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.