic doctrine is written in many documents that have spanned the 2000 years of the Church. The Catechism itself references many papal encyclicals, church council documents, and the Scriptures as reference points for teachings. The catechism helps to consolidate all of this teaching into a handy reference.
A Brief History of Catechisms
The word catechism has it roots in the Greek word katechizo meaning to teach by word of mouth. Prior to the invention of the printing press the primary method of communication was oral. An early church catechist would speak a teaching of the Church and instruct the listener to repeat it until it was learned by heart.
The first Catholic catechism was written after the Council of Trent which took place in 1546 and was published in 1566 and called the Roman Catechism. A new catechism was not created until 1994 called The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Other bishops in various parts of the world may have produced a catechism, such as the Baltimore Catechism of 1885, but there was not a universal catechism produced between the years 1566 and 1994.
The Purpose of the Catechism
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is intended primarily to the bishops of the world and the people who assist them in teaching the Catholic religion. Its purpose is our spiritual renewal through a clear, systematic, and comprehensive presentation of the essentials of the Christian faith.
The Catechism was designed to be both a book from which individuals can learn about Catholicism and also a source book from which teaching materials could be created. It was created with the idea that local bishops would adapt it for their particular culture (i.e. local catechisms) and also that textbooks and other resources for teaching could build upon it.
Is there only one Catechism?
There is only one main Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it has been adapted in many different ways. There are adaptations which seek to simplify the Catechism to make it easier to read by different audiences such as youth and even adults. YOUCAT is an effort to bring the depth of the Catechism to a teenage audience. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is a more condensed and reader friendly version of the Catechism for adults.
Do Catholics believe the Catechism is like the Bible?
Some people mistakenly elevate the Catechism to a sacred status, one on par with the Bible as though the Catholic Church has multiple sacred and inspired books like the Mormons claim. Unlike the Book of Mormon for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Catholics do not believe that the Catechism is sacred writing nor that it is another testament of Jesus Christ. The Catechism is not a holy book. It is useful for unpacking the Bible and understanding the truths of the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ and God’s will for our lives.
The Catholicism DVD series by Fr. Robert Barron has taken Catholic parishes by storm. In case you haven’t heard of it you should check out. Below are some clips from YouTube of Fr. Robert Barron.
As you can see Fr. Barron is a great evangelizer who makes the Catholic faith easy to understand. You can buy the DVD series yourself or there is a book you can purchase which is a companion to the Catholicism DVD series.
Again, I highly recommend these videos to help you grow in your Catholic faith or even for people who are new to the Catholic Church and want to learn more about the church that Christ founded.
The letters of Paul make mention several times of salvation by faith. There are passages in Romans, Ephesians, Titus, and Galatians just to name a few. To some these passages might appear like a pretty open and shut case in favor of a teaching that says salvation is by faith alone and that “once saved, always saved.” Yet, the bible never says “alone.” [Read more…]
Imagine you’ve just died, but you didn’t quite know it. You try to move on with your daily business, but your curiosity is piqued by finding yourself in a familiar yet very different place. Eventually you discover you are in purgatory and now you must figure out how to get out.
This is the setting in which A Dead Man’s Odyssey: A Paranormal Journey into the Nether World takes place.
The author, George T. Horvat, has written a real page turner in which the reader becomes strongly connected to the main character, George. It’s easy to connect with him because you feel like you are connecting with the author himself. Horvat makes the book feel personal, as though you are living right along with George in the story. George shares intimate details of his life which further makes him seem very relatable.
The book also presents some interesting food for thought regarding the afterlife. What will purgatory be like? Horvat’s depiction of purgatory is an interesting one. Everyone is in their own purgatory, taken back to what resembles a physical place from some point in their own life. The amount of sin needing to be purged is measured by the length of one’s shadow. As time passes, one’s shadow grows shorter. Physical bodies are restored to a state of perfect health yet one cannot remember the good times in life, left only to dwell on the bad.
There are shortcuts to getting out of purgatory. People are allowed to interact with each other, but they cannot touch other or else they will have to start over their time in purgatory, unless they already know each other, then by touching you can reduce the other person’s time in purgatory or send them to heaven depending on whose shadow is shorter. There are the Vacant Ones whom one cannot touch at all without being sent back to the beginning of their time in purgatory. There are many twists and turns in the story always leaving the reader wanting more which Horvat delivers.
At first I was skeptical about the book. I’ve never read religious fiction before thinking it would be hokey, but I decided to give it a shot and I am glad I did. Consistently review after review about this book remarks how the reader could not put down the book. My sentiment is the same: I could not bear to put it down. Page after page I just wanted to find out what was next.
I appreciated how this book stimulated me to think about the afterlife and what it will be like. Even if you do not believe in purgatory the book makes you think about your own beliefs regarding this teaching. This book is a real gem and I look forward to more books from George T. Horvat.
Launch day is finally here! I’ve been working very hard to create a brand new About Catholics experience for you for many years and I am proud to offer this website to you today. [Read more…]
Original Sin is the sin inherited by all humankind from Adam in his disobedience of God’s command not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The Original Sin event is referred to as “The Fall of Man.” [Read more…]
We were inspired by a post in our forums (which you can see below) to make some suggestions on prayers for someone who is in a coma. If someone you know is in a coma, our hearts and prayers go out to you! This must be an extremely difficult time for you and we really pray for God to be with you and your loved one! The first prayer that comes to mind for a situation like this is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This chaplet was given to St. Faustina by Jesus. It is a powerful prayer that many pray for those who are very sick or dying.
Next is the St. Jude Novena. If you’ve never prayed a novena, this is the perfect time to start and the St. Jude Novena is perfect for this sort of tragic situation. St. Jude is the patron of impossible causes. Many, many people turn to St. Jude by praying for his intercession through a novena when there is a seemingly impossible situation such as a severe illness or coma.
Lastly, it is very important to pray for your loved ones’ soul. While we never know what will happen with a coma and if God will choose to heal someone or not, praying for his/her soul is the best thing to do. Pray that they will go to heaven and await you there where you will be reunited in the love of Christ.
We hope this is helpful to you during this hard time. We’re praying for you!
From our forums:
Hello, About a week ago someone very dear to me had an open heart surgery but he never woke up from it, he is still in a coma and his down left side is paralyzed. Things are not looking good at all and the doctors doesn’t know if it’s a stroke, swollen in the brain or what..
He is only in his mid twenties..
i have been praying for him but I’m starting to lose hope in his recovery.. I know that faith can make miracles happen but i am too tired and scared and am not capable of fully believe that a miracle will happen.
Please pray for him, please..
Joining you with our Blessed Mother, and all the Saints to petition with us at God’s throne for the graces needed by everyone involved.
I am sorry for your tragedy. I will pray.
Thank you both for your prayers
They are going to withdraw the life support soon because the doctors says that the damages are so severe ( in both lobes of the brain) and they are irreversible..
He is in an other country at the moment, so rule differs, plus they are ot Catholics, but isn’t this act a sin? In my country it is considered a sin and is not even allowed by the law.
But in either cases, I want to thank you for your prayers for him, and would like if you could have a last prayer so that his soul will rest in peace.
Thank you so much once again
The Church does not require that people be left on extraordinary forms of life support. Removing machines that keep someone who would otherwise not be able to survive, and have not hope or recovery are not required by the Faith, we can allow nature to take it’s course. Either keeping someone on or taking them off extraordinary life support is a hard decision, but not sinful to consider of or do. It is not directly ending someone’s life.
Pope John Paul II explained the distinction between allowing to die and euthanasia in the following manner:
“Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forgo so-called “aggressive medical treatment,” in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. … To forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death.”
Evangelium vitae, n. 65.
My own poor prayers for you and all involved, as well as that the Angels lead him into paradise.
Thank you for explaining this to me. My knowledge is not that wide in things like that.
He passed away this friday, and it has been very hard on all of us.
But still praying for his soul.
Thank you for your prayers too, they are very much appreciated.
God bless you
Horoscopes are a means of attempting to know the future through an astrologer’s interpretation of Sun sign astrology. The Catholic Church teaches against the use of horoscopes and other such fortune-telling practices such as astrology, palm reading, clairvoyance, ouija boards, and mediums because they attempt to take the place of God. [Read more…]
Mortal sins are sins of serious or grave matter. “Mortal” means death; they are sins that cause death to the soul. Mortal sins completely sever one’s relationship with God and the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (commonly called Confession) is necessary to restore this relationship.
Venial sins, on the other hand, are less serious sins.
Are all Sins the Same?
Some people will argue that there is no difference between sins that all sins offend God and therefore are equally bad. However, scriptures tells us that there are sins that are deadly and sins that are not deadly in 1 John 5:16-17.
“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”
Conditions for Mortal Sins
Three conditions must be met to classify a sin as a mortal sin. All three of these conditions must be met otherwise the sin is considered a venial sin.
- Grave Matter – If the nature of the sin itself is not grave then it’s not a mortal sin.
- Sufficiently Full Knowledge – If you don’t know that it’s a mortal sin then it’s not.
- Full Consent or Freedom – If you are not doing it freely then it’s not a mortal sin.
Grave matter means that the sin must be of substantial significance. It must be a serious sin. The Catholic Church uses Mark 10:19 as its guideline for what defines grave matter. “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs that “The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.” (Paragraph 1858)
Sufficiently Full Knowledge
Sufficiently full knowledge means that one must fully know that the sin they are committing is serious and have the intention of breaking the relationship with God. Pretending not to know that the sin is wrong or having a hardness of heart actually magnify that the sin was a personal choice.
Full Consent or Freedom
Full consent or freedom means that the person must fully and willingly commit the sin. If the person is being coerced to commit the act then it is not a mortal sin. It must be a choice made completely of one’s own free will, a conscious choice. This kind of choice is available to us through God’s gift of free will. God’s desire is for us to love him and making a conscious choice to commit mortal sins is the opposite of loving God.
Mortal sin deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. It kills one’s receptivity to that grace hence the reason it is important to go to confession to cleanse the soul of mortal sins.
The Unforgivable Sin
The only sin that cannot be forgiven is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:29; cf. Mt 12:31; Lk 12:10). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the final and obdurate rejection of God’s forgiveness itself, stubbornly refusing forever to accept God’s outpouring of forgiveness.
Here are what some others say about Mortal Sin:
What the Vatican says about sin: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” and about Mortal Sin, they say: “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.”
Sounds pretty serious, right?
Well, there is the possibility that your culpability for these sins could be reduced based on circumstances and the conditions for a mortal sin. For example, unintentional ignorance of the fact that something is sinful could reduce your culpability. That’s based on condition #2, full knowledge. As for condition #3, full consent, there are other issues that could reduce someone’s personal responsibility such as mental illness or addiction.
Here’s a good reminder about the relationship between mortal and venial sins: Remember venial sin merely weakens the soul but doesn’t break the relationship with God. However, it’s still good to go to confession from time to time with venial sins to unburden your soul. With mortal sins, on the other hand, it’s much more serious and it causes a break in your relationship with God.
If unsure, Seek Guidance. It can be difficult to ask about sin because of the shame attached to it. However, the best way to ask would be to go to your local parish for confession. While in confession, you can ask about it and get helpful tips on how to proceed. Most parishes offer anonymous confession that allows you to talk with the priest behind a screen so he can’t see you. Don’t be afraid, priests have heard thousands of confessions. So, honestly they won’t be phased by your sins 🙂 If you don’t remember how to go to confession, click here.
Don’t lose hope! We are reminded that the great gift of the sacrament of confession can reconcile us with God. All we need to do is repent and try to amend our ways.
In the end, remember to go frequently to confession to hone your moral sense and remove your attachment to sin.
Venial sins are less serious sins that do not cause death to the soul like mortal sins. Venial sins, while less serious in content or participation should be given strong attention because they lessen the love of God in the heart and weaken the power to resist further sin; they are still offenses against God and leave marks on the soul. Venial sins make us more prone to continue to commit sins and possibly commit mortal sins. [Read more…]
The Precepts of the Catholic Church are like a bare bones list of things you must do as a Catholic; they are like minimum membership requirements. The idea is to guarantee “the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.” [Read more…]
Wanting to go to confession is the first step in going to confession. Confessing your sins wipes the slate clean again with God and makes us stronger spiritually. Regularly going to confession is a way to grow in holiness. Knowing what to do in confession will make the process much easier. [Read more…]
Abortion is an issue of grave concern to Catholics because it concerns issues of human dignity. As Catholics, we believe that human dignity is rooted in God. Our dignity comes from the very fact that we were created by God in the image and likeness of God and because of this, all people are equal in dignity. The Catholic Church is against abortion because it infringes upon our God-given dignity. [Read more…]
Below is the text of the Apostle’s Creed prior to the liturgical changes in Advent 2011.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,and the life everlasting. Amen.
Marriage, also known as matrimony, is a sacrament in the Catholic Church; it is the union of one male to one female in order to come closer to God and is the appropriate venue in which to bear children. Marriage is a sacred covenant between each spouse with each other and with God. [Read more…]
Preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church usually begins by contacting the parish of your choice in which you wish to get married. Most often this would be one of the spouse’s home parish or the parish that one or both currently attend. You might speak to the priest or a someone on staff who coordinates weddings to initiate the process. Typically you would do this about one year in advance of your desired wedding date. [Read more…]
Below is the text of the Nicene Creed prior to the liturgical changes in Advent 2011.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
A lot of people are asking about Transcendental Meditation and if it is okay for Catholics to use this practice. Well, someone in our forums is actually a former practitioner and he is warning Catholics to beware. If you want to meditate using a mantra as a Catholic it’s best to use a mantra that is centered on Jesus. You could also do something like mindfulness meditation which usually consists of focusing your attention on your breath or something like that rather than using religious mantras. That being said, the Catholic Church has such a rich tradition of prayer you really don’t need to look anywhere else.
- Jesus, I trust in You.
- Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.
- I love you Jesus
- Thank you Jesus
- Praise Jesus
- Holy, holy, holy
Whether or not this warning is completely true, why not just focus on Jesus?
This one is from our forums: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGIS TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION USES A MANTRA LINKED TO LUCIFER
Hirim is a word known to Freemasonary and is associated with Satan according to Fr. Siano F.I in the recent issue of the weekly Il Settimanale di Padre Pio. Hirim is mentioned in the official list of mantras of Transcendental Meditation.
I was reading an article on Freemasonary in the magazine Il Settimanale di Padre Pio. It mentions a name for Lucifer. This article is one of a series on the same subject. The word ‘hiram’ is connected with Satan. The word seemed familiar to me.I was wondering if it was the same word used as a mantra in Maharishi Mahesh Yogis Transcendental Meditation.
I was a teacher of Transcendental Meditation(TM) and completed a five months course for teachers at Pattaya, Thailand. We had to sign a document saying that we would keep the mantras secret . The mantras are given out according to a persons age. When someone would come to learn TM they would have to fill a form with personal details. They would be asked their age.Then according to their age I would give them the mantra during the ritual of initiation the puja.
Many of the TMers I knew were Freemasons and members of the Theopsophical Society, which projects itself as a liberal,open minded, tolerant organisation but it is evil and their members hate the Catholic Church.
Last night I checked the list of mantras of Transcendental Meditation at an internet shop. The mantras are no longer a secret. I found the list of TM mantras. It is the same list which I used as a TM teacher
One of the mantras given out is hirim.
Fr. Siano F.I an Italian priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate(F.I) has done studies on Freemasonary and he shows in well referenced articles their link with Satan. Last Sunday at the Church Santa Maria di Annunziata in Rome I browsed through the recent issue of Il Settimanale di Padre Pio which I read regularly. Again Fr. Siano mentions the word hiram and Lucifer in the headlines of the article.
I recall on my teachers training course the German instructor saying that the mantras are meaningless words but they have a value at another level of consciousness.
I recall seeing a video on the course in which Maharishi is asked his opinion about a person’s strange actions. He is told that perhaps the spirit who is in that meditator prefers to act likewise.
In another video Maharishi also praised a meditator who had experiences which definitiely were related to a Hindu deity and the realm linked to the deity.It was not Christian.
On the teachers training program I was not allowed to go for Mass on Sunday.Privately I would often pray my rosary.
I am aware that TM has opened my unconscious to realms in which I have to protect myself daily with praying the rosary, going for daily Mass and not sinning.
Here is the list of the mantras with the word hirim.
Official Mantra List in the Practice of Transcendental Meditation:
The mantra I used wasshirim.
When I was learning the advanced TM technique the TM-Sidhi program and I had not started ‘hopping’ I informed my teacher naively that I was praying for success. This made him extremely angry. He thought I would never ever learn the advanced meditation technique.
This was all a long time back before I went to Medugorje in the mid 90’s. The other TM teacher once realized that I was being lost to the TM Movement, even though at that time I did not know it, she said that I should beware that a lot of people are praying for me and they want me to leave TM. I thought it was odd that she would make that remark.Since it was so uncharachteristic of her. I was wondering what was the source of her knowledge which made her make that remark.
Many years later when I was talking to my bishop he mentioned casually at dinner that it is only after we die that we will realize who had been praying and making sacrifices for us. I laughed I knew he was hinting at me.
Our Lady was with me constantly. She did not leave me.
Former Teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogis Transcendental Meditation
Thank you for your posting. There are many groups that seek converts by at least initially telling people that they are a Philosophy of life and can practice their own religion and the new Philosophy side by side. One other group that comes to mind is the Soka Gakki, who tell you that you can chant their mantara and practice your old religion, but slowly isolate you to their group alone.
TM and Yogic courses, as well as some Quasi Buddhist groups will approach and rob you of your faith by slowly engaging you, until they control your life.
LARobert I agree with you.
Today morning as I was walking near the Vatican on one of the side streets there were so many posters on meditation (Meditazione).A Buddhist teacher will come to Rome as he does every year to teach simple techniques of meditation.
The poster says the courses are free and one can learn how to relax and improve all areas of life and discover the Self.
This disovering of the Self is not a Catholic teaching and it is commone to the Orient.
Also in the later stages one will have to accept other philosophy from the religion of this meditation teacher dressed like a Buddhist monk.
Soon one will have to accept reincarnation and reject the Catholic concept of Heaven and Hell which exists for all eternity.
Also one would have to reject the possibility of being in contact with demons or other entities and that this is not the Self.
Hirim is not a biblical word.
Hi’ram, King of Tyre, friend of both David and Solomon,
The name means Consecration
2Sa 5:11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house.
1Ki 5:1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father; for Hiram always loved David
Hiram a man of eminence and the principle architect sent by king Hiram to Solomon
Ki 7:13 And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre.
1Ki 7:14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naph’tali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill, for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon, and did all his work.
I’m not sticking up for ‘free masonry,’ But Hiram may be the architect and not satan, there was a king of Tyre who later was said to have the evil spirit of satan:
Eze 28:12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
Eze 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God…
Eze 28:15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you…
Eze 28:18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
Isa 14:13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north;
2Cr 11:14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
But Masonry like your T.M. tolerates your beliefs til?
Masonry is willing to humor those brethren who go along with the local and tribal cults so long as they realize that the sectarian doctrines of these cults are simply necessary
evils. Pike explains:
But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religion. All that ever existed have had a basis of truth; and all have overlaid that truth with errors . . . Masonry is the universal morality which is suitable to the inhabitants of every clime, to
the man of every creed. [Albert Pike, <Morals and Dogma>, p. 161]
Masonry is not about the Gospels, It’s enlightenment through their teachings, seems like a form of ‘Gnosticism’ to me.
T.M comes from Buddhism, hindu ideas.. all self enlightenment. Outside of Christ.
Christianity= Only Jesus Christ can change our nature.
It’s always been my feeling to meditate on the Scriptures, that has brought me to deeper meaning.
Chanting things I don’t understand? Kinda like ‘speaking in tongues’ I see no value in it, groaning in the spirit
Christians groan, because we see both the limitations of this body and superiority of the body to come. We are earnestly desiring our new bodies!
Rom 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (also 2Cor 5:2).
Not allowing to attend Mass, what were your thoughts @ the time?
Thank God you prayed the Rosary, when we pray the Rosary we pray the Gospels, possibly prayer kept you from falling away.
then again Eastern Religions Reject the infallibility of accepted scripture: Teachings should not be accepted unless they are borne out by our experience and are praised by the wise
I’ve been torn against the RCC myself only to eventually find my way back…
Yes we can open doors in the spiritual realm which greatly affects us here. Even in praying over people we can take on their demons.
Amen! How do you feel about teaching others to meditate on Scripture? I can’t do it often, usually it takes 20 minutes of just plain quiet for me to fall into meditation, but when I did it was a generally a good experience because I was reflecting on Scripture.
Good Friday is the second day of the Easter Triduum and the day that Catholics and other Christians throughout the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. According to Mark 15:42 Jesus died “on the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath.” The Hebrew Sabbath is celebrated on Saturday which is preceded by Friday. Therefore the Friday before Easter (the day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead) is traditionally marked as the day Jesus died on the cross. [Read more…]
The Catholic Church is not just another denomination within Christianity, it is the universal community established by Jesus. The word catholic literally means “universal.” Catholic has its origins in Greek from kata meaning “concerning” and holou meaning “whole” thus “concerning the whole” or universal. [Read more…]
The Catholic Church is a global community of believers founded by Jesus Christ over two-thousand years ago. There are over 1 billion Catholics on earth. The Catholic Church is made up on many people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Sometimes the Catholic Church is thought of as a big tent – it encompasses many people within the spectrum of political belief all united by the same central religious belief or creed. [Read more…]
The Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father, is a unifying bond of Christians. Jesus taught it to his disciples as the way to pray to the Father; he did not necessarily mean to pray the exact words, but rather to use the structure of the prayer. [Read more…]
For much of history the Catholic Church banned cremation as a choice for dead Catholics, but in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban. Cremation is now an acceptable practice for Catholics, but only if done for the right reasons. [Read more…]
If you live in a country where you elect government officials (like in the United States) then you know voting is an important part of citizenship. Moreover, if you are Catholic, you have a duty to vote in accordance with your Catholic beliefs; we are first children of God and then citizens of our country. [Read more…]
Catholic beliefs and doctrines have their roots in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who founded the Catholic Church nearly 2,000 years ago. These beliefs have been codified in a few different sources, namely Scripture and Tradition. Ah, yes, it’s that hot, Catholic buzzword “Tradition.” [Read more…]
As a Catholic, collecting sacramentals such as votive candles, religious pictures, rosaries (which sometimes break), medals, palm branches and other misc. religious items is fairly common. What do you do if you are unsure if they are blessed? [Read more…]
Suppose someone were to ask the following, “if we are saved by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, why do I even need the sacraments? Isn’t it blasphemy to add to what Jesus did and say that we need to go through a series of rituals in order to experience the grace of Christ which the Bible tells us clearly, is given freely by the finished work of the cross?” [Read more…]
What does the Catholic Church really teach about divorce? Isn’t an annulment just a Catholic divorce? If I am Catholic and divorced can I remarry? Can a divorced Catholic receive communion? These are common questions that we answer. [Read more…]
At the very core of the Catholic faith is the belief in God. Without the belief in God there is no belief in the rest of the Catholic faith. You either believe in God or you don’t – it’s the foundational argument of our religion. [Read more…]
“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” – God
The third and final Commandment pertaining specifically to loving God with our total mind, heart and soul is also a commandment designed for us. It gives us an opportunity to rest, relax, regroup and talk to God. [Read more…]
The Ten Commandments, sometimes referred to as the Decalogue, can be seen as a legislative body of rules. From the time when God issued them on Mount Sinai to Moses (Exodus 20:2-17) that is how some people practiced them. However, Jesus came to clarify how we fulfill those Commandments. [Read more…]
Sexual intercourse was designed by God to unify a married couple and to further participate in God’s ongoing creation.
Marriage is the union of a male and female for the rest of their lives. This is not just a Catholic definition, but a universal one. Today’s world is the first time in history that atempts have been made to redefine marriage. [Read more…]
Have you been saved?
Do you know if you are going to heaven?
I’m sure many people reading this have seen or heard of this before.
A funny thing is this “assurance” of salvation. [Read more…]
I grew up in a very Catholic household; I was baptized, made my first communion, made confessions, and attended Catholic school all as a young child.During this time, I believed in my faith because of what my parents and teachers taught me, both in actions and words.Through them I was made aware that God existed. [Read more…]
The Christmas holiday season tends to be what most people look forward to every year.
Listen to songs that croon lines such as, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and my point will be clearly seen.
We must remember what Christmas is – what is celebrated. For, if we do not, or, shall I say, if you do not, then perhaps you shouldn’t call it Christmas. [Read more…]
(ABOUTCATHOLICS.COM) – Accused of worshipping things other than Jesus, Catholics take a lot of heat on their teaching of praying to saints (defined as dead Christians known to be in heaven by the Church). [Read more…]
Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at mass, when we state that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Catholics believe that the true church can only be identified as one that bears all four qualities. [Read more…]
Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at mass, when we state that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Catholics believe that the true church can only be identified as one that bears all four qualities. [Read more…]
Those Catholics are at it again – they say that at mass they are actually eating the body and blood of Jesus Christ, citing passages from the Bible such as John 6:52 and Luke 24:2. [Read more…]
It seems to me that everyone wants a piece of the pie, but not too many people want to do what it takes to get it. They try to cut corners or devise other ways to get at this pie, but in reality these people are only fooling themselves in thinking that they are going to get any of it. Jesus never told us it would be easy to make it to heaven he told us that the road is constricted and the gate is narrow and that those who find it are few (Cf. Mt 7:14). It seems that people around the world scoff at religious leaders telling them to shape up and repent or be denied the fruits of true discipleship. But this has been the history of mankind.
For instance, take a look at the Old Testament books of the prophets. Time and time again God spoke through the prophets of Israel to the people and warned them that if they did not repent of their sins and turn back to obeying God’s laws they would face punishment. Several times the chosen people did not listen. They fell away, rejected God’s message and kept on with their lifestyles. One of the few times a large group of people listened to God were the ones that were not even the chosen people of Israel. The book of Jonah gives us that story.
In the book of Jonah the man Jonah himself refuses God’s calling of him to prophesy to the people of Ninevah, the traditional enemy of Israel. Jonah, as legend has it, is thrown overboard from the ship he is on and swallowed by a whale. Eventually he heeds God’s calling and goes to Ninevah. Ninevah was a wicked city that did not worship Yahweh, the god of Israel, and Jonah greatly feared going there. When Jonah prophesied to Ninevah that if it did not repent of its sins that God would destroy it they repented much to the surprise of Jonah. Everyone, from the king to the lowliest and even the animals humbled themselves and God, seeing this, did not destroy them.
But isn’t this how it is? Those open to a conversion experience of the Lord will have one and rejoice, but those that feel they have a special right of passage because they are born into a system take for granted all the opportunities for conversion. That was the message of the story in Jonah. Many of the Jews of that period were vindictive and complacent thinking that because they were God’s chosen people they were the only ones God would protect and have mercy upon. It was an intolerant nationalism which pervades our modern world to this very day.
Jesus warns us of complacency as well. There is no such thing as going to heaven because you think you deserve it. There is no pick and choose as to which laws of God you should and should not follow. Yes, our God is a god of compassion and love, but he is also a god of justice and reward each of us accordingly. God is a jealous god, but is always there for us if we simply turn to him!
Turning away from sin is to turn from ourselves and put God in the center. At the middle of sin is “I” and making ourselves our first priority is the root of sin. Look at Adam and Eve. Eve took the fruit from the tree because she wanted it. God had strictly forbidden her not to eat it and yet out of her own curiosity she did it regardless. We are warned in 1 John about denying our own sinning. Here I quote 1 John 1:8-10:
“If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
We must be willing to acknowledge that we sin against God and our fellow people not only in what we do, but also in what we fail to do. However, God loves us and is here for us if we turn our lives to Him and discern His plan for us. Why do people mock others that have extraordinary faith with love and dependence of God? This is what all Christians are called to! God has always spoken to us through other humans and scared texts. Certain people have been chosen as the true authentication of this divine communication. For Israel it was the priests and the scribes and for Christians today it is the successors of the Apostles, the ones sent out who succeed the ones who witnessed Jesus Christ first hand. If this assured system did not exist, how could we declare which beliefs of being Christian are authentic or not?
Truth is not discerned by opinion of what certain texts say rather it is by people put in the proper authority by God. How many leaders of church groups can authentically retrace their authority on Christian matters back to Christ himself? Only Catholic and Orthodox bishops can! Our bishops have maintained throughout the centuries authentic Christian doctrine only expounding on beliefs already held and reaffirming the principles of our faith. This matter of bishops tracing their authority to Jesus and his Apostles is called apostolic succession. Apostolic succession even has its roots in Scripture at the beginning of the book of Acts (the title “Acts” is short for “Acts of the Apostles”. Cf. Acts 1:15-26). Within that story the remaining 11 Apostles choose another disciple of Jesus to be counted with them ‘ in other words Matthias, the one who was eventually chosen, was put on the same level of authority as the other 11 Apostles themselves. The same phenomenon has happened throughout the centuries as each generation passes the faith to the next.
This is not to say that these people are impeccable about everything that comes out of their mouth, but they do carry much more authority over the Christian faithful in matters of faith and morals. Jesus promised he would protect them and always be with them (Cf. Mt 28:20ff). He also promised that when two or three gather in his name he will be there with them (Cf. Mt 18:20). Jesus is still here protecting his church and with the church when it gathers in his name.
Our Christian faith is something that was passed on from Christ to his disciples and is handed down to us today. Jesus did not say write books and hand out copies of them saying, “Go, interpret this to all nations and bicker amongst yourselves as to the truths of my teachings. The Holy Spirit will be with you affirming your thoughts about my teachings because no matter what you say, even though it is conflicting, it is the truth about me and the gift of salvation I will give to you.”
Instead Jesus prayed for unity (Cf. John 17:11), he taught us our faith by his lips and that it is a way of life not something that is an activity at which to drop off the kids. He taught us that the way is hard. How many times did he tell his disciples that in order to follow Jesus one must carry his own cross, one must give up everything for Jesus? Jesus never said he was going to be popular nor did he say that what is popular is right. He never tells us that being a disciple of Jesus starts with a one time event of accepting him and that the rest of your life will be easy. The rewards of discipleship are not of this world.
St. Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy that one day people will make up their own doctrines to satisfy themselves and move away from the truth (Cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-4) deviating from the pillar and foundation of truth. He teaches us that these people are only in it for themselves (Cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-4).
This is why I write to you so that you may better understand Jesus and reflect upon our global surroundings. If Jesus’ teachings are subjective to each individual then why did he bother coming in the first place? There has to be one unified truth which has its authority from God. Jesus came to teach us to love God first and foremost, to love our fellow humans on this planet as much as we love ourselves (Cf. Mt. 22:37-39) because God shows no partiality (Cf. 2 Chr. 19:7) and he came to die for us so that we may share in the glory of his Father. The only thing Jesus asks you to do is listen to him and to the ones he sent out carrying his message.
For those that do love God first and foremost above all things and love each person as much as they love themselves that piece of the pie that we all crave will be theirs. For God so loved the world that he sent his only son that those who believe in him may have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).
- Jesus is Condemned
As God’s own people, we have Christ as our head. He delivered himself up for our sins. In accepting a cruel death, he won for us the right to eternal bliss with God our Father.
- Jesus takes his cross
As the redeemed of the Lord, we are called to walk in his footsteps of the humble, cross-bearing Christ. Each of us has his daily cross to bear to be worthy to share our Savior’s glory. [Read more…]
An Examination of Conscience is helpful in preparing for confessing one’s sins in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. It helps one to reflect over several areas of one’s life and what he or she has done and if he or she has offended God in any way. We hope you find this as useful as we do when preparing for confession. [Read more…]
Throughout the New and Old Testaments of the Bible, one may detect, among others, three major themes: Particularity and Universality; Nature and the Natural Law; and Grace. All three topics permeate the Bible, and yet may also be perfectly demonstrated in one single text: the first chapter of the Gospel of John. As in all the teachings of the Bible, these three themes communicate doctrines that apply to all mankind. One must fully grasp the concepts of Particularity and Universality, Nature and the Natural Law, and Grace, however, before he may extract the deeper meaning.
Particularity and Universality
The idea of Particularity and Universality may be interpreted in two different ways. Firstly, there is the situation where the literal level, sensus literalis, of a text may apply to a specific people or teaching (Particularity), while the deeper sense, or sensus plenior, may be referring to mankind in general (Universality).
One example of such a text is Genesis 3:15, which states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” On the literal, particular level, it would seem that God is referring to Eve alone, and her “offspring” is mankind. The “you” referred to is the snake, the symbol of evil and Satan; his offspring are demons. “He will strike at your head…” implies that mankind, the offspring of Eve, will be embroiled in a constant battle with evil. This literal level translation denotes the universal aspect of the text.
The particular, then, is the sensus plenior, the idea that “the woman” is the Virgin Mary, and her offspring is Jesus Christ. The Divine Offspring will destroy sin for all mankind, but the devil, though destroyed, will return with a vengeance. There will be an endless struggle for souls between Christ and Satan. Thus, the particular is made clear by the deeper meaning of the text.
The other method of advancing Particularity and Universality is through a symbolic foreigner. There are many instances of foreigners being invited into what were previously only strictly Jewish ceremonies or communities. The Book of Ruth serves as a perfect example.
Ruth, a Moabite and therefore outsider, rejects her own familiar religion and customs to remain with her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth is not only embraced by the Israelite community but actually marries an Israelite named Boaz and becomes the great-great-grandmother of Jesus Christ.
Through the example of Ruth, it is clear that the Israelite people, who are God’s Chosen People from whom the Messiah will come, are not granted an exclusive monopoly on salvation. The belief that they are the particular elite comes crashing down with the addition of one from another culture: Ruth, the universal symbol.
The Book of Jonah treats of the same theme as Ruth, for the Ninevites, in their wickedness, are about to be destroyed by God. Jonah is sent to preach to them, they repent, and God retracts His punishment. Jonah, however, only understands particularity, for he is disappointed and wants God to punish them.
He does not comprehend that God reaches out to all in His Divine Universality. Some other texts which speak of foreigners preaching Israelite truths are Genesis 12:3, Exodus 3:15, Isaiah 56:6, and Acts of the Apostles 18:25. Thus, the foreigner interpretation of Particularity and Universality abounds.
Nature and Natural Law
Next, Genesis 1 best defines the idea of Nature and a Natural Law. The natural hierarchy of all Creation points to the fact that there is an order to it. God is the highest form of Being; indeed, He is Being Itself. Next comes man, who has being and reason, and of whom God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). The beasts have being as well, but are distinguished by men in that they do not have reason. Plants have only existence, and minerals, last of all, are solely matter.
The “image” and “likeness” of God in which man was created are human nature and grace, respectively. Grace will be treated of later, so only human nature will be discussed here. The two parts of human nature are reason and free will, and these two must agree.
Free will can only be used justly when it is in accord with reason. What guides reason, then? Clearly, there must be a sort of natural law by which the reason knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong. God Himself makes it clear that such a law exists: “If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master” (Genesis 4:7, emphasis added).
St. Paul, thousands of years later, emphasizes the same idea in his letter to the Romans. “[The Gentiles] show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them” (Romans 2:15).
Even in Moses’ time men recognized the existence of the natural law, for Moses proclaims, “For this command which I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you…. No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out,” (Deuteronomy 30:11, 14).
Additional references to the natural law may be found in the test of Abraham in Genesis 22, which was a test that disregarded the natural law; in Genesis 9:6; and in Romans 13, a full discourse on natural law. Natural law, then, is the law of God that is written in the heart of every man so that his reason may guide his potent power of free will.
The “likeness” of God mentioned above has been defined as grace. In that case, what is grace? St. Paul says, “They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith” (Romans 3:24-25). Hence, grace is a means to justification.
Further on in Romans, St. Paul clarifies grace, “[W]e have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Since we may “boast in hope of the glory of God,” it follows that grace must be a friendship with God, a partaking in His glory.
In Galatians, St. Paul goes so far as to say, “…to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption…. So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Galatians 4:5, 7).
So, grace is not limited to a simple gift; it actually makes us children of God. It is the gift that allows us to get into Heaven. It is a “reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18); “circumcision” (Galatians 6:15); “inheritance” (Colossians 1:12); and makes us “fellow citizens” and “members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
The Prologue of the Gospel of John, which consists of verses 1 through 18, follows up on the concepts of not only Grace but also of Nature and Natural Law and Universality and Particularity. With regards to Grace, John says, “And the Word…full of grace and truth…. From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14, 16-17).
Since the Word, the eternal Logos, of God is full of the most perfect grace and truth, He transfers nothing but grace in a fuller sense to mankind by becoming man Himself and glorifying human nature. His Incarnation is all the more splendid when one realizes that “All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life and this life was the light of the human race…. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:3-4, 9).
The Word of God is so perfect that It is, in Itself, a Person, and the Word of God created the universe. Thus it is that the Word humbles Himself infinitely by taking upon a human nature that He Himself created. He is the cause of human nature, for He created the order of the universe. Further, He is also the natural law, for natural law is a part of human nature.
Finally, the Word comes not only particularly, for “he came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:11-12).
Therefore, grace is not limited to a particular group of people, for those people rejected it by rejecting Him. Grace must be offered as a free gift to all, universally, for whoever wishes to take it.
Though the idea of grace being given by the Word appears somewhat new, the idea of the Word himself is known and predicted in even the Old Testament. The Book of Sirach plainly states, “From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and mistlike covered the earth…over every people and nation I held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose inheritance should I abide?” (Sirach 24:3, 6-7).
The “inheritance” mentioned here is a foreshadowing of the grace that is later preached by St. Paul and others; it echoes Colossians 1:12. For the Creator tells the Word, “In Jacob make your dwelling, in Israel your inheritance” (Sirach 24:8).
Grace is a gift from God that makes man heirs to God; Israel is the Chosen People of the Lord; therefore, it naturally follows that the Chosen People will receive God’s Grace. But, as one learns from John, those to whom the Word came rejected Him, so grace is conferred upon all.
The eternity of the Word, furthermore, may be found in Proverbs: “The Lord begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth…. When he established the heavens I was there…. Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day” (Proverbs 8:22-23, 27, 30).
The Word is not created—the Creator begets him. He is “poured forth” as the creative Intellect of God to form all creation. Also, the Word is just as responsible for creation, for as God is the Creator, He is the Intellect of God that caused everything to have being, so powerful is He.
Thus, the three themes of Grace, Nature and the Natural Law, and Universality and Particularity are promulgated in either deep or shallow meanings of Biblical texts. From them, one can learn of the gift of grace given to man by God and how to attain it; of the very nature of man and how he is to follow the voice of God within him; and of God’s loving Mercy and how, if man does not follow the particular promulgated law, he may still retain hope of salvation.
When it comes to judging human actions, it is perhaps best that God is in charge, and not only because He said so. The feeble mind of man cannot even remotely begin to have the capability to take into account all the influences on an individual when he acts. Any attempt on the part of man to assume God’s role results in miserable failure, as seen in both the heteronomous and autonomous movements in the Church. A heteronomous view of the salvation of man often excludes the role that conscience plays in an invincibly ignorant individual, leaving all the poor non-Catholics with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs in Hell. Shifting to the opposite extreme leads one to an autonomous view of morality, which denies any sort of absolute moral norms and thereby allows any unholy fiend in human form to stand before the Almighty after sinning in defiance. The latter case is perhaps the more popular-for obvious reasons-but is just as incorrect and dangerous. Autonomous ideas may take many forms, but one version in the Church at present is what is known as Proportionalism, discussed in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. While the Pope’s assessment of the danger affords a very clear and thorough definition of Proportionalism, it focuses mainly on the teleological ramifications of subscribing to its teachings. Though some Proportionalists have cited St. Thomas Aquinas to support their error, a closer inspection of the full text of Aquinas shows that he is not only not a Proportionalist but also that his arguments are some of its most devastating opponents.
Before launching into Aquinas’ account of human action that proves so fatal to Proportionalism, one must first understand the substance of the teachings of Proportionalism. Veritatis Splendor sums up the error nicely: “[Proportionalism], while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain[s] that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values.”1 Given the fact that the Ten Commandments, among other teachings, seem very absolute, one would think that it is difficult to hold such a view. The Pope explains the way in which the Proportionalists endeavor to bypass such a fundamental barricade: “The criteria for evaluating the moral rightness of an action are drawn from the weighing of the non-moral or pre-moral goods to be gained and the corresponding non-moral or pre-moral values to be respected. For some, concrete behavior would be right or wrong according as whether or not it is capable of producing a better state of affairs for all concerned.”2
The terms “non-moral” or “pre-moral” in the Pope’s definition need clarification in order for one to understand the nature of Proportionalism. Non-moral or pre-moral goods are those that have some relation to the person doing the acting. The encyclical names “health or its endangerment, physical integrity, life, death, loss of material goods, etc.,”3 as some of the more often-named pre-moral goods. Put another way, these goods are of a kind that, if endangered or threatened, could allow the actor (or agent) to perform as a good act what, in other more ordinary circumstances, would be considered an evil act. On the other hand, there are pre-moral evils, linked inseparably to the good, since moral act implies a choice between good and evil. When one prepares to act, he “proportions,” or weighs the factors, and chooses those that have more values than disvalues. For example, if a person were given the choice to place a tiny speck of incense on an altar to Zeus and deny his own God, or face horrible torture and death, the Proportionalists would claim that the values of staying alive, being with one’s family, etc. outweigh the disvalue of what may be only at the surface denying God. The act of saving one’s own life in the face of martyrdom can be legitimately performed as a good act, since the extraordinary circumstances of the individual’s position allow for that one exception to the First Commandment. The individual’s judgment of these potentially threatening circumstances thus becomes the deciding factor and the act’s “‘moral goodness’ would be judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its ‘rightness’ on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion.”4 Hence the name “pre-moral”: since the actions are judged by intention and the situational circumstances, both of which happen at the time the agent is faced with a difficulty in his path of action, the action itself is neutral until the agent’s own circumstances enter into the equation. It logically follows, then, that there can be no such thing as intrinsically evil acts, that is, acts that, by their very nature, regardless of the circumstances, are evil. Speaking in the voice of a Proportionalist, the Pope writes, “Even when grave matter is concerned, these precepts should be considered as operative norms which are always relative and open to exceptions.”5
It is precisely because of the conclusion that there are no universal, morally absolute, intrinsically evil acts that the Church entirely rejects the Proportionalist view. Though the Proportionalists may be acting out of good intentions, the Church cannot in any way make allowances for their teachings. The Pope understands that Proportionalism is an attempt to “provide liberation from the constraints of a voluntaristic and arbitrary morality of obligation which would ultimately be dehumanizing,”6 for, without any real choice, a person is not using his reason and freedom of choice, which distinguish him from the animals. But Proportionalism is one of the “false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action.”7 Circumstances and intention can play a very important role in moral action, but they “can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice.”8 As was said before, Pope John Paul II does not delve into the question of circumstances and intent; for that, one must turn to St. Thomas Aquinas.
Proportionalists point to certain lines in Aquinas to “prove” that he supports their theory. They claim that Aquinas writes that “circumstance transforms an action” and that “human action may be good or evil according to its circumstances” but such claims are quoting Thomas out of context-the latter quotation comes from the sed contra of Prima Secundae, question eighteen, article three, with which Aquinas proceeds to disagree. St. Thomas’ analysis may be broken down to three points: there are two kinds of circumstances, neither of which can make a bad action good; nor can good intent make a bad action good; but evil intent can make a good action bad. Before the reader gets entirely confused, he must first understand the essential difference in circumstances and how they may affect action.
St. Thomas Aquinas is very clear when he distinguishes what will be called “specifying circumstances” and “circumstances of the agent.” Using Aristotelian terms, he explains that “just as the primary goodness of a natural thing is derived from its form, which gives it its species, so the primary goodness of a moral action is derived from its suitable object.”9 Form is the defining application of the natural thing itself; so, too, is the object for an action. For example, “using a hammer” is an action with no defining moral qualities-it is neutral. The act becomes a moral act when certain objects are introduced into its nature, or essence. “Using a hammer that is one’s own” is an instance of making use of one’s own property and is an act, as Thomas says, “good in its genus.”10 It is a good action because the circumstances that specify something intrinsic to the nature of the action-namely that the hammer belongs to the user-are good. “Taking a hammer that belongs to someone else,” however, contains the circumstances that necessitate some wrongdoing: stealing. The evil object of taking another’s property is necessitated by the specifying circumstance that the hammer does not belong to the one taking it. Since “the primary evil is that which is from the object…this action is said to be ‘evil in its genus,’ genus here standing for species.”11 To translate Thomas’ terminology, the species of an action is either good or evil, and is determined by a “circumstance added to the object that specifies the action.”12
Specifying circumstances affect the essence of an act itself and are therefore objective, but there is another kind of circumstances that are entirely subjective, varying from agent to agent. These are the circumstances of the agent, and “are in an action as accidents thereof.”13 This means that anything relating to the agent, such as moral education, invincible ignorance, pressure from outside sources, and other accidents that may be the reason why an individual acts may affect the extent to which he can be judged. Circumstances of the agent only affect the culpability of the agent, not the nature of the action itself. It is on this point that the Proportionalists are confused; they equate personal choices (and therefore culpability) with the essence of an action. A person’s bad intentions may make a good act bad, but they can never make an intrinsically evil act good, because the evil in such an act is wedded to the very “whatness” of the act itself.
Though it sounds as if the Church is holding a double standard, Thomas explains why this is not the case. There are four ways in which an act is good: by its genus, species, specifying circumstances, and end. “Nothing hinders an action that is good in one of the ways mentioned above, from lacking goodness in another way. And thus it may happen that an action which is good in its species or in its circumstances is ordained to an evil end, or vice versa; circumstances can transform an action, but only from a good act to a bad one. An action is not good simply, unless it is good in all those ways: since ‘evil results from any single defect, but good from the complete cause.'”14 So, an action that is good by its nature (that is, in its specifying circumstances) may be evil in other ways that disallow it from being a good act. Similarly, an action that is bad by nature can absolutely never be a good act. Put simply, it is just more difficult to be good than evil.
Lest his readers be confused on any points thus far, Thomas gives an account of an entire moral act, with all circumstances and intentions, hidden and visible, shown in their respective positions. Naturally his language is rather complicated, but by applying what has been dealt with previously regarding circumstances, one finds the explanation quite satisfactory. He begins by discussing how the “interior action of the will” (that is, the person’s intent and consent to an action) and the “external action of the will” (that which is actually done visibly) are both determined in species by their ends. Now, when the will consents interiorly, the action becomes formal-even before the body is able to carry it out. Material cooperation occurs when the body carries out what the will has ordered. Thus, the consent of the will is the first action in any circumstance, so if a person already consents to something evil but does not have the chance to carry it out, he has already committed a sin.15
Thus, St. Thomas’ discussion of circumstances is a death blow to Proportionalism. The difference between specifiying circumstances and circumstances of the agent will hardly allow any room for evasion. One can hardly claim that a person’s intention will make an evil act good when even the interior decision to do something evil without carrying the evil out is a grave sin. The only possible plea, when one has done evil, is that his circumstances, as an agent, were so grave that they either lessen or eliminate his culpability. Those circumstances do not touch the nature of the act itself. In the face of the difficulty, one should not attempt to escape the moral norms, but should embrace them, for it is an opportunity to prove one’s faith. In the words of Pope John Paul II: “And this is what takes place through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth of freedom and of love: in him we are enabled to interiorize the law, to receive it and to live it as the motivating force of true personal freedom: ‘the perfect law, the law of liberty’ (James 1:25).”16
1 Veritatis Splendor, 75.2.
2 Ibid. 74.3.
3 Ibid. 75.2.
4 Ibid. 75.2.
5 Ibid. 75.3.
6 Ibid. 76.1.
7 Ibid. 75.1.
8 Ibid. 81.3.
9 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, q. 18, a. 2.
12 Ibid. q. 18, a. 10.
13 Ibid. q. 18, a. 3.
14 Ibid. q. 18, a.4.
15 Ibid. q.18, a. 6
16 Veritatis Splendor, 83.2.
The Book of Revelation is written in a style very rich in symbols and images. Numbers are used frequently throughout the book. This is not going to be an exhaustive breakdown of all of the symbols and numbers but, rather, a demonstration of some tendencies that exist in scripture, and some things that can be discerned about the book. [Read more…]
Do Catholics follow the Bible?
Catholics have used the Scriptures for their faith for as long as they have existed. The Bible has not always existed in its current form. In fact, it was not put together as a compiled work until well into the 4th century! [Read more…]
Reading the Bible can be a daunting task, but the goal of many organizations over the years has been to make it easier for the common person to read and understand its message and God’s word. [Read more…]
Salvation is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial topics in all of Christendom. Very few seem to have a handle on it. In fact, it has been found that those who struggle with how we are “saved” often fall into two diametricaly opposed extremes. [Read more…]
There are some that say that the Bible really says very little about Mary. However, that is quite contrary to the truth. There are actually a lot of references to Our Lady. For some of these references, you have to do a little bit of digging. [Read more…]
Holy Orders, in the Catholic Church, is the sacrament through which men are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops. It maintains the continuity of the apostles whereby each ordained person is ordained by a successor of an original apostle of Jesus Christ. [Read more…]
Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation which completes baptism through sealing in Holy Spirit and anoints the recipient as priest, prophet, and king.
Who can receive Confirmation?
In the Catholic Church, anyone that has been baptized properly can and should be confirmed.
What is Catholic Confirmation?
Confirmation is a Sacrament in the Catholic Church in which the one who is confirmed (confirmandi) receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hand and anointing with oils by the bishop. It’s considered a sacrament of initiation which means that it brings you deeper into communion with the Church.
Who administers Confirmation?
Bishops are the original ministers of Confirmation along with other Catholic sacraments (Lumen Gentium 26).
“Bishops are the successors of the apostles. They have received the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its effects is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, her apostolic origins, and her mission of bearing witness to Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1313)
In the Eastern churches (non-Latin rites) the priest is the ordinary minister of this sacrament and performs it immediately after baptism. However, it is performed with chrism oil that has been consecrated by the bishop expressing the apostolic unity. In the Latin rite (which is the largest of all rites) the bishop is the ordinary minister. Read about the history of Confirmation.
In the west, most churches have the Bishop come and visit the local parish to confirm an entire class (age group) of students who spent the year preparing for confirmation. However, the Bishop can also ‘delegate’ his apostolic authority to perform the sacrament of confirmation to the local priest who is then able to administer the sacrament without the bishop having to be present.
How many times can one be Confirmed?
“Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the ‘character,’ which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1304)
In other words, just once! It’s a permanent thing that is fully completed and doesn’t expire.
What is the matter and form of Confirmation?
Catholic Confirmation is performed with the ordinary minister extending his hand over the one to be confirmed and anointing his/her head with the oil of chrism saying, “be sealed with the Holy Spirit.” The actual Confirmation ceremony is much longer than this, but this is the “meat” of the action. The oil of chrism is consecrated by the bishop at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday and is reserved for special things like Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, blessing of tower bells, consecration of churches, altars, chalices and patens.
What are the effects of Confirmation?
In short it is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Confirmation brings Catholics a deepening of baptismal grace and unites us more firmly to Christ. It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit and leaves an indelible mark on the soul just like baptism.
What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit received through Confirmation are
- Fortitude or Courage,
- Piety or Love, and
- Fear of the Lord.
Where is this sacrament found in Scripture?
Anointing with oil is an ancient Biblical tradition originating in the old testament with the Jewish people. The Jews had a messiah and it was usually their king at the time, howver they were also awaiting a greater messiah, one that would deliver them and raise them up. This messiah happened to be Jesus. The sign of the Messiah was that he was royal and messiahs were put in their position by being anointed with oil and an appointment from God. This tradition carried on in Christianity with the teaching of the sharing in Christ’s messiahship and his royal priesthood. In fact, the first example of Catholic Confirmation can be found in Acts 8:14-17.
What does a Confirmation sponsor do?
Confirmation sponsors “bring the candidates to receive the sacrament, present them to the minister for anointing, and will later help them fulfill their baptismal promises faithfully under the influence of the Holy Spirit whom they have received.” (Rite of Confirmation, 5)
There are a few requirements to be a Confirmation sponsor. They must be spiritually fit to take on their responsibility which is evidenced by
- sufficient maturity to fulfill their function;
- membership in the Catholic Church and having received all of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and eucharist);
- freedom from any impediment of law to fulfilling the office of sponsor. This means that a sponsor must be in good standing with the Church (no public dissent, believes in the teachings of the Church, and in full communion with the Church).
Since a sponsor has such a significant role to play in the development of confirmation candidate it is important that this person be one who is a living example of faith, one whose actions reflect the actions of Jesus. A confirmation sponsor offers support and encouragement during the confirmation preparation process.
Confirmation sponsors need not be of the same gender as the candidate nor do they need to be from the same family. As long as they fulfill the requirements above it can really be anyone.
How do I choose a sponsor?
Think carefully about someone you know who meets the criteria above. The Church encourages us to consider our godparents as sponsors for confirmation. Confirmation’s strong connection to baptism makes one’s godparent to be a natural choice if this person meets the requirements above. If you do not know someone who meets the criteria above or they are not able to sponsor you then discuss your options with the confirmation coordinator at your parish to see if they can find someone suitable. Often members of the parish will volunteer for those who are unable to find a suitable sponsor.
The sacrament of confirmation is the way for a Catholic to attain full membership in the Catholic Church. It is a beautiful sacrament that will instill God’s grace within you to strengthen and sustain you in your journey of faith.
O my God,
I love you above all things,
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all-good and worthy of all love.
I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.
O my God,
relying on your infinite goodness and promises,
I hope to obtain pardon of my sins,
the help of your grace, and life everlasting,
through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
O my God,
I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins,
and that he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them,
who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
The Memorare is a powerful prayer asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is called the Memorare due to the first word of the prayer Remember which is translated Memorare in latin. No one knows who the original author of the Memorare is. However, the prayer has become a staple for Catholics throughout the centuries.
In the 17th century, Father Claude Bernard made it more popular by using it in his ministry. He even said that the prayer cured him of an illness. This motivated him to use it extensively and promote it heavily. However, he didn’t compose it. Since then it has only grown in popularity and it is often prayed at the end of the Rosary.
The Memorare Prayer
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins my Mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your clemency hear and answer me.
The Memorare in Latin
MEMORARE, O piissima Virgo Maria, a saeculo non esse auditum, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia,
tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia, esse derelictum.
Ego tali animatus confidentia, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro, ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto. Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi.
Behold, O Kind and most sweet Jesus,
before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with the most fervent desire of soul,
I pray and beseech Thee to impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity,
true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment.
With deep affection and grief of soul,
I ponder within myself,
mentally contemplating Thy five wounds,
having before my eyes the words which David the Prophet spoke concerning Thee:
“They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones” (Ps. 22:17-18).
The Bible contains many “rules and regulations” concerning baptism. All of these “rules and regulations” in the Bible regarding baptism are for adults since that in the entire Bible the people that are speaking and interacting are an adult, or they are people that are old enough to have a comprehension level of an adult. To better rephrase the latter part of the last statement; all of the Biblical figures, which are adults, are of the age of reason; they are able to discern what is right and what is wrong. [Read more…]
The answer is yes. God did intend for there to be one united Church led by leadership that Christ set forward before and after His death and resurrection. Let me show you some Scriptural proof for these statements, which are very much in favor of the Catholic position. [Read more…]
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come agian in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The following is the list of Catholic patron saints. If a date of observance is still celebrated in the current Liturgical Calendar, the date follows the name of the patron saint. If a day is not celebrated in the current calendar, the date of observance according to the old calendar is included in parenthesis. [Read more…]
Basis of Catholic Christian Moral Teachings
The basis of all Catholic Christian morality is our belief in the God who created all things and in Jesus who taught us even better how to live. We believe we are created in God’s image and that we, and all creation, are basically good. Yet we recognize our own tendencies toward evil, especially in an excess of our desires. The Ten Commandments are part of the code known to the early Israelites that helped them to live better lives in relationship with Yahweh. We believe in the same values, with certain changes because of our knowledge of Jesus Christ. [Read more…]
The rosary is a common, Catholic form of prayer that requires much meditation.
Though often thought to be devoted entirely to Mary, the rosary is actually
a meditation on the life of Jesus through the eyes of his loving mother, Mary. The entire rosary is a prayer of Jesus’s life.
It is another type of devotional where the one who prays the rosary reflects
on the Mysteries of our Redemption through Jesus Christ.
- Sunday and Wednesday
- Monday and Saturday
- Tuesday and Friday
- During Lent
The Mysteries of the Holy Rosary
The Joyful Mysteries
- The Annunciation
- The Visitation
- The Nativity
- The Presentation
- The Finding in the Temple
The Sorrowful Mysteries
- The Agony in the Garden
- The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Crowning with Thorns
- The Carrying of the Cross
- The Crucifixion
The Glorious Mysteries
- The Resurrection
- The Ascension
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit
- The Assumption
- The Coronation of Our Lady
The Luminous Mysteries
- The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan
- The Wedding Feast at Cana
- The Announcement of the Kingdom
- The Transfiguration
- The Institution of the Eucharist
Sacramentals are “sacred signs instituted by the Church that dispose people to receive the chief effects of the sacraments and they make holy various occasions in human life (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). [Read more…]
The Morning Offering is a great prayer to start each day. [Read more…]
Giving thanks to God for our food is a common Catholic tradition. The Grace Before Meals prayer below is the standard bearer for saying grace among Catholics.
Grace Before Meals
Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.
Grace After Meals
We give Thee thanks for all your benefits, O Almighty God, Who lives and reigns forever;
and may the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace.
The Hail, Holy Queen is a powerful and inspiring prayer that is prayed at the end of praying the Rosary. Below you will find the prayer in english and latin and some history.
The Hail, Holy Queen Prayer
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. And after this our exile, show unto us the blesses Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Salve Regina, Hail Holy Queen in Latin
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ, Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
About the Hail, Holy Queen
For centuries Catholics have prayed or sung the Hail, Holy Queen at the end of evening prayer and also at the end of the Rosary. We don’t know exactly who composed this prayer, but it most likely came from a monastic religious order. Its current form comes from a Marian hymn from the 12th century Abbey of Cluny.
Catholics regard Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to be the Queen of Heaven. This is one of her titles and it comes from the book of revelation. It also comes from the ancient jewish practice of there being a queen-mother as the queen of Israel. In other words, the Queen of Israel was the King’s mother not his wife.
In Luke 1:46, Mary says “My soul magnifies the Lord” which Catholics take to mean that in honoring Mary and in asking her intercession we are honoring God all the more. She is truly the Mother of Mercy as Jesus is Divine Mercy incarnate.
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done unto me according to your word.
And the Word became flesh.
And lived among us.
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: O Lord, it was through the message of an angel that we learned of the incarnation of your Son Christ. Pour your grace into our hearts, and by his passion and cross bring us to the glory of his resurrection. Through the same christ, our Lord.
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
and ever shall be world without end.
Hail Mary, full of grace;
the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. [Read more…]
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
In the Old Testament, when God established His Covenant with the nation of Israel, He provided for a living, continuing authority in the Mosaic priesthood (see 2 Chr 19:11; Mal 2:7.) This authority did not end when the OT Scripture was written; rather, it continued as the safeguard and authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture. When Christ established His Church, the New Israel, He set up a living, continuing authority to teach, govern, and sanctify in His name. This living authority is called “Apostolic” because it began with the twelve Apostles and continued with their successors. It was this Apostolic authority that would preserve and authentically interpret the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This same Apostolic authority determined the canon of the Bible, and will preserve the teachings of Jesus Christ in all their fullness, and uncorrupted from error, until the end of time.
Among the twelve Apostles St. Peter is clearly the head. Know Matthew 16:13-19 well: ” And so I say to you, you are Peter [Rock], and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, which mean “rock.” Our Lord says this rock will be God’s way of preserving the Church from corruption until the end of time.
Our Lord knew St. Peter would be dead by 70 AD Therefore Christ must have intended the office of Peter to last until the end of time. St. Peter is given the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.” This is an awesome gift. To nobody else does Christ give this ruling power. Reflect on this unique privilege. Why would Jesus would give this tremendous authority to St. Peter and not intend for it to be passed on? If he early Christians needed an authoritative leader, later Christians would need one even more. After all, many of the early Christians heard the Gospel from Christ Himself and knew the Apostles personally. After all the Apostles died, the Church would have even greater need of the power of the keys when enemies would try to corrupt the teachings of Christ.
Although all the Apostles as a group were given the power to “bind and to loose” in Mt 18:18, St. Peter received this power individually at the time he was given the “keys.” Jesus would not have guaranteed to back up the doctrinal teachings of St. Peter and his successors unless He was also going to protect them from teaching false doctrine in their official capacities as Shepherds of the Church. Read Lk 22:31-32 and John 21:15-17. In the passage from St. Luke, Jesus prays that Peter’s faith would not fail; Peter in turn would strengthen the other disciples. In the passage from St. John, Jesus clearly makes Peter the shepherd of His Church. So St. Peter is the rock on which Christ builds His Church. He is given the “keys of the Kingdom” and he is made shepherd of Christ’s flock: solid biblical evidence that Jesus made St. Peter the first Pope.
Now you might be saying, “where does the pope play into all of this?” Well, the popes are Christ’s vicars, the visible and earthly heads of Christ’s Church while Christ is the invisible and supreme head. Read Acts 15. This gives an account of the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem. Called at the request of St. Paul, this council met to decide whether Gentiles had to follow the Law of Moses as well as the Law of Christ. Notice that there was much discussion among the Apostles and presbyters. However, after Peter spoke, the assembly fell silent. His statement ended the discussion. This council obviously considered St. Peter’s authority final. Some may claim that Acts 15 shows that James, not Peter, was the head of the Church. Since James the Lesser (not James, the brother of John) gives the concluding remarks at the council of Jerusalem and also recommends some marriage and dietary regulations for the Gentiles, they conclude that James must be the head of the Church. All I can do is tell those people to read the Gospels, where St. Peter is unmistakably presented as a leader among the Apostles, whereas James the Lesser is not.
Read the first twelve chapters of Acts, which describe the early Church in Jerusalem. Every chapter (except 6 and 7, which describe Stephen’s martyrdom) shows St. Peter in a leadership position while St. James appears only briefly, and never in a leadership role. In Galatians 1:18-19, we are told that Paul went to Jerusalem after his conversion specifically to confer with Peter. He stayed with Peter 15 days. In contrast, Paul visited James only briefly during this time. At the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, it was St. Peter’s statements that settled the serious doctrinal dispute that was the reason for the council. As we saw earlier, St. Peter’s statements silenced the assembly of presbyters and the Apostles (including St. James). We know from Church history that St. James was the Bishop of Jerusalem and, as Acts 21:15-25 describes, he was concerned for Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who felt their ancient customs threatened by the great number of Gentile converts. This background explains why St. James made the concluding remarks at the council and asked Gentiles to respect certain Jewish practices. People are grasping at straws when they claim that Acts 15 proves that James, instead of Peter, was the head of the Church.
Some have also cited 1 Peter 5:1 numerous times to claim that Peter was not the head of the Church. They note that Peter, in addressing some elders (Church leaders), calls himself a fellow elder. They therefore conclude that Peter had no more authority than any other elder. But this is just like the President of the United States saying, “My fellow Americans.” This would certainly not indicate that the President has no more authority than an ordinary citizen. As an Apostle, St. Peter certainly considers his authority to be greater than that of an ordinary elder. After all, St. Peter goes on to admonish these “fellow elders” (1 Pet 5:2-4) as one having authority over them. In calling them fellow elders, St. Peter is simply acknowledging the obvious: like himself, they are also Church leaders. To insist that Peter, as an Apostle, had no greater authority than an ordinary elder, shows how little is appreciated about what Scripture says about the great office of Apostle.
Many people quote Gal 2:11-14 as well, attempting to show that Peter was not infallible and that Paul did not consider him the head of the Church. This position is not supportable. First of all, if they think Peter was not infallible, why do they accept his two letters as inspired and, therefore, infallible? We must accept that all the Apostles were infallible. After the Apostles, the popes individually and the bishops as a group in union with the pope, are infallible. St. Paul correcting St. Peter for weak behavior is no different from St. Catherine of Siena correcting weak popes in the Middle Ages. There was no doctrine involved. St. Peter himself had settled the doctrinal point at the Council of Jerusalem. St. Paul corrected St. Peter for being unwilling to confront the Judaizers from Jerusalem. Remember, St. Paul was among those who fell silent at the Council of Jerusalem once St. Peter spoke.
The early Church always accepted the Bishop of Rome as head of the Church. In about 80 AD, the Church at Corinth deposed its lawful leaders. The fourth bishop of Rome, Pope Clement I, was called to settle the matter even though St. John the Apostle was still alive and much closer to Corinth than was Rome. St. Irenaeus, who was taught by St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John the Apostle), stresses that Christians must be united to the Church of Rome in order to maintain the Apostolic Tradition. He then lists all the bishops of Rome up to his time. St. Irenaeus presents this teaching as something taken for granted by orthodox Christians. For 250 years the Roman Emperors tried to destroy Christianity through persecution. In the first 200 years of Christianity, every Pope but one was martyred; the Romans certainly knew who was the head of the Church! A Roman Emperor’s greatest fear was a rival to the throne. Nevertheless, the emperor Decius (249-251 AD), one of the harshest persecutors of the early Christian Church, made the following remark, “I would far rather receive news of a rival to the throne than of another bishop of Rome.” Decius said this after he had executed Pope Fabian in 250 AD.
Suppose that the owner of a company had called all the employees together and announced that he was going to be gone for a while. During his absence, he was going to give the keys of the company to Billy Bob and that whatever Billy Bob commanded would be backed by him. Would you have any doubt that Billy Bob was going to be in charge of the company while the boss was away? Of course not! Then why is it so hard for some to accept that this is exactly what is described in Mt 16:13-19?
Let us first begin explaining where the pope, his authority, and his power came from by using the word of God itself, the Holy Bible. Catholics mainly use Matthew 16:13-19 to prove the establishment and the existence of the papacy.
The Gospel According to Matthew is a very prestigious book in the fact that no other was so frequently quoted in the non-canonical literature of earliest Christianity. This gospel was believed to have been written in Greek. We also use the support of other verses such as John 1:42 as I will demonstrate for you soon. Here is what Matthew 16:13-19 says:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillipi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'”
One of the first and important things that is noticed is that Simon is the first one to answer Jesus’ question. He confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. What does Jesus do next? He blesses Simon telling him that Simon knows this because God, the Father who is in heaven, has revealed it to him.
We can easily see that Simon has been especially favored by God because it was to Simon that that it was revealed that Jesus is the Lord.
Immediately after that Simon is renamed Peter. Now, name changes in the Bible aren’t done for nothing. God changes people’s names for a very good reason. When God changes someone’s name it signifies a change in their status. For example Abram’s name is changed to Abraham. Abram means “exalted father” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude”.
Another example is the change from Jacob “supplanter” to Israel “God prevails”. We see that Simon’s name is changed to Petros meaning “rock” not “stone”. Therefore Matthew 16:18 is read as this: “And upon this Rock (Peter) I will build my church.”
Over the past few centuries many people have twisted the meaning of the passage due to their lack of understanding the translation and the Greek language. They say that the word used for “rock” in “upon this rock I will build…” is not Petros, but petra, a Greek word that has the meaning of “rock” and only “rock”.
Their argument is that if Jesus had intended to make Simon the Rock then Jesus would have called Simon Petra and not Petros. Since Jesus did rename Simon, Petros, Jesus must have meant that Simon is not the Rock, but a “stone” or a “little pebble” just like all of us Christians are called in 1 Peter 2:4-5:
“Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones (Greek: lithoi) be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
In this passage it is apparent that each Christian is a “stone” a lithos (singular of lithoi) not Petros.
We look to another passage in support of the significance in renaming Simon to Peter (Petros). Our example is John 1:42:
“Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas.'”
Kephas is Aramaic for the word Rock and it only means rock. It has no other meanings. Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Kephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times.
So, why here does it say Kephas instead of Petros?
Why does Jesus rename him differently?
It turns out that Jesus did not rename him differently. Jesus spoke Aramaic and not Greek. Sure you could say that Jesus is God and knows all languages so therefore he could have spoken what he wanted to. Well, the problem with that is Jesus had a mission to accomplish.
Jesus needed to be able to teach people in a language they understand; in a language that his disciples spoke and that language was Aramaic and not Greek. When translating occurred for the Gospel of John, the translator obviously decided to leave it untranslated in the text.
Now that we have a better understanding of languages and the original translation we can go ahead and tie Matthew 16:18 (Petros) and John 1:42 (Kephas) together to clarify upon whom the church was built.
Since the Aramaic Kephas means “rock” and “rock” only; it could not possibly ever mean “stone”. From this evidence we can conclude that Jesus must have meant that when he renamed Simon, Peter, he meant to apply the title “Rock”, petra, to him. The reason Jesus could not have named Simon petra, however, is very clear.
Jesus would have been giving Simon a feminine name because it has a feminine ending. petra is a feminine noun. It would not be appropriate to give a male person a female name. So Jesus switches the ending -a to -os so the Greek word “Rock” could be applied to Simon.
Again, we know that Jesus means to call Peter “Rock” and not “Stone” because in Aramaic he calls him Kephas, which can only mean “Rock” and not Evna, which is the Aramaic name for “Stone,” and because he could have called him Lithos instead, the Greek word for stone which already possesses a male ending.