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…]
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…]
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.”
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.
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.
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…]
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 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…]