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Do not be afraid. Just have faith. Mark 5:36

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NEW INSTALLMENT! 
FEBRUARY 2017


 

INSTALLMENT TWENTY

The Fall in the Garden-the Original Sin of Adam and Eve that brings us to where we are today- Christ has us where we are today because of His sacrifice, the forgiveness of that original sin.

 

About Genesis and the Fall in the Garden.

In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (Dei Verbum, Ch. 1, 2). In His goodness, God created the world, made man in His image, begat His Only Begotten Son, revealing Himself to us in His Son and had Him give His life for us—all to save us from original sin so that we would have eternal salvation with Him.

And what was our original sin? Maybe it was pride, hoping we could choose to use our will to do better for ourselves than what God had provided for us, and in some fashion, putting ourselves in a god-like status. Maybe our sin was fear; a fear that this was all too good to be true. Maybe we thought we needed to take matters into our own hands and listen to what the crowd had to say and follow the rule of the crowd. Maybe it was lust or envy of what God had and what we had not. He told us what was not ours, to have not or take from. And from that envy, we disobeyed. Maybe it was the selfishness. Yeah, selfishness; from pride to fear to lust and disobedience to selfishness all in a matter moments, if moments were all it took.

The serpent went after the doubt, the fear and the human desire to have more than what we have. (Just as Satan would do with his temptation of Jesus, in Matthew, chapter 4). He attacks on many fronts, often subtly and with half-truths that sound and seem like the truth…‘you will not die’. (Gn. 3:4cf). Indeed we would not die for we were already made in God’s image and would have life eternal with Him. Just do and be as He would do and have us do and be—with the free will we had, that’s all we had to do, to trust in His will for us.

“Death is a consequence of sin. The Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin.” (CCC 1008) Yes, Adam and Eve did die in that original sin turned them from the love of God. From their choosing wrong from right, against the will of God, this is how Adam and Eve died in the Garden. They died to the love of God as they knew it. Being banished from the Garden, they would have to learn of His love through the pain and suffering brought about through their sin. “To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Gn. 3:16) “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken”(Gn. 3:19cf)

The great harmony that existed was destroyed. It would take the Incarnation for the peace to come again as God would send His Only Begotten Son to restore the harmony once destroyed by man’s original sin. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Gn. 3:15) Mary is the new Eve and Christ the new Adam as she bore Him, to give Him life so that He would offer Himself up on the cross to gain victory over sin and death that came about from the garden. As original sin came into the world at the cost of the lives of Adam and Eve, we will—can—all have eternal life at the cost of One Life as Jesus Christ gave His life for us, for our salvation.

God intends for man and woman to be together. He also intends for them, for us, to be like Him as He made us, from the inside especially with the love He has given them, given us. That is how we were made. Not only are we to treat each other according to our own kind, we are to love each other and respect each other because we came from Him. We are united in Him and His Word, His Son is our salvation from Him. Pope Benedict noted that ‘Biblical revelation... is above all the expression of story of love; a covenant of God with man…and union between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage was able to be assumed as a symbol of the history of salvation.’ (Address to Congress of Roman Diocese, June 6, 2005) This intention God has then becomes purposeful, direct and harmonious, all for the good that He made it. For God said it was very good.



INSTALLMENT NINETEEN

THE TRUTH OF OUR WITNESS

Thomas Aquinas is noted as saying: “It follows from the very words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor" that those who are nearer to us are to be loved more.” How much better would it be for man to come closer to his salvation than to learn how to do just that, along with those things that he should believe, to find a greater life to desire and a path that would lead him to love God and his neighbor even more? Therein lies the importance of finding out more of the mystery of our faith, not just for one’s own salvation but also for the salvation of others.

With the gift of free will, God has given us all the freedom to do as we will—to respond to His call or make it our own choice to do as we would want. By following God’s call for us, faithfully and fully, we respond then to the plan He has laid out for us, a plan laid out in love and in His Truth. This Truth is our witness as we profess our faith in Him and with Him “with our different vocations and charisms, to preserve and hand on the gift of truth.” 

Outside of our everyday witness, this Truth is handed on by those who teach and share it as their theological vocation calls them. This brings together their faith, their reason and an undying determination to lead and develop a stronger culture of faith for us all. Such a task does not come without its challenges; leading a horse to water but you can’t make it drink comes to mind. Yet as servants and successors of the apostles, they continue with patience and perseverance. For any of us to understand more of what we don’t, we would need more instruction, someone to take us where we would need to go to learn. Aquinas also was quoted as saying: “If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.” Christ is the Way in as much the Church shows us the way to learn with the guidance of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, “with authority received from Jesus Christ”. The theologian does his part by supporting, presenting and living the doctrine of faith fully and faithfully. As such, a theologian has respect for the truth and the People of God; a sense of obedience is to be followed when it comes to one’s own opinions or hypotheses that are presented as his own and irrefutable. Though we all get misunderstood and we all may steer even purposefully wider on our path than we should, it is not our conscience that makes it right:

“through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations”   

Dissent is different than that which happens individually with the theologian. Paul VI noted that it has diverse forms with multiple causes and equally as many misunderstandings. The Church is targeted with protests, questioning its infallibility and doctrines. Often dissent’s defense is that, through theory and methodology and interpretation of biblical texts—hermeneutics—they say it’s ‘all relative’, bringing the integrity of the faith into doubt. The role of the theologian is to reinforce the same texts and wisdom and assert through divine assistance and guidance the Truth beyond all other. This leads the faithful to their belief, their “sensus fidei”—sense of faith. This aligns their faith in spirit, mind, heart and body with the Church. 

          The Church needs those of that sense of faith, aligned fully with her. As we are all of one body in Christ; we all are in Holy Communion as a community of God’s people. It is true we are known by the company we keep. From the very beginning of the Church, we have kept some very humble company and we continue to do so today.

As a sacrament, the Church offers herself as a visible sign of God’s grace, instituted by Christ. The CCC states: “The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs, they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it. That is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.’” And as Mary is our Mother, she points the way for us as we ask for her guidance. With prayer and faith, as servants and people of God, may we all continue to find ways to build the Body of Christ she bore for us in Christ Jesus. 



 

INSTALLMENT EIGHTEEN

Another piece from Deacon Warner, as offered to us from the Holy Father Pope Francis for this Easter Triduum.

In His faith and light...




Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

As we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Triduum in this Holy Year of Mercy, we are invited in a special way to contemplate the revelation of God’s infinite mercy in the events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. 

 

Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, Jesus gives himself to us as food and, in the washing of feet, teaches us the need to serve others. On Good Friday, in the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross, we contemplate that undying divine love which embraces all mankind and summons us in turn to love one another in the power of the Spirit. Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, invites us not only to solidarity with all who are abandoned and alone, but also to trust in that faithful love which turns death into life. These, then, are days that speak to us powerfully of God’s love and mercy. 

 

In one of her visions, Julian of Norwich hears the Lord say that he rejoices eternally because he was able to suffer for our sake out of love. Let us prepare then to celebrate the coming days with gratitude for this great mystery of God’s mercy, poured out for us on the cross of our salvation.

 

Pope Francis: General Audience March 23, 2016




INSTALLMENT SEVENTEEN

As submitted by Deacon Don Warner during this Year of Mercy... indeed, read it, pray it and weep.


 

St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena: A TREATISE OF DISCRETION

14. How this soul wondering at the mercy of God, relates many gifts and graces given to the human race.

Then this soul, as it were, like one intoxicated, could not contain herself, but standing before the face of God, exclaimed, "How great is the Eternal Mercy with which You cover the sins of Your creatures! I do not wonder that You say of those who abandon mortal sin and return to You, 'I do not remember that you have ever offended Me.' Oh, ineffable Mercy! I do not wonder that You say this to those who are converted, when You say of those who persecute You, 'I wish you to pray for such, in order that I may do them mercy.' Oh, Mercy, who proceeds from Your Eternal Father, the Divinity who governs with Your power the whole world, by You were we created, in You were we re-created in the Blood of Your Son.

'Your Mercy preserves us, Your Mercy caused Your Son to do battle for us, hanging by His arms on the wood of the Cross, life and death battling together; then life confounded the death of our sin, and the death of our sin destroyed the bodily life of the Immaculate Lamb. Which was finally conquered? Death! By what means? Mercy! Your Mercy gives light and life, by which Your clemency is known in all Your creatures, both the just and the unjust. In the height of Heaven Your Mercy shines, that is, in Your saints. If I turn to the earth, it abounds with Your Mercy. In the darkness of Hell Your Mercy shines, for the damned do not receive the pains they deserve; with Your Mercy You temper Justice. By Mercy You have washed us in the Blood, and by Mercy You wish to converse with Your creatures.

…'Your Mercy constrains You to give even more to man, namely, to leave Yourself to him in food, so that we, weak ones, should have comfort, and the ignorant commemorating You, should not lose the memory of Your benefits. Wherefore every day You give Yourself to man, representing Yourself in the Sacrament of the Altar, in the body of Your Holy Church. What has done this? Your Mercy. Oh, Divine Mercy! My heart suffocates in thinking of you, for on every side to which I turn my thought, I find nothing but mercy.

'Oh, Eternal Father! Forgive my ignorance, that I presume thus to chatter to You, but the love of Your Mercy will be my excuse before the Face of Your loving-kindness."

(dictated to St. Catherine while in a state of ecstasy in the year of Our Lord 1370)

 



INSTALLMENT SIXTEEN

From Fr. Bob Barron, tells us that even Christians behave badly and that even if our hearts were solid gold, that would not be the basis for us to 'gain' grace or eternal salvation. Take a read and see for yourself.

 

 

Why Having a Heart of Gold Is Not What Christianity Is About

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism: The New Evangelization.

 

Many atheists and agnostics today insistently argue that it is altogether possible for non-believers in God to be morally upright.  They resent the implication that the denial of God will lead inevitably to complete ethical relativism or nihilism.  And they are quick to point out examples of non-religious people who are models of kindness, compassion, justice, etc.  In point of fact, a recent article has proposed that non-believers are actually, on average, more morally praiseworthy than religious people.  In this context, I recall Christopher Hitchens' remark that, all things considered, he would be more frightened of a group of people coming from a religious meeting than a group coming from a rock concert or home from a night on the town.  God knows (pun intended) that during the last twenty years we’ve seen plenty of evidence from around the world of the godly behaving very badly indeed.  

Though I could quarrel with a number of elements within this construal of things, I would actually gladly concede the major point that it is altogether possible for atheists and agnostics to be morally good.  The classical Greek and Roman formulators of the theory of the virtues were certainly not believers in the Biblical God, and many of their neo-pagan successors today do indeed exhibit fine moral qualities.  What I should like to do, however, is to use this controversy as a springboard to make a larger point, namely that Christianity is not primarily about ethics, about “being a nice person” or, to use Flannery O’Connor’s wry formula, “having a heart of gold.”  The moment Christians grant that Christianity’s ultimate purpose is to make us ethically better people, they cannot convincingly defend against the insinuation that, if some other system makes human beings just as good or better, Christianity has lost its raison d’etre.  

Much of the confusion on this score can be traced to the influence of Immanuel Kant, especially his seminal text Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone.  Like so many of his Enlightenment era confreres, Kant was impatient with the claims of the revealed religions.  He saw them as unverifiable and finally irrational assertions that could be defended, not through reason, but only through violence.  Do you see how much of the “New Atheism” of the post-September 11th era is conditioned by a similar suspicion?  Accordingly, he argued that, at its best, religion is not about dogma or doctrine or liturgy but about ethics.  In the measure that the Scriptures, prayer, and belief make one morally good, they are admissible, but in the measure that they lead to moral corruption, they should be dispensed with.  As religious people mature, Kant felt, they would naturally let those relatively extrinsic practices and convictions fall to the side and would embrace the ethical core of their belief systems.  Kant’s army of disciples today include such figures as John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, James Carroll, Bart Ehrman, and the late Marcus Borg, all of whom think that Christianity ought to be de-supernaturalized and re-presented as essentially a program of inclusion and social justice.  

The problem with this Kantianism both old and new is that it runs dramatically counter to the witness of the first Christians, who were concerned, above all, not with an ethical program but with the explosive emergence of a new world.  The letters of St. Paul, which are the earliest Christian texts we have, are particularly instructive on this score.  One can find “ethics” in the writings of Paul, but one would be hard pressed indeed to say that the principal theme of Romans, Galatians, Philippians, or first and second Corinthians is the laying out of a moral vision.  The central motif of all of those letters is in fact Jesus Christ risen from the dead.  For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is the sign that the world as we know it—a world marked by death and the fear of death—is evanescing and that a new order of things is emerging.  This is why he tells the Corinthians “the time is running out” and “the world in its present form is passing away;”  this is why he tells the Philippians that everything he once held to be of central importance he now considers as so much rubbish; this is why he tells the Romans that they are not justified by their own moral achievements but through the grace of Jesus Christ; and this is why he tells the Galatians that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the “new creation.” The new creation is shorthand for the overturning of the old world and the emergence of a new order through the resurrection of Jesus, the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  

The inaugural speech of Jesus, as reported in the Gospel of Mark, commences with the announcement of the kingdom of God and then the exhortation to “repent and believe the good news.”  We tend automatically to interpret repentance as a summons to moral conversion, but the Greek word that Mark employs is metanoiete, which means literally, “go beyond the mind you have.”  On Mark’s telling, Jesus is urging his listeners to change their way of thinking so as to see the new world that is coming into existence.  It is indeed the case that Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and agnostics can all be “good people.”  In terms of what we privilege today, they can all be tolerant, inclusive, and just.  But only Christians witness to an earthquake that has shaken the foundations of the world and turned every expectation upside down.  A key to the new evangelization is the rediscovery of this revolutionary message.

 

 

(January 30, 2015) © Innovative Media Inc.



INSTALLMENT FIFTEEN

From a homily of Pope Francis in late September 2014, we share this reflection on our Christianity and its attainment through the Cross.


A Christian Life Without the Cross Isn't Christian


Pope Francis Homily


September 26, 2014

 

To be a Christian means to be a “Cyrene,” that is, to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross, he said. Having the faith consists in this: You belong to Jesus if you bear the weight of the Cross with Him. Otherwise you are going along a path that seems “good” – but is not “true.”


The basis for the Pope’s reflections was the day’s Gospel, in which Christ asks His disciples what the people are saying about Him, and receives the most disparate answers. This episode, the Pope noted, takes place in the context of the Gospel that sees Jesus guarding “in a special manner His true identity.” On several occasions, when someone came close to divulging His identity, “He stopped them,” just as many times He prevented the demons from revealing His nature as the “Son of God,” Who had come for the salvation of the world.


This, the Pope explained, was because the people misunderstood and thought of the Messiah as a military leader who would expel the Romans. It was only privately, to the Twelve, that Jesus “began to do the catechesis on His true identity”:

“‘The Son of Man, that is, the Messiah, the Anointed must suffer greatly, must be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’ This is the path of your liberation. This is the path of the Messiah, of the Just One: the Passion, the Cross. And He explains His identity to them. They don’t want to understand; and in the passage from Matthew, one sees how Peter refuses this: ‘No! No, Lord…’ But He begins to open up the mystery of His true identity:

‘Yes, I am the Son of God. But this is my path: I must go along this path of suffering.’”


This, Pope Francis said, is the “pedagogy” that Jesus uses “to prepare the hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people, to understand this mystery of God”:

“Sin is so ugly, but God’s love is so great that He saves us in this way: with this identity in the Cross. You can’t understand Jesus Christ the Redeemer without the Cross: you can’t understand! We can come to believe that he is a great prophet, he does good things, he’s a saint. But without the Cross you can’t understand Christ the Redeemer. The hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people were not prepared to understand it. They didn’t understand the Prophecies, they didn’t understand that He Himself was the Lamb for the sacrifice. They were not prepared.”


It is only on Palm Sunday, the Pope noted, that Christ allowed the crowds to proclaim, “more or less,” His identity, when they cried out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And this, Pope Francis said, was because “if the people did not cry out, the stones would have cried out.” On the other hand, it is only after His death that the identity of Jesus appears in its fullness; the “first confession” came from the Roman centurion, the Pope noted.


He concluded: “Step by step [Jesus] prepares us so that we can understand better. He prepares us to accompany Him with our crosses, along His path to Redemption”:

“He prepares us to be ‘Cyrenes’ to help Him bear the Cross. And our Christian life without this is not Christian. It is a spiritual life, good… ‘Jesus is the great prophet, and He has saved us. But He and I, no… No, you with Him! Taking the same path. Still our identity as Christians must be guarded, not believing that being Christian is a merit; it is a spiritual path of perfection. It is not a merit, it is pure grace.”




INSTALLMENT FOURTEEN

So would you be identified as one if there were those that didn't know you were one? As the saying goes, is there more than enough evidence then to convict you of living your faith? 

From the Holy Father's homily on May 15, 2014, he talks about our Christian Identity-entering into it at baptism and living it out accordingly through today, as individuals and as the Church. Take a look at what he has to allow..


A Christian is one who keeps the memory of his people, of their Journey and of the Church alive. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta this morning.

 

The Holy Father began his homily by reflecting on the first reading which recalls Paul’s exhortation at the synagogue. In proclaiming the Gospel, the Pope noted, the apostles do not begin solely with Christ, but rather by recalling the history of the people of God.

 

Jesus, he said, “does not make sense without this history.” The Holy Father went on to say that a Christian without the Church is “purely idealistic.” "But you cannot understand a Christian alone, just like you cannot understand Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us. No. Jesus Christ has a history,” he said.

“And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history. So a Christian without history, without a Christian nation, a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible. It is a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life".

The 77 year old Pontiff emphasized the importance of this dimension of history, saying that a “Christian is one who keeps the memory of the history of his people, who keeps the memory of his people’s journey, who keeps the memory of his Church.” This memory, he said, is that of a journey towards the fulfillment of a promise.


“And for this, a Christian in the Church is a man, a woman with hope: hope in the promise. It is not expectation: no, no! That’s something else: It is hope. Right, on we go! [Towards] that which does not disappoint,” he said. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask God for the grace of memory that allows us to look forward with hope. In doing so, one follows the path towards God and renews the covenant with Him.


"It would do us good today,” he said, “to think about our Christian identity. Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church. Without this, we are not Christians.”


“We entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians. And for this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made; also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk ... Ask for the grace of hope, which is not optimism: no, no! It 's something else. And ask for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord who has called us every day. May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.” (J.A.E.)



Ignoring the Splendor of God

Forget about discussing politics and religion, if you really want to heat things up start a discussion about science and religion. For many people the two are mutually exclusive, like dry water, but in reality, each one attempts to understand the fundamentals of creation.

 

There are many different religions and many different ways of viewing the cosmos. Ancient man attempted to comprehend the world he saw around him and the span of the sky above him. As a Christian, my resource book is the Bible for the religious viewpoint of creation found in Genesis.

 

Genesis tells how God was involved in and brought about everything. With apologies to my fundamentalist friends, Genesis -- while being theologically true -- leaves out much of the details that God used in bringing about the universe.

 

Humans seek truth. No one should fear the truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I wish to talk about theological truth and scientific truth.

Theological truth is concerned with God’s relationship with us and our relationship with Him. In Genesis, after the seven-day creation narrative, the story concentrates on God’s promises to man and man’s response to God. The gist of Genesis is that God is always faithful, man not so much. The New Testament fully reveals how radical God is in His fidelity to man.

 

Scientific truth is concerned with the what, how and when of things that happen in nature. Man has used his God-given brains and figured out that the universe follows a set of laws that determine how matter and energy interact. These interactions are determined by values called physical constants, such as “G”, the Universal Gravitational Constant. Scientists have measured the value of G and other constants. Scientists tell us that if these constants were of a different value, by the smallest amount, like 0.00000000000000000000001%, or such, the universe as we know it would not exist. Now that’s precision!

 

For the honest person, the pursuit of knowledge should be a joyful matter. Truth will not contradict Truth. Theological truth should enlighten scientific truth and scientific truth should affirm theological truth. A closed-minded approach to studying God or the universe will necessarily yield poor results by rejecting what is patently obvious to those who are open to both schemes.

 

From a purely "no-God" approach, the Big Bang requires us to believe that matter and energy is created out of nothing, thus violating a fundamental physical law. Multi-verse explanations and inter-dimensional interactions merely move the question back to where did these other universes come from.

 

From a purely "ignore the evidence" standpoint, some insist the earth and everything else is only several thousand years old. The problem is that scientists and their God-given intelligence have figured out that the elements carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, gold, iron, etc., -- in fact all the elements beyond hydrogen and helium -- were created inside a star when it went nova or super nova. Now stars have lifetimes measure in millions and billions of years. The earth with its abundance of heavy elements is composed of star dust, literally. Our bodies are composed of star dust.

 

Think about that for a moment. God first created the universe with its precise physical laws. Then He used those laws to create heavier elements within the cores of massively hot stars that exploded with unimaginable force. The debris from that explosion was then gathered by gravity to form a new solar system that He then populated with us.

 

God is often described as a potter sculpting man out of clay. Now we can say that God molds man out of star dust and His kiln is the core of a star. Much more dramatic!

 

We cannot be afraid to use our brains; God gave them to us. We also cannot become so full of our own cleverness that we choose to ignore the truths revealed to us, whether they are scientific truths or theological truths.

 

 

* * *

This post originally appeared on The Catholic Writers Guild Blog

http://blog.catholicwritersguild.com

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/38042

 



 

INSTALLMENT TWELVE


What the world needs now is more love, love of Christ and the Eucharist and the liturgy. Read on from Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and see what part we can play in the ongoing development of the our lives, our loves, and our passion for Christ.

 

Bringing the Liturgy Back to the Real Vatican II

Cardinal Burke Comments on Sacra Liturgia Conference

Rome, July 25, 2013 (Zenit.org) Edward Pentin | 9910 hits

The abuses of the sacred liturgy that followed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are “strictly correlated” with a great deal of moral corruption that exists in the world today, says Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT on the sidelines of Sacra Liturgia 2013, a major international conference on the liturgy held in Rome at the end of June, the Vatican’s most senior American says poor liturgies have also led to “a levity in catechesis” that has been “shocking” and left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with today’s challenges.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Cardinal Burke, who serves as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, also explains the importance of liturgical law, Pope Francis’ approach to the liturgy, and why the sacred liturgy is vital to the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: Your Eminence, what were your hopes for this conference?

Cardinal Burke: My hope for the conference was a return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the sacred liturgy. Indeed, [I was hoping for] a deepening and appreciation of the continuity of the teaching practised with regard to the sacred liturgy throughout the Church’s history, and which is also reflected in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council – something that was obscured after the Council. I believe in large part that has been achieved.

ZENIT: Are we coming out of that period now?

Cardinal Burke: Yes, already Pope Paul VI after the Council in a very intense way, and then John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, laboured diligently to restore the true nature of the sacred liturgy as the gift of worship given to us by God and which we owe to God in the very way He teaches us how to worship. So it’s not man’s invention, it’s God’s gift to us.

ZENIT: How important is a sound understanding of the liturgy in today’s Church. How can it help evangelization?

Cardinal Burke: To me, it’s fundamental. It’s the most important area of catechesis: to understand the worship accorded to God. The first three commandments of the Ten Commandments are to do with this right relationship to God, especially with regards to worship. It’s only when we understand our relationship with God in offering worship that we also understand the right order of all the other relationships we have. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his wonderful magisterium on the sacred liturgy, and which he expressed so often, [it consists of] this connection between worship and right conduct, worship and law, worship and discipline.

ZENIT: Some argue the liturgy is mostly about aesthetics, and not as important as, say, good works done in faith. What is your view of this argument that one often hears?

Cardinal Burke: It’s a Communist misconception. First of all, the liturgy is about Christ. It’s Christ alive in his Church, the glorious Christ coming into our midst and acting on our behalf through sacramental signs to give us the gift of eternal life to save us. It is the source of any truly charitable works we do, any good works we do. So the person whose heart is filled with charity wants to do good works will, like Mother Teresa, give his first intention to the worship of God so that when he goes to offer charity to a poor person or someone in need, it would be at the level of God Himself, and not some human level.

ZENIT: Some also say that to be concerned with liturgical law is being unduly legalistic, that it’s a stifling of the spirit. How should one respond to that? Why should we be concerned about liturgical law?

Cardinal Burke: Liturgical law disciplines us so that we have the freedom to worship God, otherwise we’re captured – we’re the victims or slaves either of our own individual ideas, relative ideas of this or that, or of the community or whatever else. But the liturgical law safeguards the objectivity of sacred worship and opens up that space within us, that freedom to offer worship to God as He desires, so we can be sure we’re not worshipping ourselves or, at the same time, as Aquinas says, some kind of falsification of divine worship.

ZENIT: It offers a kind of template?

Cardinal Burke: Exactly, it’s what discipline does in every aspect of our lives. Unless we’re disciplined, then we’re not free.

ZENIT: As a diocesan bishop in the United States, how did you find the state of the liturgy in the parishes you’ve been in charge of? What, in your view, are the priorities for liturgical renewal in diocesan life today?

Cardinal Burke: I found, of course, many wonderful aspects - in both dioceses in which I’ve served - a strong sense of participation on the part of the faithful. What I also found were some of the shadows as Pope John Paul II called them, a loss of Eucharistic faith, a loss of Eucharistic devotion and certain liturgical abuses. And as a diocesan bishop I needed to address them and I tried as best I could. But in addressing them you always try to help both the priest and the faithful to understand the deep reasons for the Church’s discipline, the reasons why a certain abuse is not only unhelpful for sacred worship but is in fact blocking it or corrupting it.

ZENIT: It’s said love for the sacred liturgy and being pro-life go together, that those who worship correctly are more likely to want to bring children into the world. Could you explain why this is so?

Cardinal Burke: It’s in the sacred liturgy above all, and particularly in the Holy Eucharist, that we look upon the love which God has for every human life without exception, without boundary, beginning from the very first moment of conception, because Christ poured out his life as he said for all men. And remember he teaches us that whatever we do for the least of our brethren, we do directly for Him. In other words, he identifies himself in the Eucharistic sacrifice with every human life. So on the one hand, the Eucharist inspires a great reverence for human life, respect and care for human life, and at the same time it inspires a joy among those who are married to procreate, to cooperate with God in bringing new human life into this world.

ZENIT: Sacra Liturgia has been about liturgical celebration but also formation. What basis of liturgical formation do we need in our parishes, dioceses and particularly in our seminaries?

Cardinal Burke: The first important lesson that has to be taught is that the sacred liturgy is an expression of God’s right to receive from us the worship that is due to Him, and that flows from who we are. We are God’s creatures and so divine worship, in a very particular way, expresses at the same time the infinite majesty of God and also our dignity as the only earthly creature that can offer him worship, in other words that we can lift up our hearts and minds to him in praise and worship. So that would be the first lesson. Then to study carefully how the liturgical rites have developed down the centuries and not to see the history of the Church as somehow a corruption of those liturgical rites. In the true sense, the Church over time has come to an ever deeper understanding of the sacred liturgy and has expressed that in several ways, whether it be through sacred vestments, sacred vessels, through sacred architecture – even the care for sacred linens which are used in the Holy Mass. All of these are expressions of the liturgical reality and so those things have to be carefully studied, and of course then to study the relationship of liturgy with the other aspects of our lives.

ZENIT: You’re known for celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Why did Pope Benedict make this freely available and what role does it have to play in the Church of the 21st century?

Cardinal Burke: What Pope Benedict XVI saw and experienced, also through those who came to him, who were very attached what we now call the Extraordinary Form - the Traditional Mass - was that in the reforms as they were introduced after the Council, a fundamental misunderstanding took place. Namely, this was that the reforms were undertaken with the idea there had been a rupture, that the way in which the Mass had been celebrated up until the time of the Council was somehow radically defective and there had to be what was really violent change, a reduction of the liturgical rites and even the language used, in every respect. So in order to restore the continuity, the Holy Father gave wide possibility for the celebration of the sacred rites as they were celebrated up until 1962, and then expressed the hope that through these two forms of the same rite – it’s all the same Roman rite, it can’t be different, it’s the same Mass, same Sacrament of Penance and so forth –there would be a mutual enrichment. And that continuity would be more perfectly expressed in what some have called the “reform of the reform”.

ZENIT: Pope Francis is a different person to Benedict XVI in many ways, but it’s hard to believe there are substantial differences between them on the importance of the sacred liturgy. Are there any differences?

Cardinal Burke: I don’t see it at all. The Holy Father clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in a kind of authoritative way about the sacred liturgy, but in the things he has said about the sacred liturgy I see a perfect continuity with Pope Benedict XVI. I see in the Holy Father, too, a great concern for respecting the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and his discipline, and that is what Pope Francis is doing.

ZENIT: This conference is reflecting on the 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and 50 years ago this December its constitution on the sacred liturgy was promulgated. You’ve already mentioned how liturgical renewal was not as the Council desired, but how do you see things progressing in the future? What do you envision, especially among young people?

Cardinal Burke: Young people are going back now and studying both the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council with its serious texts on liturgical theology which remain valid also today. They’re studying the rites as they were celebrated, striving to understand the meaning and various elements of the rite and there’s a great enthusiasm for that and a great interest in it. All of it, I believe, is directed to a more intense experience of God’s presence with us through the sacred liturgy. That transcendent element was most sadly lost when the reform after the Council was, so to speak, side-tracked and manipulated for other purposes – that sense of transcendence of Christ’s action through the sacraments.

ZENIT: Does this mirror the loss of the sacred in society as a whole?

Cardinal Burke: It does indeed. There’s no question in my mind that the abuses in the sacred liturgy, reduction of the sacred liturgy to some kind of human activity, is strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption and with a levity in catechesis that has been shocking and has left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with the challenges of our time by addressing the Catholic faith to those challenges. You can see it in the whole gamut of Church life.

ZENIT: Pope Benedict said once that the crises we see in society today can be linked to problems of the liturgy.

Cardinal Burke: Yes he was convinced of that and I would say, so am I. It was, of course, more important that he was convinced of it, but I believe that he was absolutely correct.

(July 25, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.





INSTALLMENT ELEVEN


Yes, marriage still matters and will continue to.

 

For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court is considering two cases about whether or not marriage should be redefined to include two persons of the same sex. These cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

 

The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the "Roe v. Wade" of marriage. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.

 

MARRIAGE AND THE SUPREME COURT

WHAT YOU CAN DO

PRAY, FAST, SACRIFICE

The Bishops have encouraged Catholics to participate in a Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty during this Year of Faith. Visit www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty to learn more and commit to praying and fasting for life, marriage, and religious liberty.

 

The Bishops have also called for a second Fortnight for Freedom June 21-July 4. Visit www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.

Please consider contributing time, talent, and/or treasure to local or national efforts seeking to protect the unique meaning of marriage.

 

ADVOCATE FOR MARRIAGE

Be a witness for the truth of marriage in word and action. Take advantage of opportunities to speak about marriage’s unique meaning in conversation with friends, family, neighbors or co-workers. Share the truth in love.

 

Everyone has inviolable dignity and deserves love and respect. There are many ways to protect the basic human rights of all, but redefining marriage serves no one’s rights, least of all those of children.

 

What is marriage? Marriage is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman, for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. One man, one woman—for life. (See Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, no. 48).

 

The difference is the difference.

Men and women matter. They are equal but different. Sexual difference is essential to marriage. Mothers and fathers matter. They aren’t interchangeable. Every child has a basic, natural right to come from and be raised in the loving marital union of his or her own father and mother.

 

Protecting marriage matters to everyone. It’s Catholic social teaching 101: pro-woman, pro-man, pro-child. Redefining marriage in the law says many false things: women - mothers - are dispensable; men - fathers - are dispensable; what adults want trumps what a child deserves and has a basic right to.

 

LEARN MORE

Visit MarriageUniqueForAReason.org for more resources on the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. For resources for engaged couples and married couples, visit ForYourMarriage.org and PorTuMatrimonio.org.

 

 


INSTALLMENT TEN


This installment is different from previous ones in that it is from someone beyond our normal scope, if not locality, of submissions. No, we did not request His Holiness to write for us but Deacon Roland rightfully felt this Lenten letter from Pope Benedict would fit in on our ‘Your Catholic Is Showing’ page. We hope you find it equally so appropriate for yourself. God bless you.

 

On the First Sunday of Lent

Last Wednesday, with the traditional distribution of ashes, we entered into Lent, a time of conversion and penance in preparation for Easter. The Church, who is mother and teacher, calls all of her members to renew themselves spiritually, to reorient themselves toward God, renouncing pride and egoism to live in love. In this Year of Faith Easter is a favorable time to rediscover faith in God as a basic criterion for our life and the life of the Church. This always means a struggle, a spiritual combat, because the evil spirit naturally opposes our sanctification and seeks to turn us away from the path to God. That is why each year on the first Sunday of Lent the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is proclaimed.

Jesus, in fact, after having received “investiture” as Messiah – “anointed” with the Spirit – at the baptism in the Jordan, was led by the same Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus had to unmask and reject the false images of the Messiah that the tempter proposed to him. But these temptations are also false images of man, which always harass our conscience, disguising themselves as suitable, effective and even good proposals. The evangelists Matthew and Luke present 3 temptations of Jesus, differing in part only in the order. The nucleus of these temptations always consists in instrumentalizing God for our own interests, giving more importance to success or to material goods. The tempter is clever: he does not direct us immediately towar evil but toward a false good, making us believe that power and things that satiate primary needs are what is most real. In this manner God becomes secondary; he is reduced to a means, he becomes unreal, he no longer counts, he disappears. In the final analysis, faith is what is at stake in temptations because God is at stake. In the decisive moments of life and, in fact, in every moment of life, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the “I” or God? Do we want to follow individual interest or rather the true Good, that which is really good?

As the Fathers of the Church teach us, temptations are of Jesus’ “descent” into our human condition, into the abyss of sin and its consequences. A “descent” that Jesus undertook to the very end, to the point of death on the cross and the descent into the netherworld (inferi) of extreme distance from God. In this way he is the hand of God extended to man, to the lost sheep, to bring back him to safety. As St. Augustine teaches, Jesus has taken temptations from us to give us his victory (cf. Enarr. in Psalmos, 60,3: PL 36, 724). Therefore, we too are not afraid to face combat with the evil spirit: the important point is that we do it with him, with Christ, the Victor. And to stand with him we turn to the Mother, Mary: let us invoke her with filial confidence in the hour of trial, and she will make us feel the powerful presence her divine Son, to reject the temptations with the Word of Christ, and so to put God once again at the center of our life.

The Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. For those English speaking, he said:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for today’s Angelus. Today we contemplate Christ in the desert, fasting, praying, and being tempted. As we begin our Lenten journey, we join him and we ask him to give us strength to fight our weaknesses. Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days. May God bless all of you!

Concluding in Italian, the Holy Father said:

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Lenten journey. This evening I will begin a week of retreat: let us be united in prayer. Have a good week everyone. Thank you!

Pope Benedict XVI


Installment Nine


From an on-her-way-to-being-a-real-Catholic-even-though-she's-been-practicing-her-faith-awhile, we have this beautiful YCIS piece. Amy Hawkins, friend and warrior for Christ, has her way with words and it is evident in the following. Enjoy her perspective as she walks her journey into the Catholic faith.

 

"In the end, we all fruit."

 

So I’m on Facebook the other day, chuckling at a photo, from a celebrity who once lived in a relocation camp as a young Japanese American in the 1940’s; clicking ‘confirm’ to a friend request from a young German man who I deeply respect, and reading the posts from my Israeli half-siblings as well as my other friends and family.

 

30 years ago it would have taken three weeks to get messages from any of those people, via Air Mail on thin blue pieces of paper that had to be carefully unsealed so as not to rip messages crammed margin-to-margin. I sure as hell wouldn’t have any from celebrities, like I see on my instantaneous Facebook news feed every day.

 

68 years ago my uncle, who would be 86 this month, stormed the beaches at Normandy to fight ‘the damn Germans’, who threatened the free world through their might military machine. After he came home he married my aunt, who would be 82 this year, who descended from the damn Germans and spoke German as a 2nd-generation American. Irony. My little nephew’s great-great-grandparents dropped the ‘Von’ from their surname, to avoid retribution. Now Germans are our allies.

67 years ago this summer we dropped the A-bomb on the ancestors of that young Japanese American boy, nuking them into oblivion on two separate occasions, so they too, would cease to threaten the free world. Now all of our best electronics are manufactured by the former-derisively labeled “Japs”, and we've had AF bases there for decades.

 

More recently, about ten years ago I worked in a Baptist-church daycare, here in Texas, and was equally as derisively accused of being CATHOLIC. (To preface-- my religious upbringing was of an ecumenical sort, with predominant Presbyterian overtones. Our church celebrated the Seder [Passover meal] each year, we went to the Catholic and Episcopal churches for multi-denominational Thanksgiving services in which the Rabbi took part as well. As a youngish, suddenly-single mother in my early thirties, I’d returned to the Episcopal church I’d attended sometimes as a teenager with a teenage Jonathan, to literally take sanctuary in tradition.)

I’d crossed myself in what I thought was an empty hallway in the daycare, feeling very vulnerable for a myriad of reasons. The acid-toned questioning from the Director still echoes in my head.

 

Are you CATHOLIC? Someone saw you crossing yourself!” As if they’d seen me wearing a pentagram, or covering up a swastika tattoo, or drinking chicken's blood and burning black candles.

 

I icily informed her that if I was it was none of her business, and that it was against federal regulations to ask that of an employee. She shut down that line of questioning pretty quick.

 

Why must we fuss and fight among Christian denominations? We all descend from the same line…

 

All Christians, people who have surrendered their lives to Jesus on a specific occasion – not the people who dress up for Christmas and Easter and play church– are Catholic by faith heritage, just as we are also Jewish by faith heritage. The early church followed Jesus’ example by posting disciples as the leaders of the early Church.

 

Every Pope is the successor to Peter, the Rock of the Church.

 

The Church recognizes great leaders of faith as saints, not angels. The saints were people who lived extraordinary lives in service to the Church. They are not idols, not prayed to, but examples of how to dedicate one’s life to Christ. I have often asked my friends to pray for me. Asking the saints to pray FOR us is no different. They were people, who are in heaven now, just like our grandparents and our own ancestors.

 

A humble girl in a hovel in the hills of Judea became the first disciple. God chose a blameless, innocent and virtuous woman to be the vessel for His incarnate Word. Mary, Mother of God, is not an angel, nor is she worshipped and idolized -- but rather fervently revered as the first disciple, the first Christian.

 

The Catholic Church preserved these stories of Mary, and Jesus, and the ancient tales of the Old Testament. Without this careful preservation and transition to print, we would have no Bible to speak of. The disciples, the bishops and the Popes, of the early Church recorded and preserved the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Peter, Paul, and the others who were eye-witnesses to Christ and to the Acts of the Apostles. We know now them as St. Paul, St. Matthew, St. Peter, etc.

 

The saints. Not the little statues that folks think the crazy Catholics pray to every day, and mutter loftily, “We don’t need saints. We pray straight to God because of Jesus!” (I know they say this because I did. Often. ) Those statues are reminders of people who lived and died for Jesus.

 

The Apostles, whose writings we throw at each other as holy spears proving our spiritual prowess, ARE in the communion of saints.

 

Yes, indeed, we can pray straight to God -- but we wouldn’t know that save for their teachings of Christ and His saving grace. The teachings of the saints.

 

Over the centuries, groups of people have attempted to stifle new schools of thought.

 

It’s human nature to try and proselytize others to our own way of thinking. We do it to this day! 'My church doesn't teach/approve/believe in that... you should come to MY church and learn the TRUTH. It's taught at MY church.' We only know what we've been taught, and when we stop learning, we stop growing...

 

The Catholic Church certainly is not blameless in scandal, greed, and genocide. My own maternal ancestors were the remnant of the 16th century Huguenots, the Calvinists who for the most part fell to the Catholics as heretics. My own paternal ancestors were German, and quite possibly I had distant relatives who stayed in the Old Country and were part or prey of the Nazi regime. The Vatican has mass amounts of wealth. Priests have scarred countless men for life.

But things change. People change. The Germans and the Japanese are no longer our enemies. In my lifetime we’ve had two non-Italian Popes. The Catholic Church has also fed, sheltered, educated, and nurtured millions, as penance for their sins, if you will.

 

The Catholic Church is not blameless in abuse of power. She’s had her share of trespasses…but the Catholic Church is manned by men, who succumb to temptations of power and seduction and wealth.

Holy men are always greater targets of the enemy, as they have much farther to fall and make a greater mess upon impact. Men fail. They abuse and oppress when led by deception. Other denominations have experienced abuses, too, scandalous and revolting. We all sin and fall short of the mark.

 

In my favorite movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", a Greek Orthodox father comes to terms with his daughter marrying a non-Greek. Horrors! At the wedding, he admits, "I was thinking -- Portokalos, our name, mean orange. My daughter marry Ian Miller, whose name come from millos, which mean apple. So we have apples and oranges, and in the end, we all fruit."

 

The catholicchurch, the universal Church, the one holy and apostolic Church, has never failed. It has produced fruit, despite storms, drought, and disease, and branched out into dozens of denominations.

 

In 2,000 years, the Message has continued to go out as commanded by Jesus Himself. (And as an aside, the Catholic church remains the only established church from the early days.)

If only we could stop squabbling as to the Proper Way, each claiming boldly, as if we were the only one, “THE LORD TOLD ME HIMSELF”, we might reach even more for the Kingdom.

 

Jesus never put Himself first. Even on Good Friday, with thorns pressing into His head, dragging a 200-pound cross drilling splinters into a beaten body. He could have called all the angels in heaven to His aid. He put us first. Us.

The rude, crude, and socially unacceptable inhabitants of this planet.

 

All of us - past, present, and future.

Maybe over the next two thousand years we’ll learn to be as selfless.

Amy Hawkins

 

 


Installment Eight


This installment is from Randy and Betty Russell, converts to Catholicism. Theirs is a beautiful story of love and faith rarely found or seen these days. R and B share with us their humility and trust as they make their way through the enlightment and experiences along their path. Thank you Randy and Betty for sharing your story with us.

Enjoy. 

 

 

By Circumstance, Curiosity, Chance or Desire... They Seek Answers

Adult is an important word, it implies a person that has established beliefs, morals, ethics, and mature life experiences to varying degrees and intensities. The Rite of Christian Initiation begins when they make the decision to inquire into something that in many instances is completely unfamiliar to them. Some are already Christians in that they believe quite strongly in the holy Trinity and have been baptized properly into a different denomination. Some may even be able to quote their version of the Bible line by line and explain it quite well in context. Some must walk away from a lifetime of beliefs that are very different from our own. Unfortunately, some are ostracized and disowned by family and friends. For all it is a profound and life altering decision that demands our deepest respect.

And yet, they come anyway. They come seeking answers. Some have not even fully formed the questions. But still they are drawn. Either by circumstance, curiosity, or simply a desire to find a closer relationship to the Father they already know and love but have a sense that something is just not quite right. These are not children. No one drives them to the church, drops them off, and tells them where to be when it is over. No one can tell them that they have to stay. They do it by choice, for their own reasons. They come from every walk of life, from every background imaginable. By their own volition they come. Whatever their personal reasons, in the end it is the Holy Spirit that draws them and keeps them coming.

They listen, they read, they study, and they ask many questions. They find out that we as individuals are flawed, but as the body of Christ we are collectively holy. They discover that we are on a path of salvation through our lord Jesus Christ. Most importantly, they discover that we journey on this path together, that we are a family that longs for them to journey with us. They learn that they do not have to walk the path alone.

What they need through this time are people who understand and appreciate the magnitude of the decision they are making. People who are patient and understanding, who have a deep and abiding respect for the process they are going through. What they need are people who are deeply committed to bringing the souls of God’s children onto the path of salvation.

Notice there are no Bible verses here. No deep theological concepts; because that is not what is really needed in this process. As a convert I think I can say with confidence that all that is really required is faith, hope, charity, and love. All that is required are Catholics fully committed to God’s plan for his children. That is what my wife and I encountered at Sacred Heart when we went through the rite. Our sponsors were not experts or theologians, they were just loving, and very patient, Catholics who were always, and continue to be, there for us. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us all; catechumens, candidates, instructors and sponsors. All we have to do is commit to his plan and trust him to guide us.

For some “cradle Catholics” this struggle may be difficult to fully appreciate. Remember, you were born and raised in the Church.  What you may consider as a “simple” truth or concept may be a very difficult thing for a convert to accept. You may be shocked at what people have been taught about the church and about Catholicism. For many the leap of faith they must make is over a very wide and very deep chasm. Some cannot and must walk away. We wish them God’s blessings on their own journey. We hope and pray it will not be a lonely road for them and that we will meet again in the end as brothers and sisters.

RCIA is not about Catholics. It is not about deep theological studies. It is about fulfilling God’s plan for his children. The requirements are simple: faith, love, hope, and charity. It is about being there for people who are struggling to find the truth. Just being there, patiently, faithfully, and hopefully for God’s searching children. It is about a deep and abiding respect for the miracle that is occurring through the workings of the Holy Spirit. Catholics just need to be there for them. We need to be committed to the process, committed to seeing these people all the way through until they are full members of our family. Think of RCIA team as Chaperones for the greatest courtship.

We present the truth. We do not sugar coat it, we do not apologize for it. This is what the Church believes. This is what the magisterium tells us. This is our dogma. This is our tradition. To be one of us you must believe what the church teaches and you must accept her authority in these matters. There is no compromise and no debate when it comes to the truth. It is presented gently, with love, with patience, and with humble respect for what they are going through.

The point is this; many of the people who are going through the conversion process in RCIA are undergoing a profound and life altering process. All truly believe in and love God as you. But for many it is a difficult struggle. We are obligated as Catholics, cradle and convert, to help them through this time with love, understanding, and a deep respect for what they are going through. I cannot conceive of a more important ministry than to be there, heart and soul, for adults who choose, of their own accord, to go through this process so that, At Easter, they come into the loving embrace of the body of Christ, which is the Church.

On our Easter we, the catechumens and candidates, were terrified we would do something wrong. Father Hoa told us, all would be just fine and that the Holy Spirit would make it all perfect. He says that every year, and every year he is proven right. It is always perfect when a brand new Christian joins us on our journey. How could it be otherwise?

 

 

 

Installment Seven

Authorized Dealer

We are now far enough from Christmas to announce this alarming revelation: while we may not want to admit it, the secular idea ofwhat Christmas is, is that it is a time for retailers to make as much money as they can and the customer to spend as much money as they can. A shock, right? We would all look for the deals to get as much as we could for as little as we could, often going the route of “knock-offs” orcounterfeitmerchandise to get more of what we thought we really want. What would seem to truly appear as the real deal to others, we knew better. Not too much harm in that.

Whereas the sellers, sometimes they were seeking to deceive the buyer into believing they were getting the real deal but at a discounted price. Or maybe there are the knock-offs as advertised they are knock-offs but only a trained eye can tell – why pay that enormous price when for just a fraction of the cost you have what only you will know is a fake.

I used to be an assistant manager for a high-end jewelry store.We sold Rolex, Patic Philipe,Baum Mercieaand many more of the expensive style watches. One of the problems we would face after Christmas was telling people their watches were not ‘authentic’ as they brought them in to get resized or a battery replaced; their ‘expensive’ gifts were fakes.

You see there were some tell-tell signs that would point to it as a fake if you knew the original.Rolex only made one quartz watch at the time and it had a certain look and also the weight was a dead giveaway. If I questioned its authenticity then I would take it upstairs to the Rolex repair man – who could spot a fake a mile away. What they were wanting in most cases were the benefits that go with the original for their fake.

The US Treasury when training their agents to spot counterfeit bills has them study the real deal, the authentic bill-to know it inside and out– like the palm of their hand so they can spot a fraud.For what good would it do to study only the fakes?

The fakes would keep changing.

They would not be able to distinguish the real one from the fake one.

How many of you would want to receive $100,000.00 from a Treasury agent who said “Well I have looked at this stack of bills and I have my own ideas of what the original should look like.Or I have studied at least 100 fakes and will tell you that these don’t seem to fit that description.”

The risk of cashing it may just be too great, especially if it was for payment of something you were selling.You would ask for another agent - because you would want to be 100% sure you were getting the real deal.

Why is it then we will play close attention to the things that affect our financial situations but not our eternal situation?

In Luke’s Gospel readingJesus tell his listeners:

Luke 21: 5-19

"See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,’ and 'The time has come.’ Do not follow them!

What he is saying is don’t be fooled, don’t settle for a fake or counterfeit - settle only for the original. So how does one keep from being deceived?

Christ knows that we are people and knows our desires and inclinations; that is why He continually relates us to sheep.Sheep are, well sheep are dumb and somewhat stubborn-they need a shepherd!Because of our similarities to sheep, HHe knows that we would need a foolproof mechanism that would keep us safe and would continually lead us in the right direction. This mechanism is the Church and her teachings.

Matthew 16: 18

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.I will give you the keys to 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.”

There is the guarantee that no matter what “Hell, Satan, the World, Whatever – will not prevail against the Church.He has given the authority to the apostles through Peter to lead, guide and teach his Church.

Matthew 28: 18

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: and behold I am with you always, to the close of the age

John 20: 22

And when he had said this he, Jesus, breathed on them and said to them Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,

John 21: 15 Peter is given the command – “Peter do you love me – feed my sheep”

The teaching of the Catholic Church

To not be deceived is to hold on to the original – that which has been passed down guarded by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not to pick and choose, to decide for yourself-emptying out the inner workings and replacing it with something else, only holding onto the original shell and expecting the benefits due only to the authentic.

If you have an original case but the inner workings are fake it is still a fake.

If I take the original and change even one part of the mechanism it is no longer original. It may look like the original and in some ways act like the original – but it is indeed not an original but a counterfeit.

Authorized Dealer Why is it when we are going to spend a lot of money on something we make sure we get it from an Authorized dealer – We want to know that we are getting the real deal.We don’t want a “kind of” real we want the 100% guarantee .

The Catholic Church is the Authorized DealerShe is the Authorized dealer given the privilege of dispensing God’s graces and teaching by Christ himself Period.If you don’t want to be deceived stay with the original in all her teachings.

Something to think aboutwhy would anyone want to stand before Christ with something less than the original .

Keith Garvin


Installment Six


Why I love Being Catholic

The following is a column/piece done by Eric Sammons, a convert. Eric has a few sites and blogs that he authors and takes part in and has graciously allowed us to post this interesting as well as informative article from his website, The Divine Life, at www.ericsammons.com. Thank you, Eric, for your kindness and generosity.

Why I love being Catholic

Eric SammonsNov. 11. 2009

When I decided to become Catholic back in 1992, I did so primarily because I realized that the Church’s claims were true and I recognized that Jesus Christ wanted his followers to be united in the Catholic Church. However, I knew very little then what it meant to live as a Catholic. In the almost 18 years since I made that decision, I have come to realize that there are many, many great reasons to love living as a Catholic – reasons that I didn’t have a clue about when I first converted. These are not reasons why I became Catholic, but why I love being Catholic. Here are a few, in no particular order:

1) Confession

I accepted the truth of the claim that Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive sins when I converted. However, I had no idea of the radical difference regular confession makes in one’s life. Even if I were to leave the Church (God forbid), I would still want to go to Confession just for the psychological benefits.

2) Daily Mass

The fact that Mass is celebrated every single day is an incredible blessing to the Church. Not only does it give us the opportunity to receive the Lord in the Eucharist each and every day, but we can know that thousands of Masses are being offered throughout the world all day, every day. Quite a comforting thought.

3) Art

In the Methodist church where I grew up, we had one picture of Jesus tucked away in a downstairs hallway. Other than that, all our walls were bare and bland. Now, as a Catholic I can regularly experience artwork like this and allow it to bring me closer to our Lord in ways I would have never imagined before becoming Catholic.

4) Mysticism

Modern Americans are very materialistic. I am not talking about the sin of greed (although we do love that sin as well), I am talking about the fact that we only accept things we can touch and see. Catholicism, however, has a deep vein of mysticism which counters that tendency. The depths in which some saints have plumbed the divine life is incredible, and it does much to remind me that what I can see is only a small portion of reality.

5) Saints

I had no idea of the diversity of saints when I first became Catholic. After 20 centuries, we have had martyr saints, child saints, monk saints, married saints, priest saints, intellectual saints and every other type of saint that can be imagined. I have come to love reading the lives of the saints and find that each life I read helps me in some way to better understand how to follow our Lord.

6) The Church is not American

Of course I understood before I converted that the Church was “Catholic” and therefore spanned the globe. What I did not realize was the practical benefits of that reality. When I was Protestant, most of the spiritual books I read were by 20th century Americans. Now I read spiritual books by 16th century Spaniards, 4th century Egyptians, 19th century Italians and 20th century Frenchmen. This wide variety of sources opens my eyes to different aspects of God’s Love that I could never get from just modern American writers.

7) The ubiquity

Whenever we went on vacation growing up, we usually didn’t go to church on Sundays, because it was difficult to know which Methodist church in the area was similar enough to ours to be acceptable to us. It got even worse when I joined a non-denominational church in college. Now as a Catholic I can travel anywhere in this country and there is a Catholic church nearby I can attend without fear. Yes, it might be a bit “loopy”, but it still has the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our spiritual lives.

8) Adoration

When I first started investigating Catholicism I remember reading a question and answer section in This Rock magazine. A non-Catholic saw people kneel before the Eucharist and asked: wasn’t that idolatry? I assumed the answer would explain that Catholics are not really worshiping the host and they could explain the kneeling in some other way (at this point I was sympathetic to Catholicism but didn’t know much about it). I was floored when the answer stated that Catholics do indeed worship the host – and that this was appropriate because the host was actually Jesus Christ. But even this knowledge didn’t prepare me for adoration; six months after I converted I attended adoration during a retreat and it was a life-changing experience. Now I can’t imagine living without the opportunity to adore our Lord in the Eucharist on a regular basis.

9) Celibacy

I’ll be honest: before I became Catholic I thought it was weird that Catholic priests could not be married. I had no conception of the value of celibacy or the witness it gave to the world. Over the years, however, I have come to see the great value of the witness of celibacy for everyone – celibates and non-celibates alike. Celibacy reminds us of heavenly realities (where we will be neither married nor given in marriage) as well as points us to the great beauty of chaste love, something sorely needed today.

10) Purgatory

When I went to funerals as a Protestant, I remember being frustrated that I could not pray for the dead person. It felt odd to be at a funeral and pray for the family, friends, and even co-workers, but not be able to pray for the person we were there for! But my theology didn’t allow it. Now that I am Catholic, I find great comfort in being able to pray for souls who have died, especially those who did not appear to live Catholic lives. Purgatory gives me great hope and tells me much about God’s mercy.

There are many other reasons I love being Catholic, but I’ll leave it to these ten for now.


Installment Five


There are differences in bibles. Catholic bibles have more books in them than do Protestant bibles. This installment of ‘Your Catholic Is Showing’ from Beginning Catholic.com sheds some light on why that is.

Enjoy the reading!

Books of the Catholic Bible: The Complete Scriptures

Some books of the Catholic Bible aren't in the Protestant Bible. Did the Catholic Church add things to the Bible? No! In fact, the opposite is true: Protestant reformers rejected some parts of the Bible.

When I was entering the Catholic Church, I was confused by the fact that Protestants used a slightly different Bible. Why wasn't there just one Bible?

This article looks at this issue of why the list of books of the Catholic Bible is slightly different. The answer...is history!

The Old Testament canon

The accepted list of books in the Bible is called the "canon."

The canon of the Old Testament books of the Catholic Bible is based on history. We didn't make up the list!

At the time of Jesus, there was no official canon of the books of the Old Testament. The process of defining that canon was not yet complete, and there were a few different collections of Scripture in circulation among the Jews.

The two most widely accepted collections of Old Testament writings at that time were:

The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Old Testament. It contained 46 books:

Precisely because the Septuagint was the version most used and accepted by Jesus and the Apostles, the Catholic Church uses the Septuagint's canon of Old Testament books in the Roman Catholic Bible.

The list of the Old Testament books of the Catholic Bible is firmly grounded in history.

The New Testament canon

Defining the canon of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible was a somewhat different story.

·The question now wasn't what ancient books of Jewish Scripture should be in the canon.

·Now it was a matter of what new books about Jesus and the Christian life were the accurate, inspired texts of Christianity.

Although the question was a little different, the process of deciding was the same as that used to decide the Old Testament canon.

Soon after Jesus's death, a number of books and letters circulated that claimed to contain the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. In the early Church, it fell to the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, to determine which books accurately contained the true teachings.

In fact, all of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible were selected because the Church's bishops agreed that those books alone were divinely inspired, accurate teachers of the true faith received from Jesus and the Apostles.

Some of the books and letters quickly gained acceptance as being faithful, accurate, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The bishops quickly rejected other books circulating at the time because they contained obvious fabrications and inaccuracies.

A few books continued to be debated for some time. Although ultimately accepted into the canon of Scripture, these are also called deuterocanonical because they were accepted later (although written at the same time as the other canonical books). The deuterocanonical books of the New Testament are:

·Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation (the Apocalypse).

·Additionally, some parts of the Gospels are deuterocanonical because they weren't in all early manuscripts, and so were debated for longer than the rest of the Gospel sections. These are: Mark 16:19-20, Luke 22:43-44, John 5:4, and John 8:1-11.

Catholics hold that all of the books of the Catholic Bible — both Old and New Testament, both the deuterocanonical and "protocanonical" ones (first canon) — are the divinely inspired Word of God.

This is the full list of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible:

·The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

·The Acts of the Apostles

·The Letters of St. Paul to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

·The Letter to the Hebrews, the Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude

·Revelation (the Apocalypse).

Defining the canon

It took a few hundred years to complete this process of officially defining the Christian canon of both the Old and Testament.

During that time, the bishops discussed and debated the matter with each other to determine whether the deuterocanonical texts accurately reflected the teachings of Christ, and whether they contained the inspired Word of God.

Although there was no official canon during this early period in the Church, the vast majority of the the books of the Catholic Bible were already recognized as being authentic Scripture.

The Church, through its bishops, verified and defined the canon of the Bible. In fact, Catholics see this as an outstanding illustration of the Catholic teaching that the Holy Spirit actively leads and guides the bishops of the Church in a special way: we can rely on the accuracy of the Bible only to the extent that we can rely on the divine guidance of the Church. (See the article on Church authority for more.)

Pope Damasus I gathered a representation of bishops from the Christian world (called a synod) in 382 A.D. to define the canon of Scripture for the whole Church. This canon was ratified by numerous other Popes, synods, and Church Councils.

That canon is what we use today — all the books of the Catholic Bible.

What books of the Catholic Bible Do Protestants reject?

Protestants reject the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament as being not divinely inspired. Although Martin Luther and other Reformation leaders also rejected the New Testament deuterocanon, they ultimately retained these New Testament books in the Protestant version of the Bible.

Luther and other Protestant leaders rejected many Church teachings and Traditions. Their rejection of the deuterocanonical books allowed them to claim that the disputed doctrines had no basis in Scripture — their new canon of Scripture!

(A Catholic group called Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) has two excellent articles about this topic. The first describes how the canon of the books of the Catholic Bible was defined. The second article describes this history in more detail, including Luther's use of the term Apocrypha to cast a bad light on the Old Testament deuterocanon.)

The canon used by Christ

Catholics don't think of the deuterocanon as "extra" books of the Catholic Bible!

To Catholics, it's all "the Bible."

Our use of these books is historically based on the fact that Jesus and the Apostles used the Greek Septuagint most often. And it's ultimately determined by the Church's judgment that these books are all divinely inspired — a decision that we are confident was guided by the Holy Spirit during the first centuries of the Church.

The books of the Catholic Bible are the books that all Christians traditionally accepted. We can't change that historical fact just because some reformers rejected parts of the Bible during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

www.Beginningcatholic.com


Installment Four


What about this being Catholic, or more precise, What it means to be Catholic.

From Monsignor Joseph M. Champlin, we have a couple of good reasons to consider-Tradition and Scripture. Yes, Catholics are really Scripture readers, just as much as the next Christian. Take some time and see what Msgr. Champlin has to offer.


Being a member of the Catholic Church helps people satisfy their deepest personal needs and spiritual yearnings. Here are a couple of good reasons for being Catholic.

Connects us with our past

The Roman Catholic Church is 2,000 years old. It is a faith with Jewish roots, Jesus as its founder, Peter as its first leader, Paul the worldwide preacher and the present pope as Peter’s successor.

In the famous St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, inside and above the main altar, are words from Matthew 16 predicting Peter as the Church’s rock foundation and promising Christ’s protection until the end of time.

Along a side corridor is a list, carved on white marble, giving the succession of 267 popes, beginning with Peter and continuing through to Benedict XVI.

This Church possesses both a divine and human element. With Christ’s divine guidance it speaks on matters of faith and morals, with the promise of the Holy Spirit, only the truth. God has promised that it will always survive struggles from without or within.

Nevertheless, the human weakness of the Church’s leaders and members has caused great harm—most recently the mishandling of sexual-abuse cases, from which the Church is on the path to recovery.

Yet history has shown that the Church is resilient. An English historian, T. B. Macaulay, has observed that if any other human institution had known such great inner corruption or outer hostility, it would long ago have perished. For him, the Catholic Church’s very survival is almost proof of its divine protection.

Preserves and promotes the Bible

The Bible tells us the best of news: the blessing of God and how God offers us each salvation through Jesus. The Bible contains poetry, prayers, songs, genealogies, history, prophecies, stories, exhortations and teachings. The Church sees this treasure of God’s Word not as one book, but a collection of books: 46 Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures and 27 New Testament or Christian Scriptures.

During the period from formal determination of the complete Bible at the end of the fourth century until the invention of the printing press, the Scriptures were preserved manually by the painstaking efforts of monks. They carefully copied by hand these sacred words.

The Church teaches that God is the Bible’s principal author, influencing human authors as they wrote. That belief is the basis for the rich use of biblical texts in public worship, especially at Mass, and the strong encouragement given to Catholics to read personally the Scriptures on a regular basis.

The Church also recognizes that the Word proclaimed is one of the forms of Christ’s real presence among us: “He is present in His word, since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in Church” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #7).

The Church admonishes all its members with words from St. Jerome, the fifth-century biblical scholar: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”


Installment Three


The Sign of The Cross...

Though used by a number of Rites, it is

one of the most obvious outward signs there is that identifies one as Catholic.

It is the 'tie that binds' as we are bound to our faith not only in His death on earth for our sins but in His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven for our own salvation.

We make the Sign of the Cross, with the right hand (or left)

First, by touching our forehead and saying “In the name of the Father”

Second, then the chest, saying “and of the Son”

Third, saying as one crosses from the left to the right shoulder, “and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The Sign of the Cross shows that we are Christians because it expresses our belief in the chief mysteries of our Catholic faith: the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and the Mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption. The words we say show that God is one in Three Divine Persons. The Sign of the Cross we make reminds us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for us on the Cross.

Making the Sign of the Cross invokes a blessing, a symbol of God embracing us with blessings. Mostly used by Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics and some Episcopalians as a part of their prayer life, anyone can make and pray the Sign of the Cross.

Bert Ghezzi, author of "Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer" (Loyola Press), offers this insight on the Sign of the Cross, andwhy making it reverently can enhance one’s life in Christ… anyone’s life.

Here is what he offers:

The sign means a lot of things. In the book, I describe six meanings, with and without words. The sign of the cross is: a confession of faith; a renewal of baptism; a mark of discipleship; an acceptance of suffering; a defense against the devil; and a victory over self-indulgence.

When you make the sign, you are professing a mini version of the creed -- you are professing your belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. When you say the words and pray in someone's name you are declaring their presence and coming into their presence -- that's how a name is used in Scripture.

As a sacramental, it's a renewal of the sacrament of baptism; when you make it you say again, in effect, "I died with Christ and rose to new life." The sign of the cross in baptism is like a Christian circumcision, which united Gentile converts to the Jewish nation. The sign links you to the body of Christ, and when you make it you remember your joining to the body with Christ as the head.

The sign of the cross is a mark of discipleship. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." The word that the Fathers of the Church used for the sign of the cross is a Greek word that is the same as what a slave owner put on a slave, a shepherd put on a sheep and a general put on a soldier -- it's a declaration that I belong to Christ.

Self-denial is not just giving up little things; to be a disciple you are under Christ's leadership and you don't belong to yourself. By doing the sign of the cross, you're saying to the Lord, "I want to obey you; I belong to you. You direct all my decisions. I will always be obedient to God's law, Christ's teachings and the Church."

When suffering comes, the sign of the cross is a sign of acceptance. It's remembering that Jesus became a man and suffered for us and that we participate in Christ's suffering. The sign of the cross says, "I am willing to embrace suffering to share in Christ's suffering."

When you're suffering,when you're feeling like God is not there, the sign of the cross brings him there and declares his presence whether you feel it. It is a way of acknowledging him at that time of trial.

One of the main teachings of the early Church Fathers is that the sign of the cross is a declaration of defense against the devil. When you sign yourself, you are declaring to the devil, "Hands off. I belong to Christ; he is my protection." It's both an offensive and defensive tool.

I've found that the sign of the cross is a way to put to death self-indulgence -- those big problems we have, the stubborn things we can't get rid of. The Church Fathers say if you are angry, full of lust, fearful, emotional or grappling with fleshly problems, make the sign when tempted and it will help dispel the problem.

I began to make it to gain control with a problem with anger. Signing myself is a way of destroying ... the anger, putting on patient behavior, imitating Jesus' practice of virtue.

Do non-Catholics use the sign of the cross?

Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. In his small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first thing in the morning.

It's a shame that many non-Catholics see it as something they shouldn't be doing; it comes from an ancient Church that we all share. One of my hopes in writing this book is that non-Catholics will read it and share in the sign of the cross.

Why do Catholics use the sign of the cross with holy water upon entering and exiting a church?

In order to participate in the great sacrifice of the Mass, you need to be baptized. Using holy water to sign yourself is saying "I am a baptized Christian and I am authorized to participate in this sacrifice."

When you make the sign of the cross when you leave, you say that the Mass never ends -- your whole life is participating in Christ's sacrifice.

Why should Christians learn more about this prayer?

I think that it's not something to be taken casually. The sign of the cross has enormous power as a sacramental; it does not cause the spiritual thing it signifies but draws on the prayer of the Church to affect us in our lives. The sign of the cross is the supreme sacramental.

When I see professional athletes make the sign of the cross during games, I'm not critical of them. It says that everything I do, I do in the name of Christ -- even games can be played in the presence of God.

When people make the sign of the cross casually, I pray that they will recognize how serious it is -- that they are declaring that they belong to Christ, they want to obey him and accept suffering. It's not a good-luck charm.

Why is the sign of the cross significant today, especially in areas where laws are becoming less tolerant of public displays of faith?

They can tell us that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a public building, but they can't stop us from making the sign of the cross publicly. We need to remember what Jesus said: If we are ashamed of him, he'll be ashamed of us. We should feel confident in letting people know that we are Christians and that we belong to Christ.

Installment Two

The Church: An Institution Both Human and Divine Fr. Ray McDaniel

Many people today seem to be operating without a clear understanding of the Catholic Church.Some folks see it purely as a human institution, but this is an erroneous belief.This error adds to the confusion present in today’s world, a confusion that suggests that the Catholic position on faith or morals is merely one voice among many. One proof of this confusion is that some 55% of voting Catholics supported a very “pro-choice” (which means “pro-abortion”) candidate in the recent election.If Catholics truly appreciated the God-given authority of the Church on matters of faith and morals, then surely that percentage would have been much less.

Scripture gives us many ways to see the Church.These include images like the sheepfold, a cultivated field, our Mother, the “pillar and bulwark of truth,” and the body of Christ. Some folks use some of these terms with an incomplete understanding. “People of God” is one legitimate understanding of “Church,” but it is only one among many, and it must be understood properly.

The Church is much more than a human assembly. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has both human and divine elements.[1] One simple way of explaining this is that the Church is made up of human beings, but it has a Divine Founder, Jesus Christ, who founded it on the “rock” of St. Peter, the Apostles and their successors.

To define the Church exclusively as the human family of God is to deny its divine elements. One of the divine elements is that the Church is the home or “Temple” of the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent to lead us into all truth.[2] The great St. Irenaeus said “for where the Church is, there also is God’s spirit, and where God’s spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.” Our Catechism actually says that “the Church … is the place where we know the Holy Spirit,”[3][emphasis mine] and goes on to give no less than eight examples of how this is so.

While the human elements, the individual members of the Body of Christ, may always do better in their walk of faith toward holiness, the divine side of this Mystery has, among other gifts to Christ’s Church, the charism of infallibility on matters of faith and morals. The Church is also holy, and unfailingly so, because Christ loves her and gave Himself up for her.[4]“In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired,”[5] yet the Church herself is about the work of making her members holy through the power of Jesus Christ. The Second Vatican Council teaches that “the church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect.”[6]

To speak of the Church exclusively in terms of the human is to give a very incomplete picture. As Catholics we need to understand the Church better, to acknowledge that she was founded by Jesus Himself, led by His Holy Spirit, and to respect her teachings as coming directly from His own lips.



[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church 771; see also Lumen Gentium and Sacrosanctum Concilium

[2] CCC 797 ff.

[3] CCC 688

[4] CCC 823

[5] CCC 826

[6] Lumen Gentium 48.3



Installment One

What Catholics Believe Fr. Carmen Mele

We Catholics are first of all Christians or followers of Jesus on Nazareth, called “the Christ.”We believe that Jesus has both a divine nature and a human nature.In fact, he is the incarnate “Son” of God, the “Father,” both of whom have co-existed with the “Holy Spirit” from all eternity.Although Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago, we speak of him in the present tense because we believe that he rose from the dead.In the process of dying and rising, Jesus founded the Church to promote and interpret the presence of his Father in the world.The Bible, especially its latter part known as the New Testament, testifies to Jesus’ establishment of this presence which he called the “Kingdom of God.”

We hold that the bishop of Rome, the “pope,” together with all other validly ordained bishops throughout the world, govern the Church in place of Christ.The pope is the sign of unity and the guarantor that the faith which Catholics practice today is consistent with that held by the first Christians.

The pope and bishops have enumerated seven sacraments (that is, signs or sacred rites) conveying necessary spiritual assistance for righteous living.Baptism and Confirmation are the doors through which all Catholic Christians pass to become members of the Church.Penance and Anointing of the Sick strengthen us when we have been weakened by sin and illness.Matrimony and Orders enable many Church members to respond to their respective vocations of raising a family and administering Church affairs.Finally, the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine, epitomizes the other sacraments as it puts us in full communion with the triune God.

Veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the other saints also distinguishes Catholics from many other kinds of Christians.We believe that these good and holy people, having died on earth, now live with Christ in eternal happiness. We not only try to emulate their virtue but also ask them to intercede for our needs to God.

Volumes can be written about Catholicism, but I think that the above paragraphs cover some of the essential characteristics of the faith.

 
 
Your Catholic Is Showing