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.