Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year...

Here is a prayer that I found for blessings in the New Year.

O sacred and adorable Trinity, hear our prayers on behalf of our holy Father the Pope, our Bishops, our clergy, and for all that are in authority over us. Bless, we beseech Thee, during the coming year, the whole Catholic Church; convert heretics and unbelievers; soften the hearts of sinners so that they may return to Thy friendship; give prosperity to our country and peace among the nations of the world; pour down Thy blessings upon our friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and upon our enemies, if we have any; assist the poor and the sick; have pity on the souls of those whom this year has taken from us; and do Thou be merciful to those who during the coming year will be summoned before Thy judgment seat. May all our actions be preceded by Thy inspirations and carried on by Thy assistance, so that all our prayers and works, having been begun in Thee, may likewise be ended through Thee. Amen.

God bless us all...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Extremes of Faith Alone

There seems to be two extremes of Christians who believe in the doctrine of faith alone. One one side, you have the type of Christian who believes that faith saves and works are a by-product of that faith. A quote that I found on Wikipedia would describe this as such, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone [that is, not by a supposed faith that has no accompanying works]."

On the other side of the spectrum, you have a believer who believes that they are justified by faith alone to the complete exclusion of works. Unlike the believer mentioned above, this person takes the stance that justification is by faith alone, that is alone. Absolutely no accompanying works.

For the sake of argument, let us suppose that what the Catholic Church teaches regarding faith and works is true. Even if you do not understand it, or believe it, let us just assume that it is true.

What happens when these believers die and are standing before the throne of God, assuming of course the Catholic position is right? Will God send a person to hell because they did not completely understand justification by faith and works, even though they had faith and works? What about the individual who died with only faith? Since they had no works, would God send them to hell, because they did not fulfill the requirement of works?

The reason why I am sharing this with you, is because I think that I understand why this is a great concern that the Catholic Church has for all Christians. It understands justification to not be merely faith, but faith and works, just as St. James says that it is. Does it really matter if you hold to the belief that you are justified by faith alone and you still have a faith that is alive with works? I don't think so. Does it matter instead, that you believe your faith alone justifies you, and you do not obey God and keep His commandments, the Catholic Church says it does.

Because of this, I think that most of the debate that circles around faith alone, specifically from two individuals that through they do not share the same view of justification, still have both faith and works, doesn't really matter. At the same time, for the same reason it is why the Catholic Church is so adamant in it's teaching that you must believe in God, and you must also obey his commands - for the sake of the individual that is only relying on his faith, and does not obey God's commands.

What do you think?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Value Proposition of Non-Catholics against the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

I recently had a dialogue, that I wanted to share with you.  These are not the exact words, but it went a little like this:

Non-Catholic:  Carlus, are do you really believe that Mary remained a Virgin for her entire life?
Me:  Why yes I believe that Mary was Ever Virgin.  She died without ever knowing any man.
Non-Catholic:  You know in the Bible it says that Jesus had brothers and sisters.  Your belief that she was a Perptual Virgin is just not supported in Scriptures.  This is just one of the man-made traditions of the Catholic Church.
Me:  Really.  I find this ironic because most, if not all of the Reformers believed that Mary was a Perpetual Virgin.
Non-Catholic:  Well, they got it wrong too.
Me:  Okay, so let me get this straight.  Martin Luther, who is hailed as the Father of the Reformation, translated the entire Bible into a common language for the people.
Non-Catholic: Yes.
Me:  During his translation of Scripture, he must have come across the verses that you are mentioning where it clearly states that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but he chose to ignore it, and believe the lie that Mary was a Perpetual Virgin.
Non-Catholic:  That is exactly right.
Me:  So, if that is the case, if Luther was wrong about something so trivial about the faith, if he cannot be trusted when it comes to such a simple matter of Christian dogma, how in the world can anyone trust his opinion when it comes to Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide?  Is this what you are actually suggesting that I leave the Catholic Church for?  For someone's theology who was wrong about something so plain and evident in Scripture?  ...That's okay.  I'll stick to the faith that has been passed down since the time of Christ instead.

God Bless...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who is Santa Claus?

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Wrapping Christmas presents last night, listening to Holiday music on the radio and lighting the fourth and final candle of the Advent Wreath, I have been getting more and more excited for Christmas, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Among many of the different symbols and characters of the Christmas season, none is more prominent on television and radio than Santa Claus.  Where did this jolly old man come from?

When I was at one of my Christian middle schools, I clearly remember a skit that some of the students put together for the entire school.  The skit was a game show where the contestants were invited to unscrambe words.  The letters were placed on the board and it read "ATSAN".  One of the contestants said "Santa", and they were awarded as winner.  The interesting thing, and of couse the lesson that could be learned, was the answer of the second contestant, which was "Satan".

Hmmmm.....Well, let's consider it.  He is dressed in red, and he sees you when you are sleeping and he knows when you are awake.  But more importantly, Santa takes your attention away from Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.  I was sold.  Santa was Satan.  Therefore, why should we spend time focusing on this liar, and deciever who takes glory awary from the Infant Baby Jesus?

Now, that I am not such an ignorant kid anymore, I know that Santa is not Satan.  He is not evil at all.  In fact, Santa is a Saint.  He is none other than legendary hero for Jesus, St. Nicholas.  Santa Claus is the just a more commercialized version of St. Nick.  He didn't have reindeer and he didn't live in the North Pole, but he was known to love children, and secretly give away gifts - commonly in the form of stuffing coins in the shoes of people who left them out.

Unfortunately, Saints and their lives as hereos of the faith are not celebrated within all of the different denominations.  This is the reason why I was taught that Santa was Satan, stealing God's glory - when the truth and historical fact is Santa was part of the Super Heroes for Jesus club, and his life should be examined and imitated.

Santa, I am sorry that I thought that you were a pawn of Satan, when you were actually a Bishop for Christ.

God bless...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catholicism is full of man made traditions...

Has anyone ever heard this one before? Has anyone ever been guilty of accusing the Catholic Church of this? What does this really mean anyways? It is like the word tradition is inheritently something evil and should be avoided. A prooftexter may use the Matt 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13 as evidence that Jesus is rebuking all human traditions. That is clearly not what Jesus is doing. Jesus is rebuking the people for making their traditions more important than following God's commandments. We are never to elevate our traditions to the same level or above the commandments of God.

According to Scripture, tradition is something that is to be treasured and passed on through the faith.

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. (2 Thess 2:15).

This is the Holy Spirit, talking through St. Paul encouraging the people there to hold onto the traditions that they were taught by the Apostles, and the elders who the Apostles placed in charge. (Having the discussion about what he meant by word of mouth or by letter, could be a topic for another post). Evidently, we are called to keep the traditions / teachings that were given to us, and hold on to them.

So what then are the real man-made traditions that we are to stay away from? They are the traditions that attempt to supress the commandments and teachings of God. If someone were to approach you and tell you that the way to salvation is through reading the Bible from the beginning to the end, how would you respond? Would you believe him? What if someone were to tell you that the way to be saved is by running a New York marathon, barefoot, with your clothes on inside-out, would you believe him? Of course you wouldn't.

You wouldn't believe them because it is a completely new teaching that is contrary to the teachings that we received by word of mouth or letter. They are completely new and foreign concepts that someone has just plucked out of thin air. Who in the world would base their entire salvation on a doctrine that someone just made up? A doctrine that has no precedence in the history of Christianity; a completely new concept that was invented by some sinner, nowhere to be found over the 2000 years of Christianity. That would be crazy, right? Yet this is exactly the place where most of us Christians have found ourselves today.

Nowhere in the 1500 years of the history of Christianity has there ever been a claim of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Jesus didn't preach it, the Apostles didn't say that he did. Martin Luther, a sinner, came up with that idea. Just plucked it out of thin air. Five hundred years after Martin Luther, many Christians find themselves basing salvation on a completely (relatively new) foreign concept. There is nowhere in the Bible that says the Bible alone is the sole authority of the faith. There is nowhere in the Bible that says Faith alone is all you need for salvation. They were invented ideas in order to accomplish exactly what it has done. That is to confuse the people and split the Church - which is the Body of Christ. Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are the man made traditions that Jesus warned us about. These are traditions that have elevated themselves to the level of God's commandments.

Now, with all of this said, do I think that Protestants are going to hell? Of course not. That is not something that I believe and that is not something that the Catholic Church believe. I am just trying to put into perspective that Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are not a part of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. It is a new concept that is only 500 years old.

God bless...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Symbols are Beautiful...

Why is it that so many churches, especially non denominational ones, lack symbolism and art? Why is it that my initial gut reaction to symbols in the Church, is one of caution? I think it is because I have a Reformation mentality.

One of the ideas that sprung out of the Reformation spirit is that Catholics practice idolatry. (Notice I said the Reformation spirit. Martin Luther, being the official leader of the Reformation, never really had a problem with the use of symbols in the Church.) Idolatry is defined as [1]:

1. the worship of a physical object as a god.

In the spirit of the Reformation, many people taught and believed that symbols were something that should be avoided like the plague. That same belief is with us today. This is why so many Protestant churches lack symbols, icons, statues or any other art that may appear to be too....let's just face it....Catholic. It is almost as if the more bare the church is, the better. At most there may be a Cross or the Christian flag (does anyone know where the Christian Flag came from, by the way?). Beyond that, most Protestant churches are pretty bare. Using this same mentality, we shouldn't decorate our homes. We should take down all of the pictures that we have in our home, that remind us of our family, right?

This is not biblical at all. As a matter of fact, things that were regarded as holy were adorned with art. The Ark of the Covenant was decorated with gold, and on the top sat two angels (cherubim). In similar fashion, Solomon's Temple had gold floors, angels and various other art. We are human, and as humans, we use symbols and images in order to express ourselves. Of course we are called to express our faith through the use of symbols and art. This has been a part of the Judeo-Christian heritage from the beginning.

The blatant rejection of any and all images is just the resurfacing of a heresy that was battled by the Church by St. John Damascene in the early 700's. If you are interested in learning more or reading about what St. John wrote regarding this, you can find his writing Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images. Needless to say, the heresey goes against the beliefs of the faith.

Why are images and symbols so important? Because it conveys a message. Earlier this year, my wife's grandmother passed. One of the items that we received from her was a prayer kneeler. Every time I see this kneeler, can you guess what I am so inclined to do? That is right, I pray. It is a visual reminder that I am a child of God and God wants me to talk to Him. If I didn't have that kneeler, I am sure that I would pray, but it would be a lot less.

My wife just gave me a 4 Way Medal. On it are pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Miraculous, St. Joseph and St. Christopher. On the back is the following message "I am a Catholic. Please call a Priest", in the event that I am hospitalized or injured. Do I believe that it is some kind of lucky charm that has power? No. I wear it as a reminder of my faith, and in case of emergencies. I want people to know to contact a Priest if I am sick or dying and cannot communicate (James 5:14-15).

Let's not be afraid to learn more about the symbols of our Christian Heritage. Symbols and art are a part of our Christian story. It is part of the legacy that our brothers and sisters in Christ, over the ages, have left for us to enjoy and learn from. God bless...

[1] Merriam Webster Dictionary On-line
[2] Wikipedia - Reformation Iconoclasm

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Men's Accountability Group

I have been a member of a Men's Accountability group for a couple of months now.  We meet early in the morning for breakfast.  At first, I was a little bit apprehensive about joining the group.  Now, I can't imagine not being a member.

Along with the other men in the group, I am a father and a husband.  There are many challenges that men face, and we need the support and prayers of others in order to face those challenges.  That is what the group is all about.  We are Catholics and we are constantly challenging eachother to live out our faith.  Do we really believe in Christ and does our life and love reflect that belief?  Are we prayerful, like Christ called us to be?  Do we love our children, as Christ would have loved them?  Do we love our wife, as Christ loves the Church?  What are the areas that we need to work on, to be more like Christ?  Do you have any suggestions for me?  Maybe I have experienced something that you are going through, and I can share with you how I made it through.

If your life is anything like mine, you can easily admit that we are way too busy.  Too busy to spend time with God and too busy to grow in faith.  That is what a Men's Accountability group is all about.  We challenge each other to grow in our faith and express that faith through love (Galatians 5:6).

If you are a man, and you are interested in being challenged and growing in your faith, by all means, get involved in an Accountability Group.  Be open and share with your group your challenges and your short comings.  Tell them the areas in your life where you need prayer.  Help to raise eachother up to the level that Jesus Christ has called us to be (Matt 5:48).

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the easiest way to get to heaven, is to take someone by the hand, and lead them there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Please pray for my nephew...

My nephew, was just rushed to the hospital.  My brother and sister found a cyst on his leg.  We don't have any details yet, and we are waiting to hear more information.  As you can imagine, the family is really stressed out at this point...

Please pray for him....

God Bless

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sola Scriptura or My Own Peronal Interpretation?

I do not believe that anyone on this planet believes in Sola Scriptura. Sure, there are a lot of Non-Catholics who profess to believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority of the Christian faith, but I think that they are unintentionally being dishonest.  Let me explain:

The Bible is the Infallable Word of God.  It is completely without error and is part of the complete deposit of faith given to us by the Holy Spirit.  In the end, however, it is a collection of books.  Books are meant to be read.  It is only through the act of reading that you can take the information contained within a book, absorb it and apply it to your life.  So, my argument is that when someone believes in Sola Scriptura, they are not saying Scripture Alone.  They are really saying My Interpretation of the Scriptures Alone.

Sola Scriptura really says, "My own personal interpretation of what the Bible says is the complete authority of my Christian Faith".  I don't really care about what other denominations are preaching.  I don't really care about what other people believe.  I don't really care about the Early Church and what they believed.  As a matter, of fact, I don't even care about what John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley or any of the other Fathers of the Protestant Reformation believe, because I am the ultimate authority.  I will attend the church of my choice, until they start preaching something that I don't agree with, and when that happens, I will either keep quiet or find another church that agrees with my theology.  Does anyone see the danger in this line of thinking?

I live in America.  America is the greatest country to live in.  Sure, we have our problems...many, many, many problems, but I would not choose to live anywhere else.  Our country has a document called the Constitution of the United States.  It is the "supreme law of the United States"[1].  This document is so important, in fact, that it has setup a framework so that it can be interpreted correctly.  There is a whole branch of government whose sole job is to interpret law.  Our forefathers knew, that they were not going to be able to think of all of the different situations that Americans would find themselves in, and they made provisions to allow for the laws to be interpreted correctly, as well as ammended when necessary.  Undoubtedly, these men were brilliant, however, they still realized that the Constitution was a document that still needed to be interpreted accurately.

Can you imagine what America would be like if we all had the ability to interpret the Constitution any way that we felt?  How crazy would our society be if we all walked around doing whatever we wanted because we believed in Sola Constitution?  It would be absolute chaos.  You would have one group interpreting the Constitution one way and another group interpreting the Constitution another way.  Then, when problems would arise between different groups, there could be no clear difinitive answer on how to be a good citizen because there would be no governing body to go to because authority has been reduced to personal interpretation.  You would become your own judge of conduct according to your own set of rules.  How could you ever know if you were truly being a good citizen, according to what the authors of the Constitution really meant?  It would be impossible.  Clearly a document that is subjectively interpreted, will lead to a subjective conclusion.

What do you think?

[1] United States Constitution -

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

One of the great heroes of the faith is undoubtedly St. Francis of Assisi.  His life is one that is worth study and imitation.  According to history, he heard the God speaking to him after praying in front of a cross, which is now known as the Cross of San Damiano (or the Cross of St. Francis):

At some point in his life, he authored one of the most beautiful prayers that we have today.  This is that prayer:

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; 
where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope; 
where there is darkness, light; 
and where there is sadness, joy. 
O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood, as to understand; 
to be loved, as to love; 
for it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 

There is a lot of trash on youtube, but every so often, you find some people who are doing a very good job in spreading the Gospel.  Yes, God even works in youtube.  I am happy to say that stevesilvia is evidence of that.  Here is a video that he put together that he titles Song of St. FrancisYou can find the video below.  God bless you stevesilvia and the work that you do, and I will definitely keep you in my prayers during Easter Vigil.

God bless you all....

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mary :- Immaculate Conception

Tomorrow, December 8th, is the annual Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Instituted by Pope Sixtus IV in 1476, this Feast (Celebration) is in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary being conceived without the stain of Original Sin.  The belief that Mary was conceived without Original Sin did not become official dogma of the Catholic Church until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it as such in the document Ineffabilis Deus.  In other words, like the Marian Apparitions today, before 1854, Catholics did not have to believe that Mary was conceived without sin, because it was not official Catholic Church teaching.  Until the Catholic Church makes something an official teaching (dogma), Catholics are free to believe or not.

Before we discuss the Immaculate Conception, it would first be prudent to explore the concept of Original Sin.  When you are born, you are born in a state of sin that separates you from God, due to the Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12-21).  Since we are born into a state of sin, we must be reborn into a state of grace.  This happens through baptism (John 3:1-7).  Naturally born into a state of sin (separated from God) and reborn into a state of grace (through the waters of baptism), dying in the waters to be reborn into life (Romans 6:1-14).

Catholics believe that God spared Mary from original sin.  In other words, Mary started her natural life in the state of grace, and not the state of sin.  She was never separated from God.

Mary was not the first to be created in a state of grace.  Adam and Eve were also created in the state of grace.  Adam and Eve did not fall out of grace until they disobeyed God.  This is actually interesting because they had faith in God...actually, they didn't have faith, they knew God - however based on their actions, they were cast out of the Garden.  This sounds like the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5)

If God was able to do it for the first human beings, He is definitely able to do it for Mary - especially since she was going to be the Mother of God.  Let's put it this way, if you were able to prevent your mother from falling into sin, wouldn't you?  I know I would, and I think of myself as a pretty good son.  How much more perfect of a Son would  Jesus be for His Mother?

Throughout Scripture, we are taught that God cannot be in the presence of sin.  If this is true, wouldn't He have made the Woman that He was to be born unto without sin?  These are logical conclusions that one could just come to if time was spent dwelling on the mysteries of salvation and our faith.  Thank goodness for our sake that people have already gone through this effort over the past 2000 years, and we can just reap the benefits of all of their hard work.

If you are still interested in researching this topic further, please refer to the following articles:

Immaculate Conception and Assumption
Mary, Full of Grace
Immaculate Conception of Mary

God Bless you all.

P.S.  Since tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, help us out by reminding any Catholics that you know to go to Mass to celebrate.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Apostolic Succession

Before investigating the Catholic Church, I have never heard of Apostolic Succession.  From my experience of church, if God had a "calling" on your life, that was enough.  Sure, you  may have gone to Divinity School to get some religious education (and even that was optional), but past that, there was nothing that prevented you from proclaiming yourself to be a preacher, convincing other people in the community of the same idea and open up a brand new church.  After all, that is how the early church did it right?  Wrong - but growing up, no one ever taught me otherwise.

Apostolic Succession refers to the unbroken line of authority given by God to the Apostles throughout all of history to every Deacon, Priest and Bishop in the Catholic Church today.  Catholics believe that every member of the clergy, can legitimately trace their lineage of authority back to the Apostles and Christ Himself through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Only Bishops have the ability to confer Holy Orders.  Since we can historically show that there is an unbroken line of Popes (Bishops of Rome) from Pope Bendect XVI to St. Peter, we believe that the line of Christ given authority still exists in the Catholic Church today.

The Eastern Orthodox Church can also claim this as well.  The Eastern Orthodox Church was the first major schism from the Catholic Church which occurred around 1054A.D.  They are still considered Catholic and they still enjoy a valid preisthood through Holy Orders.  Their Bishops can trace their line of Authority through the same list of Popes as well.  (There is also some debate as to whether or not Anglican Churches can claim this as well, but I have heard different things from both Anglicans and Catholics, so I am not really sure if they can or not.)

Since Martin Luther was a Catholic Priest, he did have a valid priesthood.  However, since he was excommunicated and he was not a Bishop, he did not have the authority to pass on Holy Orders to anyone else.  Because of those two facts, Lutherans do not share in this blessing.  And as you can imagine, none of the Protestant denominations share this blessing either.

Christ created a Church based on the Twelve Apostles and told them:

I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.(John 13:20)

Those Twelve Apostles (minus one), then continued Christ's work of appointing others into positions of leadership:

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:20-22)

Here we see in the first chapter of Acts, just after the recording of Jesus ascending into heaven, they are putting someone in charge.  Evidently, it was pretty important.  Not only that, but they reference the departed seat of authority with the term bishoprick which is where we get the term Bishop.  Why didn't I see this before as a Protestant.  If you are interested in seeing more evidence of the different roles in the Church and the Biblical basis for them, please read Bishops and Priests and Deacons...oh my.

There is over 2000 years of evidence of Apostolic Succession.  The only time that this belief was ever challenged was during the Reformation, which is only 500 years or so old.  The reason why this was challenged was because if Luther, or anyone else for that matter, was ever going to say that the Catholic Church was wrong, they had to cast doubt on the authority given to Her by Christ.  If the Reformers were going to preach Sola Scriptura, they had to deny Apostolic Succession and the authority that comes with it.

Recently, I had a conversation with a Protestant friend of mine, and while he agrees that the Catholic Church was the only Church for the first 1500 years of history, he asked if they had the authority, was that authority was ever lost.  This is a valid question.  My response is if the authority was ever lost, then Jesus must have lied when He said:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. (John 16:12-15)

...and we all know that Jesus can't lie.  As a matter of fact, if He ever did lie, it would instantly become the truth because not only does he speak the truth but He is the Truth.

I pray constantly for the reunification of the Body of Christ.  I hope that this post helps everyone understand more about the Catholic faith, because it is our faith - Protestant and Catholics alike.  It is what Jesus left for all of us, and Apostolic Succession is just one of the many blessings that He intended for us to enjoy.

God Bless you all...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Protestant Theologians Re-Examining St. Paul and Justification

There are some recent developments within Protestant Theology regarding understanding St. Paul's writings - especially on the topic of Justification.

"A significant number of authors, including Kirster Stendahl, E. P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N. T. Wright, have concluded that the standard accounts of Paul's teaching developed since the Reformation are simply wrong, that they read Paul's conflict with first century Judaizers anachronistically against the Reformers' struggle with the Catholic Church and what they perceived Catholic beliefs to be." (Jimmy Akin, Two from Benedict)

As Jimmy goes on to admit in his blog post, these authors have by no means come to an agreement on what Paul explicitly meant.  However, they do seem to agree

"...that when Paul says we are not justified by works of the Law he does not have in mind the common Protestant claims that we do not earn our position before God or that we do not have to "do anything" for our salvation" (Jimmy Akin, Two from Benedict)

Overall, I find all of this development regarding St. Paul's teaching within the Year of St. Paul to be very ironic.  If you are interested in learning more about this "New Perspective", you can find more information on the Paul Page which has many articles and readings dedicated to this topic.

I find this interesting enough to share, because I believe that this line of thought will help to build bridges of communication between Catholics and Protestants.  In the conclusion of an article that is the summary of this New Perspective, Mark Mattison comments:

"Applying Paul's polemic against Judaizing to any and all "good works" is not a correct appropriation of Paul's teaching. True as it is that no one can "earn" salvation before God, that was not Paul's point, and applying his language that way often involves unintended consequences." (Mark Mattison, A Summary of the New Perspective on Paul)

Similarly, Catholics do not believe that you can earn salvation.  We recognize that it is a free gift from God.  Many of our practices are tools to help us on our journey of sanctification.  We look to the lives of the Saints, our heroes, and use them as examples of how to become more holy.  How did they live?  How did they pray?  What are they trying to teach us in their writings?  These "good works" are worthy of imitation, not condemnation.  And I think that this is what St. Paul would have supported as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mary :- Ark of the New Covenant

My post, Was St. James Jesus Brother, stirred up a lot of off-line conversation.  This is good, because one of the main purposes of this blog is to be a catalyst for conversations, whether you believe in what I am sharing about the Catholic faith or not.  During one of those conversations, I brought up the fact that Mary is the Ark of tne New Covenant.  This is something that my friends had not heard before, and being brought up in the Protestant tradition, I had only recently heard of this while I studying Catholic teaching.  During this post, I am going to share with you, what I have learned regarding Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant.

From a logical standpoint, it is very easy to see how the Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.  The Ark of the Old Covenant was pregnant with the Word of God inscribed in stone.  It was the most holy item amongst the Jews.  It was so holy, in fact, that some made a mistake and touched it or even approached it in a unworthy manner, and immediately fell dead (1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:2-7).  The Ark of the Old Covenant was not forged on a whim.  God was explicit on how it should be made, even to be gold within and gold without (Exodus 25:11, 37:2).

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, because she was pregnant with the Word of God inscribed in flesh. If the Ark of the Old Covenant was made by human hands to be gold within and gold without, how much more holy would the Ark of the New Covenant be made by God's Hands?

St. John reveals to us that the Ark of the New Covenant is a woman, in the book of Revelation.  Scott Hahn, in his book Hail Holy Queen, gives us a chance to read the scriptures from a Jewish perspective when he says:

"Imagine that you are a first-century reader, raised as a Jew.  You have never seen the ark, but all your religious and cultural upbringing has taught you to long for it's restoration in the temple.  John builds anticipation so that he almost seems to be teasing such readers by describing the sound and fury accompanying the ark.  The dramatic tension becomes nearly unbearable.  The reader wants to see the ark, as John sees it...John shows us the ark of the covenant-and it is a woman." (Hail Holy Queen, Scott Hahn p.54)

The Scripture passage that Scott is referring to is:

"Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head." (Revelation 11:19-12:1)

In Hail Holy Queen, Scott Hahn continues to build the evidence to show that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, through the writings of Luke, and how Lukes writings of Mary visiting Elizabeth parallel as to when David travels to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem:

"The story begins as David "arose and went" (2 Sam 6:2).  Luke's account of the visitation begins with the same words: Mary "arose and went" (Luke 1:39).  In their journeys, then, both Mary and David proceeded to the hill counry of Judah.  David acknowledges his unworthiness with the words "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" (2 Sam 6:9)-- words we find echoed as Mary aproaches her kinswoman Elizabeth: "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).  Note here that the sentence is almost verbatim, except that "ark" is replaced by "mother".  We read further that David "danced" for joy in the presence of the ark (2 Sam 6:14, 16), and we find a similar expression tused to describe the leaping of the child within Elizabeth's womb as Mary approached (Luke 1:44).  Finally, the ark remained in the hill country for three months (2 Sam 6:11), the same amount of time mary spent with Elizabeth (Luke 1:56)" (Hail Holy Queen, Scott Hahn, p64)

During my conversion process, I can easily say that the Catholic approach and understanding of Mary was one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me.  I am forever grateful to Hail, Holy Queen, and other resources to helping me understand the biblical basis for venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary and the role that she plays in salvation history.

God bless.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank God for Purgatory

During the Inquiry portion of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), you are encouraged to ask all of the questions that you may have regarding the Catholic faith. One day, I decided to ask my one of the catechist about purgatory.

He explained that in order to enter the Beatific Vision, you must be perfect (Matt 5:48) because anything that is unclean will not enter (Rev 21:27) heaven. While it is possible to attain perfection on Earth and after you die, enter directly into Heaven, most of us will not reach perfection. Because of that, in God's mercy, He has provided a place where we can be made perfect in order to enter heaven. It is here, where we will be transformed and changed, by removing our sinful nature and attachments, so that we can enter the Beatific Vision. That place is called purgatory.

Purgatory is a form of punishment, at least in the sense that you have to be cleansed before you can see God face to face. We live for the day that we can finally go home and enter into the Kingdom of God. After we die, we will want that even more so. Since we will have to wait before we can go inside heaven, that time of waiting is a form of punishment. When you were a child, and you spent all day playing outside in the mud, when it was time to come in, didn't you first have to hose off outside before muddying up your mother's house? (This is a similar analogy to the one that Steve Ray has done in the past. I can not claim credit for this one). How much more so do we need to change before we are considered perfect in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven - God's House?

Everyone that goes to purgatory, are heaven bound. In other words, there is no going to purgatory, and then going to hell. That is not what Catholics believe. We believe that purgatory is a place that you will be purified and prepared to enter into Heaven. It is the preparation that you must go through in order to make it to heaven, if you did not die perfectly.

Purgatory is not a "second chance". There is nothing that you can do after you die, that will change your destination - whether that is heaven or hell. The choice that you made here on Earth is what determines where you will spend your eternal life. Purgatory is not a place you go and have the opportunity to choose to be with God or live in eternal torment. (Can you imagine anyone, under those two options, actually choosing to live in torment?)

You are probably wondering if there is any evidence in scripture that discusses purgatory. Here are some:

[Courtesy of Scripture Catholic]
As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.[a]"(Luke 12:58-59)

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.(Matt. 12:32).

What did Jesus mean when he said that they will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come for sinning against the Holy Spirit? What are the two ages that He is talking about? Isn't He also implying that there are sins that will be forgivable in the age to come?

...preached to those in prison...(1 Peter 3:19; 4:6)

These are the souls being purified for heaven.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.(1 Cor. 3:10-15)

Also, the books of the Bible that were removed from most Protestant editions, clearly show that we are to pray for the dead:

And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. With godliness... Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. (2 Maccabees 12:43-45)

I hope that this helps to better clarify the Catholic teaching on Purgatory, at least on some level. If you would like to learn more, I would recommend the following sites:

Scripture Catholic :- Purgatory
Is Purgatory Found in the Bible
Arguing the Existence of Purgatory.
St. Michael's Media: Purgatory MP3
Bishop Fulton Sheen :- Purgatory MP3

God Bless.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Catholic Audio

Do you have an iPod, or an MP3 player? Are you interested in learning more about God and the Catholic Faith? If you are, then I have some great resources for you.

During this journey of faith, I have had the opportunity to talk with many knowledgeable Catholics - Catholic men who not only live their faith, but they also know their faith. They have been a great resource for me in order to help clear up confusion that I had on many of the doctrines of the Church. I thank God for them.

Along with my friends, I have found many wonderful resources online as well. Resources that range from Protestant / Catholic Debates, Catholic Radio Archives, sermons and conversion stories. If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, I would highly recommend these online resources as well.

Stephen Ray:
After listening to Stephen Ray at the Defending the Faith Conference in Steubenville, I realized that I really needed to look into the claims of the Catholic Church. He has a great presentation style and being brought up as a fellow "Bible Thumper", he has a great grasp of the Holy Scriptures. He is the first Catholic who ever showed me how the scriptures actually make the case for Catholicism, as oppose to condemning it. On his blog, he has provided a set of talks that I am sure will cause you to think and ask questions.

Michael Voris (One True Faith):
This is what I am currently listening to. Michael Voris is amazing. He is fully aware of the fact that for the past 40 years or so, Catholics have not been taught the faith in a way that they should have been. With this in mind, his goal on One True Faith is to share the faith and give talks on various topics including Angels, purgatory, Reformation, Heresies, Schism (Eastern Orthodox), Crusades and Inquisition, Catholics and Sex, Rapture, Sacraments, and much, much more. I am really enjoying listening to these talks.

Catholic Answers Radio Archive:
At Catholic Answers, you can look through the calendar of shows and download them for free. If there is a particular topic that you are interested in, use this search feature. Shows that have been particularly helpful for me are the series titled Open Forum for Non Catholics. This is something that Catholic Answers does once a month, where Non Catholics are invited to call in and ask questions about the Catholic Faith. Through this series alone, I have learned so much about the Catholic Faith and cleared up so many misconceptions that I had about Catholicism in general.

Sonitus Sanctus:
Sonitus Sanctus is a great blog site, where the author is building a list of Catholic MP3 Links on various topics. Pretty much any topic that you can think of, can be found here. I have listened to conversion stories as well as Protestant / Catholic Debates over the past few months from this site alone. There are also many different sermons here as well.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
Archbishop Fulton Sheen is wonderful. He has a very great way of explaining Catholic beliefs in a fashion that even I can understand. At ACTS Catholic Apologetics, they have captured many of this talks on various topics. If you have never heard of him before, I would highly recommend listening to some of his talks.

Bring to You:
The Bring To You is a wonderful site full of Catholic MP3 Audio. This is the very first site that I started downloading Catholic content from and listening to, during my conversion time. As you can imagine, I started out listening to the debates. I wanted to hear the arguments for and against Catholicism. Here you will find plenty of debates (at least 9 hours worth), not to mention audio from Catholic Answers Archive, conversion stories from the Journey Home, the entire Mere Christianity book by C.S. Lewis in MP3 format, Creation vs. Evolution debates, Da Vinci Code discussions and much, much more.

It is because of readily available references like these, that I have learned more and more about the Catholic Faith. There was a time that I thought that I knew all about the Catholic Faith, and I did not agree with it at all. This was because the things that I learned about Catholicism, was taught to me by Protestant teachers. They did not give an accurate picture of what the faith was really all about. It was time that I gave the Church a chance to speak for herself. Along with my friends, books, and the resources that I mentioned above, I have been able to give her that chance, and I have found her to be all that she said she was.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Was St. James Jesus' Brother....?

While learning about the faith, somewhere along the way, someone taught me that Jesus was not the only son of Mary.  In fact, they told me that the Apostle James was also the son of Mary and therefore Jesus' brother.  Someone brought this up after reading my post titled, My Journey of Understanding Mary.  Who came up with the idea that the Apostle James was Jesus' brother?  What do the Sacred Scriptures say regarding this?

"Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons."(Matt 27:56)

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."(John 19:25)

While the mother of St. James was named Mary, clearly it was not the same Mary as the Mother of God.  St. James was NOT the biological brother of Jesus.

While researching this post, one of the most interesting things that I happened upon was that most of the Early Protestant Reformers, also believed that Mary was ever virgin.  These references are cited at this website:

"Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. "(Martin Luther)

"[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. " (John Calvin)

"I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity." (Huldreich Zwingli)

"The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin."(John Wesley)

I don't blame people for believing false doctrine.  It is not their fault.  It was not my fault that my teacher told me that Jesus had many biological brothers, including St. James.  It is probably not even the fault of the teacher, they are probably as much as a victim as I was.  I do believe, however, that it is our responsibility to help each other find the complete truth in the Gospel, especially those that may have fallen victim to improper instruction.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where did the term "Catholic Church" come from....?

In one of the comments from my post on Defending Peter and explaining the Papacy, Belteshazzar Mouse asked where the term Catholic Church came from. Logic tells us that this term must have originated during the time of the Reformation in order to distinguish between Protestants and Catholics. Prior to the Reformation, there would not have been a reason.

After reading the Four Witnesses, I learned that the term katholike ekklesia, was first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch circa 110AD.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was the Bishop of Syria during the time of Christian Persecution. He was arrested as a Christian and then transported to Rome where he would devoured by lions. During his transportation to Rome, he wrote several letters to many of the different churches, including (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philidelphians, Smyrneans). If you are interested in downloading these letters in MP3 format, please visit Joe McClane site.

In his letter to the Smyrneans, he writes:

"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church"(The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans Ch. 8).

I am amazed at how much information is readily available regarding our Christian heritage. I am also amazed that I did not really care about what happened in the Early Church history. These early martyrs are the champions of our faith. They are part of our Christian Culture and we should recognize them for the heroes that they are.

The book that I mentioned earlier, Four Witnesses would be a great start to learn more about our Christian heritage. There are countless other heroes and role models that we can turn to imitate. If you are struggling with prayer, look at St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa of Avila. If you have questions about God and theological concepts, look at the Summa Theologica written by St. Thomas Aquinas. If you struggle with loving your neighbor, read about Mother Teresa, and how she recognized Jesus in everyone that she saw (Matt 25:44-45). I would encourage everyone to spend some time learning more about the history and heroes of our faith. We are so ready to look at the lives of athletes and political leaders that we hold in high esteem, shouldn't we be as excited and even more motivated to look at the lives of people of the faith?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Celebrating the Anointing of the Sick

This week at Mass, Father celebrated the Anointing of the Sick with members of the parish who were ill.  During this Sacrament, the sick are anointed with holy oil and their sins are forgiven.  This Sacrament was taught and practiced from the Apostles, as we see in scripture:

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven."(James 5:14-15)

The Annointing of the Sick is one of the Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church.  The other Sacraments include Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Reconciliation.  Regarding the general definition of what constitutes a Sacrament, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines them as such:

Sacraments are "powers that comes forth" from the Body of Christ, (LUKE 5:17; 6:19; 8:45) which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are "the masterworks of God" in the new and everlasting covenant.(CCC 1116)

"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.'"(CCC 1123)

When we suffer, we are called to join that suffering to Christ's suffering (2 Cor 1:5; 1 Peter 2:20-21).  We are called to be thankful for the suffering that we endure (Acts 5:40-41, Phillipians 3:10-11).  This is not an easy thing to accomplish.  In times of suffering, there are many ways that we can choose to react.  We can choose to grow in the love of Jesus Christ, or not.  Thankfully, by the mercy of God, He gives us access to His Grace through this sacrament to strengthen us in our suffering.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Infant Baptism...should it be practiced?

Had a wonderful conversation with a friend of mine regarding infant baptism. He does not believe that Infant Baptism is supported by Scriptures and therefore he does not believe that Baptism should be given to infants, instead, it should be reserved for adults.

From his Christian tradition, he was taught that baptism is an outward sign of an inner reality of salvation. Salvation is something that is chosen by free will. Therefore since infants do not have free will, the capacity to choose, they should not receive baptism. Instead, they should receive a dedication or a commitment service where the parents make the pledge to raise the child in the Christian tradition. When they have reached the proper age where they do have the ability to choose for themselves, that is when they should be baptized. Baptism is only meant for confessing believers.

I understand this tradition because before my inner conversion to Catholicism, I came from the Pentecostal tradition that supports this view.  Instead of a baptism, they believed that babies should be dedicated.  I have since learned that scriptures and church history both believes in baptism for infants.

According to Holy Scriptures, when Peter gave the first sermon after the ascension of Christ and Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit), he says:

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."(Acts 2:38-39).

Noticed how Peter said that this promise is for the audience, and the audience children.  The command was for everyone to repent and be baptized.  Peter did not say only the adults that are present should repent and be baptized, he was speaking to all of those that were there.  I don't think that it is a far stretch for us to assume that everyone there was not an adult.  There must have been men, women and children who were present listening to Peter.  He did not mention anything regarding age, he only mentioned that everyone should obey.

What was it exactly that Peter was promising?  What was it that Peter was asking the Jewish people to accept?  Peter was asking the Jewish people to accept the New Covenant.  The Old Covenant included the Mosaic Law.  The New and better covenant was accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The way that we enter into this New Covenant is baptism.  The way that you entered into the Old Covenant was through circumcision.  When Peter was offering a New Covenant that was supposed to be better, why would he forbid the children to enter into this covenant, when they were not forbidden to enter into the Old Covenant?  Circumcision was the way you were brought into the Old Covenant.  Circumcision occurred on the 8th day of life.  Surely, the child could not speak for themselves in the Old Covenant, yet they were permitted entry through circumcision.  The same can be said of the New Covenant.  Through the New Covenant, an infant does not have the ability to speak for themselves, however, we still would allow them to enter into the New Covenant.  If we did not allow them, how could the New Covenant be considered better than the Old?

What about Christian History?  The Apostles went out and preached the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.  They also commanded others to be in charge, and carry the Gospel forward after them:

"Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you."(1 Tim 4:11-14).

(This is of course talking about Apostalic Succession, but I will save that for a future post).  It is important to know about Christian History so that we will not be misled in our doctrine today.  What did the early Christians believe?  Did they believe and practice infant baptism?  Yes, they did.

During the persecution of Christians, one of the major complaints that the pagans would bring before the Emperor of Rome is that the Christians believed in cannibalism (eucharist) and drowining babies (baptism).  The reason why the pagans got things so confused is because being a Christian was outlawed.  Christian services and ceremonies were held in private.  To be a Christian meant certain death.  Because of this, the pagans only heard about what Christians did behind closed doors and their secret meetings.  The only way that they would get the idea that Christians were baby drowners is if Christians were practicing infant baptism.

Irenaeus of Lyons, who was born 115-140AD says:
"For He came to save all through means of Himself— all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men." (Against Heresies Book 2:22 v4)

Whenever you hear the Early Church talking about being "born again" it is not referring to the feeling experience that most Protestant churches teach  now.  It is referring to the same born again experience that Jesus taught.  Steve Ray, usually says something along the lines of being "born again" the Bible way which is plainly:

"In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."(John 3:3-5) other words, baptism.

While researching this topic, I came across a couple of great articles in defense of infant baptism.  I have attempted to share with you in this post what I have learned over the past couple of months regarding this topic, but I believe that both of these articles go into more detail for a supportive case of Infant Baptism:

Infant Baptism in Early Church History 

Can Infants be Born Again 

If the Early Christians, the people that we owe the un interrupted message of God's love, believed that infant baptism is a part of the full sacred deposit of faith, why should we believe otherwise?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Journey Begins :- Rite of Welcoming

This past Sunday, I officially began my journey into the Catholic Church with the Rite of Welcoming. The Rite of Welcoming is celebrated by the parish (church) community to welcome those into the order of Candidates. Candidates are those that have been baptized from another denomination, but wish to join in full communion with the Catholic Church. I was baptized a Pentecostal, but I wish to join the Catholic Church, therefore after this celebration, I am now a Candidate. My entry into the Catholic Church will be celebrated on Easter Vigil, April 11th 2009...and I cannot wait!!!

When you join the Catholic Church, you have to have a sponsor. The role of the sponsor is to vouch for you and say that you are ready to become a member of the Catholic Church. They are to be available for questions and to help you however they can on your journey. I have selected someone from my parish community that I have a great respect for. He was there for me when I had all of my tough questions and he helped to answer them one by one. He is truly God sent, and I cannot thank him enough. If you are interested to learn more about Sponsors, go to this link and read the section titled Sponsors.

Part of the Rite of Welcoming, which I found very beautiful, is known as the Signing of the Senses. During the Signing of the Senses, all of the Candidates stand in front of the congregation with our sponsors. The priest then invited the sponsors to trace the Sign of the Cross over our senses while he spoke these words:

Receive the sign of the cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord

Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes, that you may see the glory of God.

Receive the sign of the cross on your lips, that you may respond to the Word of God.

Receive the sign of the cross on your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith

Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ

Receive the sign of the cross on your hands, that Christ may be known in the work which you do.

Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ

This was a very beautiful celebration, and I hope that you will celebrate it with me. Please keep all of the Candidates and Catechumens in your prayers as we officially embark on this journey of faith.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Profile Picture :- St. Michael the Archangel

In my What do you hold Sacred post, I shared with you that I hold life and marriage sacred. Since we live in a culture where things that all Christians once held sacred are under attack, I have chosen St. Michael the Archangel and the depiction of his defeat over Satan as my profile picture, as a reminder of who it is we are actually at war against in our society.

Our enemy is not the Democrats, Republicans, pro choicers or anyone that may not disagree with our particular stance on any issue. As Christians, we are fighting against Satan and his army of fallen demon angels - demons.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.(Eph. 6:11-13)

With this in mind, I have chosen the depiction of St. Michael the Archangel defeating Satan as my profile picture(Rev. 12:7-9).

Pope Pius XIII, after recovering from a traumatic vision of the future, formulated the following prayer asking for St. Michael's assistance against the Devil:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Why are Catholic Bibles Bigger...?

In passing, I had a very short conversation regarding how the Bible was formed with a Protestant friend of mine. We both remarked that it was a very lengthy process in determining which books of the Bible were official cannon of the New Testament and which ones were not. We both agreed that only the Holy Spirit could have been working through the Church in order to determine the New Testament cannon.

While Catholics and Protestants agree on the books of the New Testament, we disagree on the books of the Old Testament. There are seven books of the Old Testament found in Catholic Bibles that are not found in Protestant Bibles. These seven books (along with portions of Esther and Daniel) are what is considered Deuterocanonical.

After my brief conversation with my friend, I decided to do a little more research in order to get a better understanding of how and why the Catholic and Protestant Old Testament Cannon of scripture differ.

I found a great article written by Jason Evert, titled How to Defend the Deuterocanonicals. It was very good to read in order to get a better understanding of how the deuterocanonical books were always considered a part of sacred scripture.


Friday, November 7, 2008

What do you hold Sacred?

With the elections and many different state proposals this year, I have had to ask myself "What is sacred?". What are the gifts that have been given to us by God and I am willing to fight for and defend?

I am a Catholic Christian, not a Democrat or a Republican. I accept the responsibility that Christ gave me to be salt of the Earth. Salt was meant to preserve, and that is what followers of Christ are called to do. I accept the challenge that Jesus gives us to to be the light of the world. We are to expose those things that may be hidden. We are to share truth and reflect God in all that we do - even in the voting booth.

During this election and State proposals, there are two things that I saw as being sacred, and under attack.

God gives us all life. This is something that God gives to everyone regardless if we believe in Him or not. I believe that the gift of life, from conception to natural death, is sacred and should be protected at all time.

Marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. Anything that is contrary to this, is not a marriage. Marriage is an institution that was given to us by God, and it is also a reflection of Christ's love for His Church(Ephesians 5:22-32).

What about you? What do you believe is sacred? Did this election give you pause to think about what you believe to be sacred?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Repititious Prayer

One of the complaints that I see hurled at Catholics by Protestants, is our use of formal prayer. Some Protestants believe that prayer should always be spontaneous and any kind of formal prayer is to be avoided. These Protestants will use scripture to back up the claim:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.(Matt 6:7).

Side note: Admittedly so, I used to even hurl this over at Catholics as proof as they were going against scripture. Instead, like so many of the fallacies that I had accepted as truth, the Catholic Church has proven to be right in this area as well.

Jesus was not speaking against repetitious, but rather speaking against vain prayer. How do I know? Using the same infallible Word of God, we have many instances where the same prayer is repeated to God over and over again.

And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.(Matt 26:44).

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.(Rev 4:8)

In both of the verses mentioned above, we see that the Holy Spirit is telling us that there is absolutely nothing wrong with repetitious prayer. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, repeated the prayer that he had said earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. Also, we see in Revelation that there are beasts that never cease to say Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. If the Holy Spirit had a problem with repetitious prayer, He would have never let these verses enter sacred scripture.

Therefore we should be proud of all the prayers that we use to bring us into closer union with God - repetitious or otherwise (Thess. 5:17).

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Catholics mean by Sacred Tradition...

One of the things that I was confused about regarding the Catholic faith, was it's focus on something called Sacred Tradition. Didn't Catholics know that Jesus rebuked tradition and it is something that should not be practiced?

And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!(Mark 7:9).

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.(Col 2:8).

The traditions condemned in these verses are those traditions that take you away from Christ and the commands of God.

So what do Catholics mean by Sacred Tradition? In it's most basic definition, it is the divinely revealed truth, that may or may not be revealed by Scripture. Now, before you go leaping off to conclusions that Catholics are adding to Sacred Scripture, I think that it is worth reflecting on your own faith, in order to see if there is evidence of Sacred Tradition that you may share with Catholics.

There is a great book titled, By What Authority, where the author Mark Shea takes you through his discovery of Sacred Tradition. He gives the following three examples of Sacred Tradition that all Christians share:

New Testament
Catholics and Protestants alike share the same cannon of New Testament Scripture. Did you know that the New Testament Cannon was not made official and closed until sometime near 300 A.D.? This means that if you were a Christian before this time, you would not have known which writings were truly inspired as oppose to those that were not. There were many writings circulating, while may be profitable for Christian reading and at times thought to be divinely inspired, was eventually not accepted as part of the official divinely inspired cannon. Some of those books include:

Epistle of Barnabas
Shepherd of Hermas
Apocalypse of Peter

We also know that the New Testament did not come with a Table of Contents. The New Testament does not tell you which books are officially a part of it. There was a process that the Holy Spirit worked, that made each of the books officially part of the New Testament. Therefore, the New Testament itself is a part of Sacred Tradition - yet all Bible believing Christians believe it - even those who rebuke tradition. For those people that say they only believe in the Bible, they are really saying that they believe in the Bible, and they believe in the authority that the Holy Spirit used to work through the Church in order to form the New Testament Cannon.

If you are a Christian, you are required to believe in the Trinity. Christianity requires the belief in one God - not many. However, the Trinity is not something that is explicitly taught or explained in Sacred Scriptures. This is an example of a divinely revealed truth and a revelation that came after a time. Therefore it is part of Sacred Tradition, that does not appear in Scripture.

The Trinity is actually older than the New Testament. Theophilus of Antioch, writing around 180 A.D., speaks of "the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom (To Autolycus II.15).

A better case can be made, using only the Holy Scriptures, for polygamy rather than monogamy. In the Old Testament, God blesses Solomon with many wives.

I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.(2 Samueul 12:8).

According to this, having multiple wives would be considered a blessing from God. While there are some sects of self-claimed Christians that believe this is still valid, for the most part, it is completely understood that Monogamy is a necessary belief for the entire Christian Society. However, like I mentioned before, it is easier to prove the case against monogamy rather than for it. This too is an example of Sacred Tradition that both Catholics and Protestants share.

Sacred Tradition are those things that are better described in Scripture as:

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. (1 Cor 11:2)

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us(2 Thess 2:15)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. (2 Thess 3:6)

Catholics do not add to the Christian Faith through the use of Sacred Tradition - they fulfill it. It is through Sacred Tradition that the faith was originally shared, not through the Scriptures. Jesus fulfilled his mission and the Apostles went out preaching the Gospel. They did not immediately start writing the New Testament. From Sacred Tradition, we receive the New Testament as well as many of the other teachings that we share as Christians.

If anything, this post is a plug for the book by Mark Shea. It was entertaining and interesting to watch the mind of an Evangelical discover Sacred Tradition.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Journey of Understanding Mary...

My relationship with Mary has gone through so many stages. Here is a brief overview of the stages that it has gone through:

Dumb, dumb, dumb Catholics. Why are they so fascinated with Mary and not focusing on Jesus? Why is she so important to them? She is not any better a person than I am or any other person on this Earth? She is not God or Divine. She was only a vessel that God used to fulfill his plan of salvation. If it wasn't going to be her, it would have been someone else. Instead, they should be focusing on Christ, our Savior, and not Mary. By focusing on Mary, they are not spending time with our Lord and Savior. What would Mary say about all of these prayers to her and not to God? She would be ashamed.

Courting a Catholic Woman
Hmmm....This woman is teaching me a lot about what Catholics really believe. Catholics do not believe that Mary is divine. I could have sworn that is what they thought. I know that they pray to Mary, but not in the same sense as I had originally thought. I thought that prayer was synonymous with worship when talking in a religious context. However, I am learning that there are more meanings to prayer. When Catholics pray to Mary, they are making an earnest petition and/or supplication. Whew!!! I am so glad that I got that cleared up before I take things further with this Catholic woman. I am glad that I worship a merciful God who will see that Catholics do not worship Mary and instead are asking her to intercede for them on their behalf - even if I and my Protestant brothers do not understand it. Too bad that Catholics don't know that the dead people can't really hear them.

Catholic Curious
I love my Catholic wife. She is the best. She sure does keep a lot of Catholic books around though. I mean they are everywhere. Take for instance when I had some time to...think, and I wanted something to read. I picked up some book explaining why Catholics do the things that they do. It had a lot of great stuff in it. More and more, I am realizing that there are a lot of misunderstandings regarding the Catholic Faith. Hmmm....they are making a lot of claims. I wonder if they are true. I mean, let's just imagine that what they are saying is right...Jesus founded one Church with Peter as the Head of that Church with the power to bind and loose. That same power has been given to all of the Pope's throughout history...almost over 2000 years. Wouldn't that be something...what if it is true.......nawwwwww!!!!!!

Catholic Leaning
Wow. I just got back from the Defending the Faith Conference in Stubenville and it was amazing. I learned to appreciate Mary a lot more. God reached into time and crafted this young girl to be pregnant with the Saviour of the World. I mean instead of inscribing the Word of God onto stone tablets, He was going to inscribe the Word of God onto flesh - and he chose this little Jewish woman to be the Ark of the New Covenant. I remember how much the Jews loved that Ark of the Old Covenant. It was something that only the most holy people of the Levite tribe could ever see once a year. If those stone tablets were that important and the Old Ark was so holy, how much more important would the New Ark be?

Also, this business about Mary staying a virgin until death, makes perfect sense now. Joseph knew what was going on. He knew what God was about to accomplish through Mary. He knew that she was the Ark of the New Covenant. If he would have regarded the Ark of the Old Covenant with such reverance, as to he would not be able to see let alone touch, how much so would he regard Mary? He would not have believed himself worthy to defile such a Holy Virgin. I am surprised that he was even able to stay in the same room with her.

Maybe I was wrong about Mary being just like me. Maybe she is a little more holier than I am and a little less of a sinner. I mean after all, the Bible says:

In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!(Luke 1:42).

Evidently she is more blessed than all of the other women to walk the Earth, because scripture says so. Something else I never noticed before:

...From now on all generations will call me blessed,(Luke 1:48).

Uh oh. I have not been calling her blessed. I have been regarding her the same as any other person, even myself. That means that I have not been giving her the honor that she deserves. It is funny that I can get excited about meeting a movie star or a famous author, but I cannot even give the Mother of Jesus the honor that she is due. All of a sudden it is a lot easier for me to refer to Mary as The Most Blessed, Ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

I have grown and I am still growing in my understanding of Mary and the role that she played in salvation history. God did not have to use Mary in order to put into action His plan of salvation, but He did. I don't think that He did that on a whim. I don't think that He just randomly selected some Jewish girl out of thin air either. I believe that Mary was especially created for this purpose.

As far as taking attention away from Christ, she doesn't. The only reason why she is even considered Holy is because of Christ. When you say Holy Mary, Mother of God, you are in fact describing Christ, not Mary at all. She is holy because of Christ, and the only reason why we refer to her motherhood is because she is the mother of God.

I was also able to reconcile my understanding with the dead in Christ being able to witness our journey and pray to the Lord on our behalf. I discuss that in the Communion of Saints post. Out of all of the saints that have ever existed, I know that Mary made it to heaven. If that is the case, I know that she would be the first one to approach for intercession amongst all of the saints of God.

Whether you are in agreement of what I am saying or not, let us not diminish Mary anymore. She is not on the same level as us regarding holiness. Let us not be afraid to say that she is blessed. To fail to do otherwise is unscriptural.