“Jesus of Nazareth….is so intrinsically king that the title ‘King’ has become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king…. God did not intend Israel to have a Kingdom. The Kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God…. The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself… God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in Him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Archive for the ‘Great Catholic Articles’ Category
“Jesus of Nazareth….is so intrinsically king that the title ‘King’ has become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king…. God did not intend Israel to have a Kingdom. The Kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God…. The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself… God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in Him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”
Some have tried to argue that Jesus did not mean that his Church would be built on Peter but on something else.
Some argue that in this passage there is a minor difference between the Greek term for Peter (Petros) and the term for rock (petra), yet they ignore the obvious explanation: petra, a feminine noun, has simply been modifed to have a masculine ending, since one would not refer to a man (Peter) as feminine. The change in the gender is purely for stylistic reasons.
These critics also neglect the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and, as John 1:42 tells us, in everyday life he actually referred to Peter as Kepha or Cephas (depending on how it is transliterated). It is that term which is then translated into Greek as petros. Thus, what Jesus actually said to Peter in Aramaic was: “You are Kepha and on this very kepha I will build my Church.”
The Church Fathers, those Christians closest to the apostles in time, culture, and theological background, clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter, as the following passages show.
Tatian the Syrian
”Simon Cephas answered and said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Cephas, and on this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]).
”Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]?” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 22 [A.D. 200]).
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
The Letter of Clement to James
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).
The Clementine Homilies
“[Simon Peter said to Simon Magus in Rome:] ‘For you now stand in direct opposition to me, who am a firm rock, the foundation of the Church’ [Matt. 16:18]” (Clementine Homilies 17:19 [A.D. 221]).
“Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? ‘Oh you of little faith,’ he says, ‘why do you doubt?’ [Matt. 14:31]” (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
“There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering” (Letters 43:5 [A.D. 253]).
“There [John 6:68–69] speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priests of God, believing that they are
secretly [i.e., invisibly] in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and Catholic, is not split nor divided, but it is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another” (ibid., 66:8).
“But what is his error . . . who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ [Matt. 16:18], can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: ‘Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters74:16 [A.D. 253]).
“[Pope] Stephen [I] . . . boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid [Matt. 16:18]. . . . [Pope] Stephen . . . announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter” (ibid., 74:17).
Ephraim the Syrian
“[Jesus said:] ‘Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples’” (Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).
“You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all” (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).
Ambrose of Milan
“[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . . ’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).
“It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).
Pope Damasus I
“Likewise it is decreed . . . that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has not been placed at the forefront [of the churches] by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it” (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).
“‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division” (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).
“I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails” (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).
“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).
Council of Ephesus
“Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [Rome], said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors’” (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 431]).
Sechnall of Ireland
“Steadfast in the fear of God, and in faith immovable, upon [Patrick] as upon Peter the [Irish] church is built; and he has been allotted his apostleship by God; against him the gates of hell prevail not” (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 3 [A.D. 444]).
Pope Leo I
“Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles. . . . He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter’s solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it” (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445]).
Council of Chalcedon
“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him [Dioscorus] of the episcopate” (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 451]).
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
But some one may say,”It is so very difficult to serve God, it is so much against my own mind, such an effort, such a strain upon my , strength to bear Christ’s yoke, I must give it over, or I must delay it at least. Can nothing be taken instead? I acknowledge his law to be most holy and true and the accounts I read about good men are most delightful. I wish I were like them with all my heart; and for a little while I feel in a mind to set about imitating them. I must have begun several times, I have had seasons of repentance, and set rules to myself; but for some reason or other, I fell back after a while, and was even worse than before. I know, but I cannot do. “O wretched man that I am!”
Now to such a one I say, You are in a much more promising state than if you were contented with yourself, and thought that knowledge was every thing, which is the grievous blindness which I have hitherto been speaking of; you are in a better state, if you do not feel too much comfort or confidence in your confession. For this is the fault of many men; they make such an acknowledgement as I have described a substitute for real repentance; or allow themselves, after making it, to put off repentance, as if they could be suffered to give a word of promise which did not become due (so to say) for many days. You are, I admit, in a better state than if you were satisfied with yourself.
Blessed John Henry Newman
I really wanted to attend this rally but could not as it was after a post night shift. Anyhow my Brother in Christ Raymund did a great job I think of sharing with us the main points…..here is what he wrote….
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
This are points from Fr. William’s preaching today at the Rally. It is not a total transcript, but pretty much the main points of what I could type during his talk. Hope it helps you recap his preaching.
For those of you who could not make, you missed a truly awesome rally. Hope this benefits you.
Deuteronomy 11:13 * If, then, you truly listen to my commandments which I give you today, loving and serving the LORD, your God, with your whole heart and your whole being,
3rd millennium world is changing rapidly mostly because of globalisation. Advancements in technology in different facets. We’re facing a very different world. Many people are replacing God with science and technology. Modern man thinks that S&T can solve all their problems and give them the answers they seek.
Secularismism denies the presence of God. It can take the form of hostility. Today, it is no fun in being a religious leader. Today, many have no respect for religious leaders, and more so, God.
When God is rejected, the consequences are great. God is becoming more absent in our lives. We don’t talk about talk because of secularism. It breeds relativism. There is no more reference point in what is moral and immorality. They question the bible.
What were facing today is the collapse of values. Our young people are not bothered about committing sin. They do not believe in what is right and wrong. So, sin is no a matter for consideration. Today we’re surrounded in a situation of what is right and wrong. Media plays a large part in this problem. Our young people are influenced by the media. Young people have different understanding of casual sex for example. They do not feel it is wrong because “everyone” is doing it!
Because of the loss and collapse of values – Satan is attacking our Catholic values thru the destruction of families and marriages. Our children, as a result of this, suffer greatly, and history tends to repeat itself in their own adult lives later on.
Attacking the family and the church! Marriage used to be primarily for procreation, and secondarily for companionship. Today, the roles are reversed. In the face of all this, what is our cry? “Renew the face of the Church”. Only God can bring about a renewal, a change in the world. the new evangelisation is the key to renewing the face of the church.
1. Re-evangelise our Catholics.
2.Reaching out to those who are yet to know Christ by using new techniques and methods. To bring a new understanding and encounter with Christ. A real conversion.
Many of our Catholics today are inviting new age spirituality.This is not Christian, or Catholic. Many people turn to this as it is a combination of different religions and Science and Technology (S&T). Centring prayer which is not Catholic at all. It bypasses Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is a relationship with the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. The sole purpose of Jesus is to let us know who the Father is, and giving us the Holy Spirit. Christianity is not an impersonal relationship!
Many people are turning to the different forms of prayer because they do not know Jesus. Do you have a personal relationship with God? The Holy Spirit is critical in our relationship with God.
1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore, I tell you that nobody speaking by the spirit of God says, “Jesus be accursed.” And no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit.
To know Jesus is the Lord is the work of the Holy Spirit. How does one know that God is Father? What sentiments do we have when we pray the ‘Our Father’? Who is the Father to us? Our concept of our Father, sometimes is not very great. Look at Jesus’ relationship with the Father – it is one of great intimacy.
Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
Jesus surrendered his life to the Father because He knew He was the Son. He knew His identity. Do we know our identity? The idea of sonship and daughtership is not real. It is just an idea. If we are truly conscious, we will behave accordingly. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray.
Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!”
Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Romans 8:27 And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.
If our Christian lives are truly one of relationship, we will be conscious of that relationship! The Church is a sacrament of unity and love. The more intense our relationship with God, the more fulfilled we will be. We will not take God for granted. There is division in the world, in our families because there is no relationship.
In order to renew the face of the earth, we must heal the inner man. We all bear the consequences of the sins of our forefathers – Inter-generational sin/healing. We cannot inherit the sins of our forefathers. Many of us are living hypocritical lives. It is ok if you are aware of this and try to change for the better. We are all broken people – many of us are wounded emotionally, spiritually, and to an extent, physically.
The Holy Spirit not only gives us sonship, but also empowers us.
Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
1 John 4:9 In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.
1 John 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
1 John 4:13 * This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.
The Holy Spirit restores us.
Wisdom, understanding and knowledge are very important to forming our faculties.
Fortitude is important in spiritual warfare. when we were baptised, we were give the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of the most important graces given to the Catholic Church is the Charismatic Renewal. This was emphasised by our Pope. If our sacraments are effective, it is because of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit makes us conscious of our baptismal spiritual gifts. That is why the LISS is important – to activate the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual gifts are meant for service.
1 Cor 12 – 1 Cor 14
The Charismatic Renewal builds communities. Praying freely in the Spirit. We are not purely spirit – we should pray in body and spirit. We should pray for the renewal of Pentecost. We needn’t be Catholics to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Remember Cornelius in Acts. Believing in the power of prayer and intercession.
In a world warped by materialism and declining respect for human life, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.
Community and the Common Good
In a global culture driven by excessive individualism, our tradition proclaims that the person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Our Church teaches that the role of the government and other institutions is to protect human life and promote the common good.
Rights and Responsibilities
Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities — to one another, to our families and to the larger society.
Option for the Poor And Vulnerable
Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement (Mt.25) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
All people have a right to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of society. It is a fundamental demand of justice and a requirement for human dignity that all people be assured a minimum level of participation in the community. Conversely, it is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate in society. In the words of the U.S. bishops, “The ultimate injustice is for a person or group to be treated actively or abandoned passively as if they were non-members of the human race. To treat people this way is effectively to say they simply do not count as human beings.”
Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
In a marketplace where too often the quarterly bottom line takes precedence over the rights of workers, we believe that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected — the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property and to economic initiative.
Stewardship of Creation
Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions which cannot be ignored.
Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Solidarity means that “loving our neighbour” has global dimensions in an interdependent world.
Role of Government
Because we are social beings, the state is natural to the person. Therefore, the state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. It’s purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. Since, in a large and complex society these responsibilities cannot adequately be carried out on a one-to-one basis, citizens need the help of government in fulfilling these responsibilities and promoting the common good. According to the principle of subsidiarity, the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. If they cannot, then a higher level of government should intervene to provide help.
Promotion of Peace
Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves collaboration and binding agreements.” There is a close relationship in Catholic teaching between peace and justice. Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.
VATICAN CITY, January 11 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of reflections on prayer at his Jan. 11 general audience by explaining why the Eucharist stands at “the apex” of all Christian prayers.
“By participating in the Eucharist we have an extraordinary experience of the prayer which Jesus made, and continues to make for us all,” he said to the 7,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
Jesus offers us this prayer, he taught, so that “the evil we encounter in our lives may not triumph, and that the transforming power of Christ’s death and resurrection may act within each of us.”
The Pope’s reflections today were part of his ongoing set of discourses on prayer. He devoted his Jan. 11 words to explaining the deep significance of the Last Supper in salvation history, with “its overtones of the Passover and the commemoration of Israel’s liberation.”
This connection is why the prayer of Jesus “echoes the Hebrew berakah, which includes both thanksgiving and the gift of a blessing.” Christ’s act of “breaking the bread and offering the cup on the night before he died” thereby becomes “the sign of his redemptive self-oblation in obedience to the Father’s will,” the Pope said.
In doing so, Pope Benedict taught, Jesus revealed himself as “the true paschal lamb” which brings the ancient worship of the Jewish people to fulfillment.
It was also Christ’s wish that the supper be “something special, different from other gatherings,” and so he “gave something completely new: Himself,” in anticipation of his cross and resurrection.
“He offered in advance the life that would shortly be taken from him, thus transforming his violent death into a free act of the giving of self, for others and to others. The violence he suffered became an active, free and redemptive sacrifice.”
The Pope said that in contemplating the words and gestures of Jesus “we can clearly see that it was in his intimate and constant relationship with the Father that he accomplished the gesture of leaving to his followers, and to all of us, the sacrament of love.”
He also gave support to his disciples, knowing the difficulty they had “in understanding that the way of God had to pass through the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection, which was anticipated in the offer of bread and wine.”
Pope Benedict noted that even today the Eucharist is “the food of pilgrims” as well as “a source of strength” for those who are “tired, weary and disoriented.”
He concluded his reflection by praying that the Eucharist “always remain the apex of all our prayers,” especially through proper preparation for it, including receiving the Sacrament of Penance.
Divorce. By itself civil divorce is not an obstacle to Communion. As a civil action all it does is settle the civil legal effects of marriage (distribution of property, custody of children etc.). However, understood as a moral action, the willful breakup of a marriage or abandonment of one’s spouse is indeed seriously wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, following on Scripture, that God hates such divorce.
2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law. Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”
2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:
If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.
2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.
Thus, those who are actually responsible for the breakup of the marriage and the failure to be reconciled when possible are indeed guilty of sin and have an obligation to repent and confess their sin before receiving Communion, as would any grave sinner.
On the other hand, of the innocent party in a divorce the Catechism says,
2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.
Thus, the innocent spouse in a marital break-up has the same possibility to receive Communion as other Catholics, with the usual conditions (being free from mortal sin in other areas of life, going to Confession if not, Eucharistic fast and so on).
Remarriage. As noted above in the citation from the Catechism 2382, a ratified and consummated Christian marriage is indissoluble. This is a marriage where the vows are exchanged by two baptized persons, with the proper intention, and consummated by sexual intercourse. No power on earth can declare such a marriage null and the parties free to remarry. However, a marriage tribunal of the Catholic Church is empowered to judge whether a marriage actually did occur and to issue a Decree of Nullity (popularly, but wrongly, called an annulment) when it judges it did not. (See: Annulment/Decree of Nullity) A person who receives a Decree of Nullity is free to marry in the Church since the first marriage was defective from its beginning (i.e. no marriage). A person who remarries in the Church after an annulment is free to receive the sacraments under the usual conditions (as noted above).
However, often times individuals or couples who have remarried but without a Decree of Nullity want to come into the Church, or if already Catholic approach the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. Sometimes they are even told they can judge these matters in their own conscience without going to a Marriage Tribunal (sometimes called “the internal forum solution”).
In “Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the Faithful” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a letter to the world’s bishops on October 14, 1994 said,
7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive holy communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible. Marriage, in fact, both because it is the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality. [/library/curia/cdfdivor.txt]
By this document the Holy See affirmed the continuous theology and discipline of the Catholic Church that those who are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Nullity for the first marriage (whether that marriage was made within or outside the Catholic Church) are in an objectively adulterous union that prevents them from honestly repenting, receiving absolution for their their sins, and receiving Holy Communion. Until the marital irregularity is resolved by a Marriage Tribunal, or other procedures which apply to marriages of the non-baptized, they may not approach Penance or Holy Communion. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in Reconciliation and Penance, the Church desires such couples to participate in the Church’s life to the extent possible (and this participation in Mass, Eucharistic adoration, devotions and so on is a great spiritual help to them), as they work toward full sacramental participation.
A Unique Case. One final situation is that of those who have repented of their illicit union, but remain together for a serious reason, such as for the sake of their children. Catholic pastoral practice allows that IF their pastor judges that scandal can be avoided (meaning most people are unaware of their remarriage and consider them a married couple), then they may live together as “brother and sister” (without any sexual relations), and be admitted to the sacraments. If scandal can not be avoided, then they must either separate or refrain from the sacraments.
Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
Who are you? Are you divorced? Are you married with kids, worrying for them and committed to their welfare? Are you married for the second, or even the third time? Are you a single parent struggling to make ends meet? Are you gay or lesbian? Well, whoever you are, you belong to us because you belong to Christ. Christ is the host here today. Christ sets this table of Word and Bread. And Christ welcomes all.
Are you lonely? Are you a widow? Are you a single man or woman who would prefer to have a spouse? Are you disabled or disfigured? Have you run out of luck? Are you living with shame? Have you been a prisoner? Well, whoever you are, you belong to us because you belong to Christ. Christ is the host here today. Christ sets this table of Word and Bread. And Christ welcomes all.
Are you a newcomer in this parish? An immigrant maybe? Are you from another Christian tradition? Are you full of doubt today, like Thomas? Has it been a while since you darkened the doorway of this church? Or are you a regular here, full of faith and enthusiasm for the parish? Well, whoever you are, you belong to us because you belong to Christ. Christ is the host here today. Christ sets this table of Word and Bread. And Christ welcomes all.
All people of good will are welcome here: that’s the really good news!
If you’ve been away, you can come back; if you’ve been living in darkness, you can come to the light; if you haven’t been able to believe without seeing him, look around you: the Body of Christ has come to Mass today. Sinners are welcome. Saints, too. Everyone is welcome to come to Christ: My Lord and my God, indeed.
For How to Welcome Everyone Resource download this..
(As told by a priest to his congregation in Canada )
Remember you have entered into the house of God for the purpose of prayer, adoration, reflection, or to celebrate a sacrament.
Now is not the time to talk to your friends, but to talk to God. Please do not bring in any cups of coffee!
In order to help you enter into a sacred space we ask you to remember.
1. Turn off cell phones. Do not text messages or check your Face book account from the pews or the back of the church. Leave your social media devices in the car or at home. It’s time to focus on God. It’s distracting for others who are trying to pray. If you are waiting for an important phone call, consider going to Mass at another time. Cameras likewise should be left in the car, unless you are coming for a tour of the church and you have checked with the tour guide.
2. Do not chew gum during Mass or put it in your side cheek, to chew on it later. Spit it out before entering into a church. Did you know that you are supposed to be prayerfully fasting for an hour before Mass? There is a possibility that if you keep the gum in your mouth and resume chewing after receiving the Eucharist, you may unintentionally spit out a bit of the body of Jesus. That would be sacrilegious.
3. Dress with dignity for Mass. It seems that many women, many girls in this day and age have a need to always have a ‘sexy’ look. Mass is not a cocktail party. Mass is not a hockey arena. Come dressed with decorum, an aura of dignity. Consider teaching your children the different types of dress are important for different occasions. For everything there is a time. Please remember to dress modestly and ensure sure your daughters do, too. Bare shoulders and visible bra straps are not a good idea. They are highly distracting.
4. Do not bring children’s activity bags, granola bars, cheerio’s, juice boxes, water bottles, toys including a child’s DS, play station, game boy, iPod touch or similar types of amusements to church. Mass is only one hour long. Children would grow in virtue if their parents expected them to detach from these things for at least an hour a week. For little toddlers there are beautiful series of little Catholic books put out by Father Lovasik. There are plastic rosaries or books about saints. Immerse your children in spiritual treasures during Mass.
5. Parents have a duty give their children ongoing, on the job training, all the time. That includes the obligation to train their children in the appropriate times to kneel, sit, stand and face the altar. If children are engaged in playing with toys, eating, and drinking, they are surely not being taught about the fact that Jesus is really up there on the altar, significance of prayer, self control, and the importance of participating in the Mass. Parents themselves get distracted with managing the dispensing of food and toys. On top of that it is a distraction to others in the pews who could be hungry themselves, or who are trying to fully participate in Mass.
6. Do not drink bottled water in a house of worship. If an adult, for some reason needs to drink water to take some medication, please leave the church premises or at least the Mass and drink the water, if you must outside the celebration of the Eucharist.
7. If you are late for Mass, please do not walk down the aisles looking for a seat until it’s appropriate. You are disrupting others. The Toronto Symphony does not allow late comers to waltz in at ‘whatever’ time. Church ushers should be trained to enforce this. Please do not leave Mass before it ends. You will be missing the supernatural graces of the final blessing. Besides it’s a bad example for your kids
8. Do not be an observer of the Mass, but a participator. Don’t ask yourself, ‘What is this Mass doing for me?” Instead, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to participate in the Mass more fully?” Make an effort to listen, follow the readings, the homily, read scripture passages before Mass, learn the prayers of the Mass, follow along in the misslette and sing! You will become an outstanding role model for your kids.
9. Do not have conversations during the Mass. You would never have a conversation, during a performance of the symphony. If you did, you would be asked to correct your behavior or leave. Quite simply it’s rude.
10. It might be useful to ask ourselves,Who am I? Why am I here?
The answers: To know God, to love him and serve Him especially at Mass!
ENJOY in the LORD’S presence during the Eucharist Celebration.
As you enter the House God, take some holy water provided at the entrance and sign yourself with the following words:
May the holy waters of baptism, bless me, wash me clean and make me whole, In the Name of the Father and of The Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Before entering your pew, genuflect before The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, saying:
I bow down before you and adore you most Holy Trinity; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the Mass, after a brief period of thanksgiving prayer, before exiting the pew say:
Thank you Abba Father, thank you Lord Jesus and thank you Holy Spirit for permitting me to be so long in your holy presence and for all the blessings you have showered upon me and this congregation.
They don’t fly on broomsticks or have green skin, ( although come to think of it one witch I knew did have a sick green-ness about the gills, but I think that’s because he was a drunk) but they do cast spells and put curses on people and they do worship Satan, and don’t be deceived by the ‘white magic’ lark. There’s no such thing. All magic is black magic because of the philosophy behind it: those involved in witchcraft seek power, and anybody who seeks power for it’s own sake is bad.
Think of all the wicked people who justify their quest for power by saying it is for a good cause. Almost all evil in the world is caused by people who think they’re doing it for a good cause. Not just Darth Vader. Think of the Nazis who really believed the concentration camps were necessary in order to bring about a master race…see what I mean?
So witches, wicca, witchcraft–all that stuff. Yes, it’s real.
Furthermore, if you invite diabolical powers into your life. Don’t be surprised if they show up, and don’t be surprised if, once you’ve opened Pandora’s box you can’t get the lid back on. Remember in all the fun that the purpose of Hallowe’en is to scare the spooks away–not invite them in. Dressing up as monsters has the same purpose as putting gargoyles on cathedrals–you’re supposed to be scarier than the devil in order to give him the creeps and send him running. So when you carve a jack o’lantern make him scary as you can, but say a prayer as you put him out that he might keep away the real monsters of the night, and if you dress as a ghoul or a ghost or a witch or a warlock remember that you are doing so to creep them out and say a prayer of deliverance from all the dark forces of the world.
And if you come across anyone who takes witchcraft seriously tell them politely that if they summon the devil he will probably come, and that messing with the occult is the spiritual equivalent of an eight year old kid taking a five gallon can of gas into a fireworks warehouse then playing with matches.
(Fr Dwight Longenecker)
by Fr Dwight Longenecker (Fr Dwight Longenecker)
All vice ends in violence. Think about it in terms of the seven deadly sins. In one way or another, if the vice is continued it ends in violence, and if in violence then in death.
Take lust, for example. Oh, it seems so harmless–a little fun in the bedroom. A bit of slap and tickle, a bit of a giggle and gasp. Where would the violence be in lust? Look into the Marquis de Sade and see where unbridled lust takes you. Into the whipping chamber, the torture and rape and the sick scenes of sado masochism. Ordinary sex grows dull so the need for excitement and thrill and physical sensation demands…violence.
Pride is only pride because one is better than another. Pride does not just make us want to win. It makes us want to beat the other guy. Pride puts us not just up, but over–over others who are inferior to us. There is not pride unless there is someone to show off to, and the only ones to show off to are those we deem our inferiors, and it only takes a small push for the pride to turn into violence. Just allow the person on top to have his superior position threatened and he will turn and snarl like a cornered animal–even if he does so with a sweet superior smile and a stab in the back.
Envy leads to violence. Easy to see. When I am envious of another I will murder their reputation, tear them down so they cannot be greater than me, destroy them for being superior, and does it end in real, physical violence? Hell hath no fury like a woman–or man–scorned. Let someone get what was ours or what we think is ours and we may plot to destroy them.
Wrath is violence suppressed. Take off the lid and the wrathful will murder.
Greed is economic violence and a kind of theft. The greedy take from the poor and think nothing of it, and it only takes a small step for the greedy to turn violent. Allow the greedy to think that their wealth and status is threatened and they will kill to defend it.
Is the glutton violent? What, a fat and jovial over eater violent? He is violent towards himself. His god is his stomach and should he be deprived of his addiction he will become violent.
Even the slothful is violent, for he is violent against life itself. The slothful kills joy; kills creativity; sloth is a kind of despair which kills the fullness of life. Kills life. Kills.
VATICAN CITY, October 16 (CNA/EWTN News) – Pope Benedict XVI has declared a “Year of Faith” which will begin in October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
“It will be a moment of grace and commitment to a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him and proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time,” said the Pope, making his announcement during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Year of Faith will run from October 11, 2012, until November 24, 2013, which is the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The Pope said in his Oct. 16 remarks that it will give “new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ.” He also said that “reasons, purposes and guidelines” for the year will be set out in an Apostolic Letter to be published “in the coming days.”
The vast congregation at this morning’s Mass largely consisted of those involved in the “new evangelization,” who were in Rome for a summit organized by the recently formed Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization The new evangelization aims to revivify Catholicism in traditionally Christian countries which have been particularly affected by secularization in recent decades.
Unusually, the 84-year-old pontiff was wheeled both in and out of the Mass on a mobile platform. Normally Pope Benedict would walk the approximately 110 yards down the central aisle of St. Peters. “This is just not to tire him,” papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., told reporters, adding that “nothing else should be read into the general state of his health, which is good.”
Drawing upon the Scripture readings for today, the Pope outlined a roadmap for the new evangelizers. In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah recounts how King Cyrus, the Persian Emperor in the 6th century B.C., played his part in fulfilling a divine plan despite that fact that he “did not know” God and was not even Jewish.
“Even the mighty Cyrus, the Persian Emperor, is part of a greater plan, that only God knows and carries forward,” observed the Pope.
This demonstrates, he said, the need for a new “theology of history” as an “essential part” of the new evangelization “because “the men of our time, after the disastrous season of totalitarian empires of the 20th century, need to find a comprehensive vision of the world and time,” more compatible with the vision of the Church.
In the second reading, taken from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Pope said new evangelizers are reminded that “it is the Lord who touches hearts by His Word and His Spirit, by calling people to faith and communion in the Church.”
The fact that it is God and not the evangelist who touches hearts, shows the importance of recognizing God as the prime mover in any apostolic activities which “must always be preceded, accompanied and followed by prayer,” he said.
Pope Benedict also highlighted the importance of having collaborators like St. Paul who had Silvanus and Timothy as his companions in his work, and said today’s new evangelizers should also seek coworkers in spreading the Gospel.
He then turned today’s Gospel and said that it provides the key message the new evangelizers must bring to the world. In it, Christ tells the Pharisees to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This is a reminder that the Church’s message is not primarily a political one, the Pope said.
“The mission of the Church, like Christ,” he said, “is essentially to speak of God, to commemorate His sovereignty, reminding everyone, especially Christians, who have lost their identity, of God’s right over what belongs to Him, which is our lives.”
Later in the morning, the Pope used his Sunday Angelus address to further explain his plans for a “Year of Faith” to over 40,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peters Square. He summed up the initiative as “proclaiming Christ to those who do not know him or have, in fact, reduced him to a mere historical character.”
He finished his address by placing all those involved in new evangelization under the protection of the Virgin Mary who “helps every Christian to be a valid witness to the Gospel.”
Children, human nature is ever greedy, ever selfish. We hinder God’s work in us, we destroy his glorious gifts after they are granted us, because we allow selfishness to appropriate what is not our own, yielding to the poisonous influences inherited from original sin. Our nature looks to self in everything. Saint Thomas teaches that by this infection of nature, man is inclined to love himself more than anything else, even angels, nay, even more than God – not that God created us thus perverse, but it has all resulted from the original turning away from God in the fall of Adam. And this evil tendency is rooted so deep in us, that its traces baffle the search of all the wise men in the world. All the industry of man cannot correct this innate weakness of both his inner and outer life. It often happens, that when we fancied God alone was our motive, it turned out that it was only the poisonous influences of nature that guided us – we were but seeking self in everything. Saint Paul was a true prophet when he said:”In the last days, shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim 3:1,2) This is manifestly the case in these times….
O if one could but give up self in his outer and inner life, in spirit and in nature, it were a precious gain! It would be a small price to pay if he gave up gold and silver and castles and farms for this end….
From this detachment is born kindness, and also separation from all worldly things; so that one now receives freely from God’s hands and with entire thankfulness, joy or sorrow, or whatever else may befall him in the inner life or the outer: everything helps him to eternal happiness. Such a man has the grace to feel that whatever happens to him has been eternally foreseen by his heavenly Father, and in the very way it does happen, and viewing all things as God does, he rests in peace of mind, no matter what occurs.
Father John Tauler , O.P.
German Dominican Priest, popular preacher and a mystical theologian
Previous posts on homosexuality have raised some interesting discussions in the combox. What interests me is how some readers who are Catholic have such a non-Catholic understanding of marriage.
We are told that because George and Harry love one another and are committed to one another that this is the same thing as marriage and that they should therefore be allowed to be married.
However, romantic or erotic feelings of love are not the criteria for a valid marriage, nor are they pre-requisites. An arranged marriage in which there is no subjective erotic or romantic feelings of ‘love’ as popularly understood, would be a valid marriage (and if the history of humanity has anything to say about it–may end up be a very good marriage). Neither can feelings of ‘love’ be the sole criteria to justify for an action. Note the adulterer who ceases to ‘love’ his wife and leaves her because he ‘loves’ his mistress. Regard the ethnic cleanser who ‘loves’ his country so much that he kills its enemies. Don’t misunderstand the argument–I’m not degrading love or saying it is a bad thing. I’m saying the romantic and erotic feelings we call ‘love’ are not what validates a marriage (or any other action). Moral judgements are made on more solid factors.
For Catholics, marriage is a sacramental covenant which springs from the order of creation. God created the mystery of man and woman. “For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.” The nuptial relationship is bound up in the natural complementarity of the sexes and the intimacy between man and wife is part of this profound natural order, and from this intimacy new human life is created. The commitment that is expected within this marriage is one that reflects the eternal commitment of God to his people.
Thus St Paul speaks of the love that Christ has for his church and compares it to marriage. Christ is the bridegroom and the church the bride. Christ penetrates the Church with the dart of longing love which is the Holy Spirit. From this intimate union of love a new order of creation is brought forth. Because of the eternal, life giving nature of this covenant between Christ and his Church we believe that marriage is also a life long covenant between male and female.
We should be clear about certain things: to affirm marriage in this way is (by definition) to reject homosexual unions as equivalent. Nevertheless, it is possible to affirm that two men or two women might love one another very deeply. They may have a lifelong partnership and deep commitment. That friendship and commitment may be noble and good and true and self sacrificial. This is what the church has termed ‘friendship.’
However, the church has also rejected any idea that this friendship should be expressed through sodomy, and it (along with every other civilized society–even those that accepted homosexuality) have never pretended that such friendships were equivalent to marriage.
The reason people in our society push for homosexual marriage is therefore, a misunderstanding of what marriage is. Too many believe that marriage is the final culmination of a romantic and erotic relationship. They see marriage not only as a desirable contract of commitment, but most of all, they see marriage as a societal (and ultimately religious) validation of their chosen sexual behaviors.
Catholics are often accused of being ‘homophobic’–the new curse word that means we are afraid of homosexuals. I don’t think I’m afraid of homosexuals, although when someone comes on my combox and says that they want to stand on my head and not take their foot off until they have ‘squeezed some sense into it’ I have to admit that I get a little bit afraid. When I see what homosexuals have done to the good name of Senator Rick Santorum that makes me a little bit afraid.
But I’m not really afraid of homosexuals. I am, however, disapproving of homosexuality. This is not simply because I find sodomy repulsive. I disapprove of homosexuality because I approve of marriage. So instead of blasting homosexuals and homosexuality I wish to defend, support, explain and uphold the truth and beauty of sacramental marriage.
In order to do this, one needs to understand the fully Catholic teaching on marriage. Marriage, for Catholics, is a sacrament. It is a visible means of grace. In other words, through the physical actions and commitment of marriage God’s saving grace is active in our lives. Marriage is, if you like, a ladder to heaven. It is one of the ways we participate in our salvation. St John teaches us that “those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” The human covenant of marriage is the most sublime and complete way for most people to experience the love of God. In fact, it is the most urgent and active and obvious way for most people to experience and participate in the grace-filled action of God’s salvation.
This sacrament–this means of grace–is something permanent and precious and life giving. It is a path to that self sacrifice that leads to eternal life. Within marriage God’s life and love exists in and through and with our human love sealed and made permanent through marriage. Like all the sacraments, it is, by its very nature, life giving and healing and forgiving. Through the sacraments our broken humanity is ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven. This is especially true of marriage with it’s drama of joys and sorrows spread over a lifetime. It is also especially true of marriage since only through marriage do a man and woman participate with God in the creation of new human souls.
Because marriage is such a beautiful, eternal, precious and fragile sacrament we love and cherish it. We also oppose everything that would break this precious, fragile and life giving sacrament. Divorce breaks marriage. Adultery breaks marriage. Pornography breaks marriage. Co habitation breaks marriage. Promiscuity breaks marriage. Contraception breaks marriage. Abortion breaks marriage. Child abuse breaks marriage. Homosexuality also breaks marriage.
The proponents of homosexuality will argue that it is all about ‘love’. However, their definition of love is “the freedom to have sexual relations with whomever I experience erotic and romantic emotions toward.” They may add to this an idea of “commitment” or even “lifelong commitment” but a moment’s reflection will show that these subjective and sentimental notions of ‘love’ can just as easily be claimed by the adulterer, the child abuser, the co habiter and the divorcee. The adulterer will claim that he did not love his spouse any more and loves his mistress more. The co-habiter will claim to be in love with the person he or she is living with. Indeed, the child abuser will claim to love the child and may even claim to ‘be in a loving relationship’ with the teen they are abusing. The promiscuous man about town may claim to ‘love’ each woman with whom he has a one night stand. The couple who are using artificial contraception will claim that they are doing so because they love one another and ‘can’t afford’ a child. Abortion has even been rationalized through ‘love’ by claiming that the person choosing abortion is doing so ‘because they love the children they already have.’
Therefore, some other criteria for ‘love’ must be established, and a Christian society has recognized that bona fide relationship to be the thing we call marriage. In marriage love is objectified and strengthened and clarified by a life long sacrament.
Does this mean that we must hate homosexuals? Some homosexuals may be aggressive and ugly in their campaigning. Some may be disgusting in their promiscuous and degrading lifestyle. They’re pretty easy to dislike, but there are heterosexuals who are disgusting in their promiscuity and degrading lifestyle. If we find some homosexual practices repulsive we also find some heterosexual practices repulsive. So that’s a red herring.
On the other hand a homosexual person may be gentle, loving, restrained and disciplined and loyal to one partner. This homosexual seems more acceptable and less repulsive. He or she seems like ‘such a nice guy’ or ‘a wonderful gal’. But a person’s niceness is not the criteria for moral judgement. Plenty of adulterers, divorcees, child abusers or mass murderers were charming and polite and ‘nice’. This again is a subjective, sentimental judgement and therefore a red herring.
Instead we return to the objectivity of natural law and conclude that the sexual organs are designed for a certain purpose and to use them otherwise in any way is deviant. Homosexual acts are therefore, objectively disordered, and according to this argument, so are many other sexual behaviors–of which we also disapprove. Marriage is objectively a sacrament, so likewise, any behavior which breaks marriage is something of which we disapprove. We do not wish for homosexual people to re-define marriage on their terms, but we also disapprove of the re-definition of marriage that has occurred de facto through contraception, no fault divorce, re-marriage, widespread promiscuity and co habitation.
Our response is to note all of these crimes against marriage objectively and then accept on equal terms all people–no matter what their sinful condition. Do we find some of their behaviors repugnant? So be it. However, our natural repugnance does not mean we should hate those people or deny them human rights. We still see each person as a son or daughter of God and we hope to offer to them, as we do to all sinners–the heart of compassion and the chance for redemption, forgiveness, healing, peace and life.
For that is what we wish for ourselves, who are also sinners and in need of the same.
VATICAN CITY, 23 SEP 2011 (VIS) – At the apostolic nunciature in Berlin at 9 a.m. today, the Holy Father met with representatives of the Muslim community in Germany. Muslims in Germany number around 4.5 million; 70 percent of them are of Turkish of origin while others come from Arab countries, the Balkans and Iran.
In his remarks to the group the Pope recalled how “from the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country”. In this context he highlighted the importance of constant effort, not only “for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society.
“Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life”, he added. “At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalise religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices. The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence. In an overwhelmingly pluralist society, this demand is not unimportant. Care must be taken to guarantee that others are always treated with respect. Mutual respect grows only on the basis of agreement on certain inalienable values that are proper to human nature, in particular the inviolable dignity of every single person”.
The Holy Father went on: “In Germany – as in many other countries, not only Western ones – this common frame of reference is articulated by the Constitution, whose juridical content is binding on every citizen, whether he belong to a faith community or not. Naturally, discussion over the best formulation of principles like freedom of public worship is vast and open-ended, yet it is significant that the Basic Law expresses them in a way that is still valid today at a distance of over sixty years”.
“The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find particularly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify. In seeking this, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs. … But they knew they had to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation. In this way, an essentially homogeneous society laid the foundations that we today consider valid for a markedly pluralistic world, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values”.
At the end of his address, Benedict XVI underlined the importance of fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims as part of the process of building “a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society”, such as “the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice”.
At the end of the meeting the Pope travelled to Berlin airport where, at 10 a.m., he boarded a plane to travel to Erfurt”.
Do you want to bring your loved ones closer to God?
A lot of people ask me, “Bo, please pray that my son (or daughter, or husband, or uncle, or friend, or classmate, or officemate) find God.”
What’s the best way to bring your family and friends to God?
What’s the best way to be spiritually contagious?
I propose three simple but powerful steps, which I’ll share with you for the next three weeks.
Step 1: Friend Them
Step 2: Serve Them
Step 3: Guide Them
At the end of this revolutionary series, I pray that you’ll be very spiritually contagious!
God Still Uses Imperfect People
To Share His Perfect Love
Read what Jesus said…
Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.
I have a very big announcement to make.
Your mission in life isn’t to earn money.
Your mission isn’t to enjoy life.
Your mission isn’t to have a good time.
Your mission isn’t even to be happy.
All those goals aren’t bad. They’re good goals. (Yes, like any father, God wants His children to be happy.)
But they’re not the sacred purpose of why you were born.
Your mission, my friend, is to make disciples.
I can hear you now. “Bo, you’re crazy! I’m not a priest. I’m not a nun. I’m not a preacher like you. I’m an ordinary Catholic.”
Ah, there lies your mistake.
There’s no such thing as an ordinary Catholic.
Every Catholic has a mission, and that mission is to make disciples. Your mission is to bring others closer to God.
Jesus is your model.
Jesus made disciples in a very special way…
Step 1: Friend Them
Here’s my big message for you today: The most powerful way of bringing someone closer to God is through friendship.
Look at how Jesus did it…
Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?” Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”
Are You A Friend Of Sinners?
I remember Anna telling me this story.
Anna said that the moment she joined Light of Jesus (my community), she stopped having lunch with her regular lunch-mates, because they weren’t spiritually renewed. She ate instead with another officemate who was a member of Couples for Christ.
Anna said she lost interest in her usual lunch-mates because their discussion was worldly. But with her new spiritual friend, they only talked about God. They spoke the same language. They quoted the same verses. They shared the same stories.
But after one year, she felt like God hit her on the head. She heard God tell her, “Go back to your former friends. Love them.”
Anna realized she made a mistake. So she went with her former lunch-mates again. And they told her, “We felt hurt that you suddenly left us. That we were not holy enough for you.” She asked for forgiveness. And they welcomed her back.
Today, Anna is able to bring God’s Love to her friends. And some of them are now attending the Feast, our weekly gathering.
Annoyance or Acceptance?
Let me tell you a sad fact: According to surveys, the longer a person attends church, the more he isolates himself from the unchurched.
Christians like Anna stop attending civic organization. She stops hanging out with her officemates. She stops joining the homeowners meetings. She stops attending PTA meetings.
Instead, she meets only people from her church.
Because she gets annoyed at non-Christian behavior.
o “I don’t like their green jokes.”
o “I can’t stand their cursing.”
o “They believe in New Age stuff.”
o “My old friends smoke. I can’t stand secondhand smoke.” (Daniel and his three friends were thrown in a burning furnace because of their faith, and we’re afraid of secondhand smoke?)
Suddenly, the proof of spiritual growth is “annoyance”. How annoyed are you at non-Christian behavior? The more annoyed you are, the more spiritual you must be.
But this is nuts.
Jesus ate with prostitutes, tax-collectors, and drunkards. You can be sure there was a lot more than cursing and green jokes when they gathered. But Jesus made them his friends. That’s why religious people called him a “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34).
He ate in the house of Zacheus, the chief tax collector.
He allowed a prostitute to wash and anoint his feet.
The proof that you’re spiritually growing isn’t annoyance but acceptance. Here’s the real proof that you’re spiritually growing: If you accept sinners. If you’re non-judgmental to sinners. If you’re friends of sinners.
Just like Jesus.
My Wonderful Friends Today
Today, I enjoy friends who are unchurched.
Today, I regularly meet with people who would never enter a Church. I have a woman friend who’s never been to Sunday Mass for decades. Two of my friends are lesbians. One friend is in an adulterous relationship. And then there’s a New Ager who’s into the occult.
I love them. And I enjoy being with them.
I don’t condemn them. Because I know that Jesus doesn’t condemn them.
Guess what: Slowly, because of our friendship, they’re coming closer to God.
Oh, it’s exciting to see that happen!
Warning: Obviously, there are situations when you need to be careful. It may not be wise for a recovering alcoholic to spend time with his drinking buddies while they’re drinking. Or a recovering sex addict spending time with prostitutes. Be prudent.
What’s Your Greatest Evangelistic Weapon?
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.
How will people know that you’re a disciple?
Not by how long you pray.
Not by how many Bible verses you know.
Not by how many scapulars hang around your neck.
Not by how many rosaries hang in your rear-view mirror.
People will know you’re a disciple if you love like Jesus.
And surprise, surprise! This same love will be your most important tool in winning someone to Jesus. I repeat: Your greatest way of bringing someone closer to God is your friendship.
Eleven Years Later
When I was in college, I had a friend who I met for lunch almost everyday for two years. Let’s call him Bill.
During those lunches, I remember trying to share my faith with him.
But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t seem to convince Bill to follow Jesus. He said he had a lot of doubts. He had many other problems and he wasn’t ready to commit. But even if we didn’t agree about spiritual things, we enjoyed our friendship a lot.
We couldn’t talk about spiritual things (because we disagreed about them), but we talked about everything else: sports, girls, cars, girls, music, and… did I mention girls? (After all, we were college guys!)
I dropped out of college and we lost touch.
And I never heard of Bill again.
Eleven years later, I was walking in a mall and guess who I saw—Bill! I asked him how he was, and he gave me the shock of his life. He said he was a Christian missionary!
I couldn’t believe my ears.
He then said five words that made my heart leap for joy. “Thanks for showing me Jesus.”
For those 2 years that I was having lunch with the guy, it seemed like nothing was happening.
But it was true.
What showed him Jesus?
Who Introduced Me To God?
When I was 12 years old, my father told me, “Bo, let’s go to the prayer meeting.”
I walked in, liked it, and never left. As a 12-year-old kid, I fell in love with God, and my life has never been the same.
People ask me, “One invitation from your parents and you said Yes?”
Actually, I didn’t get one invitation. All throughout my life, Dad was already inviting me—in a very silent way—to experience God’s Love.
How? By the power of relationship.
When I was a small boy, I remember that Dad treated me special. Everytime he came home from work, he’d look for me.
Dad would invite me to jog with him.
He wasn’t a great jogger. We jogged around the car parked in our garage.
After the jog, he’d sit down and make me sit on his lap. He’ll read to me 4 comic strips in the paper: Tarzan, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Peanuts.
That happened every single night.
I remember how during the day, I’d look forward to evenings. Evenings were special to me. Because Dad came home and spent that precious one hour with me.
That wasn’t all.
Every Saturday, my father would invite me out for a date. He’d bring me out for pizza. Or watch a movie. Or go to a toy store.
By relating to me in a loving way, Dad gave me a glimpse of who God is. If my father thought I was special, then perhaps my Father in Heaven thought I was special too. If my father liked spending time with me, then perhaps my Father in Heaven liked spending time with me too.
Note: Dad didn’t talk much about God. He wasn’t much of a talker. His favorite word was “Hmmph.” I’d greet him, “Hi Dad!” and he’s grunt, “Hmmph.”
But by the loving relationship he had with me, I was slowly being “discipled”.
Be Another Jesus In The World
You can bring your family and friends closer to God.
How do I know? Because God gave you a mission: To make disciples.
You don’t have to be a preacher, a writer, a singer.
All you need to do is be a loving friend. By your friendship, they will experience God’s Love.
May your dreams come true,
Now that the headline has caught your attention…
…The Daily Telegraph reports here on two lesbian women who went on a honeymoon trip after their homosexual ‘wedding’ and had a bad time because they were treated badly on account of their being two women who married each other. They are referring to their bad time in the Dominican Republic as Holiday Hell. Some holiday! Some hell!
One of the pair grumbled, “They just didn’t treat us like everybody else!” Errr. The fact of the matter is homosexual couples are not “like everybody else” they’re attempting to be ‘married’ when human history and human biology clearly indicate that marriage is between a man and a woman. A key fits into a lock to open a door. A lock does not fit into a lock–if you catch my meaning.
When homosexual couples claim that they “are like everyone else” it’s simply a lie. They might believe the lie, and sincerely propose the lie. They may enact legislation to make the lie acceptable. They might sue those who refuse the lie. They may punish those who do not accept the lie. Indeed the whole world may rally around to proclaim the lie and persecute those who refuse to accept it.
But it is still a lie.
I think this little booklet is very well prepared and a beautiful gift for Catechists and Teachers.
May the prayers and reflections contained within it, enable you to excel in all you do for God’s Kingdom.
Click Here to download or down below on the left hand side i.e. from my Catholic Flash Widget.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been instituted to light in the hearts of Christians that fire of divine love which unfortunately was being extinguished, leaving the human heart empty or at least making it forget the benefits of its Redeemer and the immense love of God for our souls. To avoid such a great abuse, let us consider the Sacred Heart our Lord Jesus Christ as a model on which we should form and regulate our own. We will learn from this divine Master how to seek in all things the glory of God, our own sanctification and perfection in the practice of all the virtues, and the good of our neighbours. We will learn to make the exercise of prayer in a spirit of sacrifice, offering ourselves to God in union with our Lord Jesus Christ, never in any way receiving consolations that we have not earned, and persevering in this holy exercise despite all the obstacles of repugnance and of distractions. Let there be a bonding with Jesus Christ so close that there is only one heart with him, to love whatever conforms to the attitudes of this Sacred Heart and to avoid whatever could renew the sorrow he felt when, because of our faults, he said, ” My soul is sorrowful even unto death” (Mt 26:38).
If we take this Sacred Heart for our model, we will not fail to comprehend that there are two virtues more than all the rest which we must practice since they are like the wellspring and the foundation of the rest of the virtues:” Learn of me, for I am humble and meek of heart” (Mt 11:29). By making ourselves acquire these two virtues, we can offer in this manner a worthy tribute of recognition and gratitude, and having thus achieved in our life attitudes conformed to the Sacred Heart, we will deserve to be united with him by an eternal love and joy.
Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (+ 1888)
June 22, 2011 1:38 PM
“These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us.”
The book of psalms consists of 150 prayers traditionally ascribed to the authorship of King David.
The Pope explained that a whole range of human emotions are found in the Pslams, ranging from “joy and suffering” to the “fullness of life to fear of dying.”
“In these prayers, the Psalms are manifestations of the soul and faith, in which everyone can recognize and communicate the experience of a special closeness to God to which every man is called,” observed the Pope.
The Pope said it was significant that Jewish tradition refers to the Psalter as “Tehillim,” which means “praise” in Hebrew. This makes the Psalms “ultimately a book of praise.”
“Despite the diversity of their literary forms, the Psalms are generally marked by the two interconnected dimensions of humble petition and of praise addressed to a loving God who understands our human frailty,” he said.
But the Psalms are also quite different from the other books of the Old Testament, Pope Benedict noted. Instead of being narratives with a specific meaning or purpose, he explained, they “are given to the believer just as text for prayer.”
In fact, the Pope urged pilgrims to pray using the Psalms, suggesting that in “praying the Psalms we learn to pray. They are a school of prayer.” He explained himself by drawing an analogy with how children learn to express themselves.
A child initially “learns to express their feelings, emotions and needs with words that do not belong to him,” but instead “he learns innately from his parents and those who live around him.” Very quickly “the words become his words” and those feelings, emotions and needs of his are then duly expressed, said the Pope.
He concluded by suggesting that the Psalms ultimately point people towards Jesus.
“Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, the great King of Israel who, as the Lord’s Anointed, prefigured the Messiah. In Jesus Christ and in his paschal mystery the Psalms find their deepest meaning and prophetic fulfillment.”
“Christ himself prayed in their words. As we take up these inspired songs of praise, let us ask the Lord to teach us to pray, with him and in him, to our heavenly Father.”
This was the seventh Wednesday audience delivered by Pope Benedict on the topic of prayer. His previous theme – the lives of the saints – took two years to complete.
A second-century view of Christians as they saw themselves.
This is an eloquently written letter about the first Christians by an unknown second-century Christian writer to Diognetus :
Christians are indistinguishable from other men, either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based on reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it be Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though the are only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they live on a level that transcends the law.
Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference is their answer to insult. For the good they do, they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet non one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christians is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As a visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.
While private revelations are not binding on all Christians and some having conflicting reports on them, this one however on the explanation of the Holy Mass, seems to contain lots of truth in them and is some what inspiring. Theologians have come to similar conclusions as well as scripture texts from revelations can be found to draw the same beautiful and richness of the Holy Mass. If you read this slowly and find it brings you closer to Jesus and God our father well…….You be the judge…
Catalina Rivas of Cochabamba, Bolivia, who now dwells in Mérida, Yucatán, México. She is said to receive Messages from Jesus, Mary, and the angels. She has the approval of her Bishop, René Fernández Apaza, who has given his imprimatur to her Messages. The following text is the reproduction of booklet, “The Holy Mass,” in which Our Lord and Our Lady explain to Catalina what is really going on during the Mass in the spiritual realm, and how we should be more concentrated on the great mysteries that are taking place.
Bo. Daniel Gagnon, OMI, of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Archdiocese of Mexico, wrote about this book: “I do not find anything against the faith or the customs of the Church. It is not my function to confirm its supernatural character; nevertheless, I recommend it for its spiritual inspiration.”
The testimony of Catalina
on the Holy Mass
In a marvelous catechesis, the Lord and the Virgin Mary have been instructing us first on how to pray the Rosary, that being to pray it with our hearts, and meditate and enjoy the moments when we encounter God and our Blessed Mother. They have also instructed us on the way to make a good confession and, in this document, a teaching on what happens during the Holy Mass and how to live it with our hearts.
This is the testimony that I must and want to give to the whole world, for the greater Glory of God and for the salvation of all of those who want to open their hearts to the Lord. It is also given so that many souls consecrated to God will rekindle the fire of their love for Christ, some of whom are the owners of the hands that have the power to bring Him to our world so that He can become our nourishment. It is also given for others so that they break lose of the “routine practice” of receiving Him, and relive the amazement of their daily encounter with Love. And it is given so that my lay brothers and sisters from the entire world live the greatest Miracle with their hearts: the celebration of the Eucharist.
It was the vigil of the Annunciation, and the members of our group had gone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Some of the ladies of the prayer group had not been able to do it, and so they left their reconciliation for the next day before the Mass.
When I arrived at church the next day, a little bit late, the Archbishop and priests were already coming out of the sacristy. The Virgin Mary said with Her soft and feminine voice that sweetens one’s soul:
“Today is a day of learning for you, and I want you to pay close attention because of what you will witness today. Everything that you will experience today, you will have to share with all of humanity.” I was deeply moved without understanding why, but I tried to be very attentive.
The first thing I noticed was a choir of very beautiful voices that was singing as if it was far away. For moments the music came closer and, then, it went further away like the sound of the wind.
The Archbishop started Mass and, when he reached the Penitential Rite, the Blessed Virgin said:
“From the bottom of your heart, ask the Lord to forgive your faults that have offended Him. In this way, you will be able to participate worthily in this privilege of assisting at the Holy Mass.”
I thought for a fraction of a second: “Surely I am in a state of grace of God; I went to confession last night.”
She answered: “Do you think that since last night you have not offended the Lord? Let Me remind you of a few things. When you left to come here, the girl who helps you approached to ask you for something and, as you were late and in a hurry, you did not answer her in a very nice way. There was a lack of charity on your part, and you say, you have not offended God…?
“While on the way here, a bus crossed over your lane and almost hit you. You expressed yourself in a very non-advisable way against that poor man, instead of saying your prayers and preparing yourself for Mass. You have failed in charity and lost your peace and patience. And you say you have not hurt the Lord?
“You arrive at the last minute when the procession of the celebrants is already coming out to celebrate the Mass… and you are going to participate without previous preparation…”
I replied, “All right, my Mother, say no more to me. You do not have to remind me of more things because I am going to die of grief and shame.”
“Why must you all arrive at the last moment? You should have arrived earlier to be able to pray and ask the Lord to send His Holy Spirit that He may grant you a spirit of peace and cleanse you of the spirit of the world, your worries, your problems, and your distractions so as to enable you to live this so sacred a moment. However, you arrive almost when the celebration is about to commence, and you participate as if it is an ordinary event, without any spiritual preparation. Why? This is the greatest of Miracles. You are going to live the moment when the Most High God gives His greatest gift, and you do not know how to appreciate it.”
This was enough. I felt so bad that I had more than enough to ask for forgiveness from God. It was not only for the offenses of that day, but also for all the times that, like so many other people, I had waited for the priest to finish his homily before entering the Church. It was also for the times that I did not know or refused to understand what it meant to be there, and for the times that perhaps my soul was full of more serious sins, and I had dared to participate in the Holy Mass.
How different was that Gloria! Suddenly I saw myself in a far off place full of light, before the Majestic Presence of the Throne of God. With so much love I went on thanking Him, as I repeated: “For your immense Glory we praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we give You glory, we give You thanks, Lord, God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.” And I recalled the paternal face of the Father, full of kindness. “Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world…” And Jesus was in front of me, with that face full of tenderness and Mercy… “For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit…”, the God of beautiful Love. He, Who at that moment, caused my whole being to tremble…
And I asked: “Lord, deliver me from all evil spirits. My heart belongs t to You. My Lord, send me Your peace so that I can gain the finest benefits from the Eucharist and that my life may produce the best fruits. Holy Spirit of God, transform me, act within me, guide me. Oh God, give me the gifts that I need to serve you better!”
The moment of the Liturgy of the Word arrived, and the Virgin Mary made me repeat: “Lord, today I want to listen to Your Word and produce abundant fruit. May Your Holy Spirit clean the interior of my heart so that Your Word grows and develops in it, purifying my heart so that it may be well disposed.”
Our Lady said: “I want you to be attentive to the readings and to all of the homily of the priest. Remember that the Bible says that the Word of God does not return without bearing fruit. If you are attentive, something from all that you heard will remain in you. You should try to recall, all day long, those Words that left an impression on you. Sometimes it may be two verses, other times the reading of the entire Gospel, or perhaps only one word. Savor them for the rest of the day, and it will then become part of you, because that is the way to change one’s life, by allowing the Word of God to transform you.
“And now, tell the Lord that you are here to listen, that you want Him to speak to your heart today.”
Once again I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to hear His Word. And I asked Him for forgiveness for having had such a hard heart for so many years, and for having taught my children that they had to go to Mass on Sundays because it is commanded by the Church, and not for love and the need to be filled with God.
I had attended so many Eucharistic Celebrations mostly out of obligation and, because of this, I believed I was saved. But I did not live it and, much less, did I pay attention to the readings or to the priest’s homily!
How much pain I felt for so many years of needless loss because of my ignorance! How superficial is our attendance at the Mass when we go only because someone is getting married, or for a funeral Mass, or because we have to be seen by society! How much ignorance about our Church and the Sacraments! How much waste in trying to instruct and enlighten ourselves about the things of the world, which in a moment can disappear, leaving us with nothing and, at the end of our life, not serve to extend a minute to our existence! However, we know nothing of that which will give us a little of heaven on earth and, afterwards, eternal life. And we call ourselves cultured men and women!
A moment later the Offertory arrived, and the Holy Virgin said: “Pray like this: (and I repeated after Her) Lord, I offer all that I am, all that I have, all that I can. I put everything into Your Hands. Build it up, Lord, with the little thing that I am. By the merits of Your Son, transform me, God Almighty. I petition You for my family, for my benefactors, for each member of our Apostolate, for all the people who fight against us, for those who commend themselves to my poor prayers. Teach me to lay down my heart as if on the ground before them so that their walk may be less severe. This is how the saints prayed; this is how I want all of you to do it.”
Thus, this is how Jesus asks us to pray, that we put our hearts as if on the ground so that they do not feel its severity, but rather that we alleviate the pain of their steps.
Suddenly some characters, whom I had not seen before, began to stand up. It was as if from the side of each person present in the Cathedral, another person emerged, and soon the Cathedral became full of young, beautiful people. They were dressed in very white robes, and they started to move into the central aisle and, then, went towards the Altar.
Our Mother said: “Observe. They are the Guardian Angels of each one of the persons who are here. This is the moment in which your guardian angel carries your offerings and petitions before the Altar of the Lord.”
At that moment, I was completely astonished, because these beings had such beautiful faces, so radiant as one is unable to imagine. Their countenance was very beautiful with almost feminine faces; however, the structure of their body, their hands, their height were masculine. Their naked feet did not touch the floor, but rather they went as if gliding. That procession was very beautiful.
Some of them were carrying something like a golden bowl with something that shone a great deal with a golden-white light. The Virgin Mary said: “They are the Guardian Angels of the people who are offering this Holy Mass for many intentions, those who are conscious of what this celebration means. They have something to offer the Lord.”
“Offer yourselves at this moment; offer your sorrows, your pains, your hopes, your sadness, your joys, your petitions. Remember that the Mass has infinite value. Therefore, be generous in offering and in asking.”
Behind the first Angels came others who had nothing in their hands; they were coming empty handed. The Virgin Mary said: “Those are the angels of the people who are here but never offer anything. They have no interest in living each liturgical moment of the Mass, and they have no gifts to carry before the Altar of the Lord.”
At the end of the procession came other angels who were rather sad, with their hands joined in prayer but with their eyes downcast. “These are the Guardian Angels of the people who are here, but do not want to be, that is to say, of the people who have been forced to come here, who have come out of obligation, but without any desire to participate in the Holy Mass. The angels go forth sadly because they have nothing to carry to the Altar, except for their own prayers.”
“Do not sadden your Guardian Angel. Ask for much, ask for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world, for your families, your neighbors, for those who ask for your prayers. Ask, ask for much, but not only for yourselves, but for everyone else.
“Remember that the offering which most pleases the Lord is when you offer yourselves as a holocaust so that Jesus, upon His descent, may transform you by His own merits. What do you have to offer the Father by yourselves? Nothingness and sin. But the offering of oneself united to the merits of Jesus, that offering is pleasing to the Father.”
That sight, that procession was so beautiful that it would be difficult to compare it to another. All those celestial creatures bowing before the Altar, some leaving their offerings on the floor, others prostrating themselves on their knees with their foreheads almost touching the floor. And as soon as they arrived at the Altar, they would disappear from my sight.
The final moment of the Preface arrived, and when the assembly said, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, suddenly everything that was behind the celebrants disappeared. Behind the left side of the Archbishop, thousands of Angels appeared in a diagonal line, small angels, big angels, angels with immense wings, angels with small wings, angels without wings. As the previous ones, all were dressed with tunics like the white robes of the priests or altar boys. Everyone knelt with their hands united in prayer, and bowed their heads in reverence. Beautiful music was heard as if there were many choirs with different voices, all singing in unison together with the people: Holy, Holy, Holy…
The moment of the Consecration, the moment of the most marvelous of Miracles had arrived. Behind the right side of the Archbishop appeared a multitude of people also in a diagonal line. They were dressed in the same tunic, but in pastel colors of: rose, green, light blue, lilac, yellow, in short, in different and very soft colors. Their faces were also brilliant, full of joy. They all seemed to be the same age. You could note (I can’t say why) that they were people of different ages, but their faces looked the same, without wrinkles, happy. They all knelt down as well at the singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord…”
Our Lady said: “These are all the Saints and the Blessed of Heaven, and among them are the souls of your relatives who already enjoy the Presence of God.” Then I saw Her, exactly to the right of the Archbishop, a step behind the celebrant. She was suspended a little off the floor, kneeling on some very fine, transparent but, at the same time, luminous fabric, as crystalline water. The Holy Virgin, with hands joined, was looking attentively and respectfully at the celebrant. She spoke to me from there, but silently, directly to the heart, without looking at me:
“It surprises you to see Me standing a little behind Monsignor [the Archbishop], does it not? This is how it should be… With all the love that My Son gives Me, He has not given Me the dignity that He has given the priests of being able to perform the daily Miracle with My hands as they do with their priestly hands. Because of this, I feel a deep respect for priests and for the miracle that God carries out through them, which compels Me to kneel here behind them.”
My God, how much dignity, how much grace the Lord pours over the priestly souls, and neither we, nor perhaps some of them, are conscious of this.
Before the Altar, there appeared some shadows of people in a gray color with their hands raised. The Holy Virgin said: “These are the blessed souls of Purgatory, who await your prayers to be refreshed. Do not stop praying for them. They pray for you, but they cannot pray for themselves. It is you who have to pray for them, in order to help them depart so that they can be with God and enjoy Him eternally.
“Now you now see it; I am here all the time. People go on pilgrimages, searching for the places where I have appeared. This is good, because of all the graces that they will receive there. But during no apparition, in no other place, am I more present than during the Holy Mass. You will always find Me at the foot of the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated; at the foot of the Tabernacle, I remain with the angels because I am always with Him.”
To see that beautiful countenance of the Mother at that moment of the words “Holy, Holy, Holy…” as well as all the others with their radiant faces, with hands joined, awaiting that miracle which repeats itself continuously, was to be in Heaven itself. And to think there are people who can, at that moment, be distracted in conversation. It hurts me to tell you, many men, more than women, stand with their arms crossed, as if paying homage to the Lord as one equal to another.
The Virgin Mary said: “Tell all people that never is a man more manly then when he bends his knees before God.”
The celebrant said the words of the Consecration. He was a person of normal height, but suddenly, he began to grow, becoming filled with light, a supernatural light between white and gold that enveloped him and grew very strong around the face. And because of it, I could not see his features. When he raised the Host, I saw his hands, and on the back of his hands, he had some marks from which emanated a great deal of light. It was Jesus! It was Him Who was wrapping His Body around the celebrant, as if He were lovingly surrounding the hands of the Archbishop. At that moment, the Host began to grow and became enormous, and upon it the marvelous face of Jesus appeared looking at His people.
By instinct, I wanted to bow my head, and Our Lady said: “Do not look down. Look up to view and contemplate Him. Exchange your gaze with His, and repeat the prayer of Fatima: Lord, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love You. Forgiveness and Mercy… Now tell Him how much you love Him, and pay your homage to the King of Kings.”
I told it to Him, and it seemed as if I was the only one He was looking at from the enormous Host. But I learned that this was the way He gazed at each person, with love to the fullest. Then I lowered my head until I had my forehead on the floor, as did all the Angels and the Blessed from Heaven. Perhaps for a fraction of a second, I wondered how Jesus was taking on the body of the celebrant and, at the same time, He was inside the Host. And as he lowered the Host, it returned to its normal size. Tears ran down my cheeks; I was unable to let go of my astonishment.
Immediately, the Archbishop said the words of the Consecration of the wine and, as the words were being said, lightning appeared from the heavens and in the background. The walls and ceiling of the church had disappeared. All was dark, but for that brilliant light from the Altar.
Suddenly, suspended in the air, I saw Jesus crucified. I saw Him from the head to the lower part of the chest. The cross beam of the Cross was sustained by some large, strong hands. From within this resplendent light, a small light, like a very brilliant, very small dove, came forth and flew swiftly all over the Church. It came to rest on the left shoulder of the Archbishop, who continued to appear as Jesus because I could distinguish His long hair, His luminous wounds, and His large body, but I could not see His Face.
Above was Jesus crucified, His head fallen upon His right shoulder. I was able to contemplate His face, beaten arms and torn flesh. On the right side of His chest, He had an injury, and blood was gushing out toward the left side, and toward the right side, what looked like water, but it was very brilliant. They were more like jets of light coming forth towards the faithful, and moving to the right and to the left. I was amazed at the amount of blood that was flowing out toward the Chalice. I thought it would overflow and stain the whole Altar, but not a single drop was spilled.
At that moment, the Virgin Mary said: “This is the miracle of miracles. I have said to you before that the Lord is not constrained by time and space. At the moment of the Consecration, all the assembly is taken to the foot of Calvary, at the instant of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
Can anyone imagine that? Our eyes cannot see it, but we are all there at the very moment that they are crucifying Jesus. And He is asking for forgiveness to the Father, not only for those who killed Him, but also for each one of our sins: “Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.”
From that day on, I do not care if the world thinks I am crazy, but I ask everybody to kneel and try to live, with their heart and with all their sensibility that they are capable of, this privilege that the Lord grants us.
When we were going to pray the Our Father, the Lord spoke for the first time during the celebration, and said: “Wait, I want you to pray with the deepest profundity which you can summon. At this moment, bring to mind that person or persons which have done you the greatest harm during your life, so that you embrace them close to your bosom, and tell them with all your heart: `In the Name of Jesus, I forgive you and wish you peace. In the Name of Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness and wish my peace.’ If the person is worthy of that peace, then the person will receive it, and feel better for it. If that person is not capable of opening up to that peace, then peace will return to your heart. But I do not want you to receive nor offer peace when you are not capable of forgiving and feeling that peace in your heart first.
“Be careful of what you do,” continued the Lord, “you repeat in the Our Father: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If you are capable of forgiving but not forgetting, as some people say, you are placing conditions upon the forgiveness of God. You are saying: You forgive me only as I am capable of forgiving, but no more.”
I do not know how to explain my pain, at the realization of how much we can hurt the Lord. And also how much we can injure ourselves by holding so many grudges, bad feelings and unflattering things that are born from our own prejudices and over-sensitivities. I forgave; I forgave from the heart, and asked for forgiveness from all the people whom I had hurt at one time or another, in order to feel the peace of the Lord.
The celebrant said, “…give us peace and unity…” and, then, “the peace of the Lord be with all of you.”
Suddenly, I saw that among some (not all) of the people who were embracing each other, a very intense light placed itself between them. I knew it was Jesus, and I practically threw myself to embrace the person next to me. I could truly feel the embrace of the Lord in that light. It was Him Who embraced me giving me His peace, because in that moment, I had been able to forgive and remove from my heart all grief against other people. That is what Jesus wants, to share that moment of joy, hugging us and wishing us His peace.
The moment of the celebrants’ Communion arrived. There I once again noticed the presence of all the priests next to the Archbishop. When he took Communion, the Virgin Mary said:
“This is the moment to pray for the celebrant and the priests who accompany him. Repeat together with Me: `Lord, bless them, sanctify them, help them, purify them, love them, take care of them, and support them with Your Love. Remember all the priests of the world, pray for all the consecrated souls…’
Dear brothers and sisters, that is the moment in which we should pray for them, because they are the Church as we, the laity, are also. Many times we, the laity, demand so much from the priests, but we are unable to pray for them, to understand that they are human, and to comprehend and appreciate the solitude that many times can surround a priest.
We should understand that the priests are people like ourselves and that they need to be understood, to be cared for. They need affection and attention from us because they are giving their life to each one of us, as Jesus did, by being consecrated to Him.
The Lord wants the people of the flock that God has entrusted to the priest to pray and help in his sanctification. Someday, when we are on the other side, we will understand the marvels that the Lord has done, giving us priests who help us to save our souls.
The people began to leave their pews on their way to Communion. The great moment of the encounter had arrived. The Lord said to me: “Wait a moment; I want you to observe something…” An interior impulse made me raise my eyes towards the person who was going to receive Communion on the tongue from the hands of the priest.
I should clarify that this person was one of the ladies from our group who the previous night was unable to go to confession, but this morning was able to do so before the Holy Mass. When the Priest placed the Sacred Host on her tongue, a flash of light, like a very golden white light, went right through this person, first through her back, then surrounding her from the back, around her shoulders, and then her head. The Lord said:
“This is how I Myself rejoice in embracing a soul who comes with a clean heart to receive Me.”The tone of voice of Jesus was that of a happy person.
I was astonished to see my friend return to her pew surrounded by light, embraced by the Lord. I thought of the marvel that we miss so many times by going to receive Jesus with our small or large offences, when it should be a feast.
Many times we say that there are no priests to whom to go to confess at any given moment. But the problem is not about confessing at each moment, but the problem resides in our ease of falling into evil again. On the other hand, in the same way that we make an effort to search for a beauty parlor, or men search for a barber when we have a party, we have to also make an effort to seek a priest when we need to remove all that dirt from ourselves. We must not have the audacity to receive Jesus at any moment with our hearts full of ugly things.
When I went to receive communion, Jesus told me: “The Last Supper was the moment of the greatest intimacy with My own. During that hour of love, I established what could be thought of as the greatest act of lunacy in the eyes of men, that of making Myself a prisoner of Love. I established the Eucharist. I wanted to remain with you until the end of the centuries because My Love could not bear that you remained orphans, you whom I loved more than My life.”
I received that Host which had a different flavor. It was a mixture of blood and incense that inundated me entirely. I felt so much love that the tears ran down my cheeks without me being able to stop them.
When I returned to my seat, while kneeling down, the Lord said:“Listen…” A moment later, I began to hear the prayers of the lady who was seated in front of me and who had just received communion.
What she said, without opening her mouth, was more or less like this: “Lord, remember that we are at the end of the month, and I do not have the money to pay the rent, the car payments, nor the children’s school. You have to do something to help me… Please, make my husband stop drinking so much. I cannot bear any more his being intoxicated so often, and my youngest son is going to repeat the year again, if you do not help him. He has exams this week… And do not forget our neighbor who must move. Let her do it right away. I cannot stand her anymore, etc., etc.”
Then the Archbishop said: “Let us pray,” and obviously all the congregation stood up for the final prayer. Jesus said in a sad tone: “Did you take note of her prayer? Not a single time did she tell Me that she loves Me. Not a single time did she thank Me for the gift that I have given her by bringing down My Divinity to her poor humanity, in order to elevate her to Me. Not a single time has she said: thank You, Lord. It has been a litany of requests, and so are almost all of those who come to receive Me.”
“I have died for love, and I am risen. For love I await each one of you, and for love I remain with you… But you do not realize that I need your love. Remember that I am the Beggar of Love in this sublime hour for the soul.”
Do you all realize that He, Love, is begging for our love, and we do not give it to Him? Moreover, we avoid going to that encounter with the Love of Loves, with the only love who gives of itself in a permanent oblation.
When the celebrant was going to give the blessing, the Holy Virgin said: “Be attentive, take care… You do any old sign instead of the Sign of the Cross. Remember that this blessing could be the last one that you will receive from hands of a priest. You do not know when, leaving here, if you will die or not. You do not know if you will have the opportunity to receive a blessing from another priest. Those consecrated hands are giving you the blessing in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, make the Sign of the Cross with respect, as if it was the last one of your life.”
How much we miss in not understanding and not participating every day at the Holy Mass! Why not make an effort to begin the day a half hour earlier and run to the Holy Mass and receive all the blessings that the Lord wants to pour over us?
I am aware that, because of their obligations, not everybody can attend daily Mass, but at least two or three times a week. So many avoid Mass on Sundays with the smallest excuse, that they have a child, or two, or ten, and, therefore, they cannot attend Mass. How do people manage when they have other important types of commitments? They take all the children, or take turns and the husband goes at one hour and the wife another, but they carry out their duty to God.
We have time to study, to work, to entertain, to rest, but WE DO NOT HAVE TIME, AT LEAST ON SUNDAY, TO GO TO THE HOLY MASS.
Jesus asked me to remain with Him a few minutes more after Mass had finished. He said: “Do not leave in a hurry after Mass is over. Stay a moment in My company and enjoy it, and let Me enjoy yours…”
As a child, I had heard someone say that the Lord remained with us for five or ten minutes, after Communion. I asked Him at this moment:
“Lord, truly, how much time do You stay with us after Communion?”
I suppose that the Lord must have laughed at my silliness, because He answered: “All the time that you want to have Me with you. If you speak to Me all day long, offering Me some words during your chores, I will listen to you. I am always with you. It is you who leaves Me. You leave the Mass, and the day of obligation ends. You kept the day of the Lord, and it is now finished for you. You do not think that I would like to share your family life with you, at least that day.”
“In your homes, you have a place for everything and a room for each activity: a room to sleep, another to cook, another to eat, etc. Which place have you made for Me? It should not be a place where you only have an image, which collects dust all the time, but a place where at least five minutes a day the family meets to give thanks for the day and for the gift of life, to ask for their needs of the day, to ask for blessings, protection, health. Everything has a place in your homes, except Me.”
“Men plan their day, their week, their semester, their vacations, etc. They know what day they are going to rest, what day they will go to the movies or to a party, or visit grandmother or the grandchildren, the children, their friends, and to their amusements. How many families say at least once a month: `This is the day for our turn to go and visit Jesus in the Tabernacle,’ and the whole family comes to talk to M<%18>e<%0>? How many sit down in front of Me and have a conversation with Me, telling Me how it has been since the last time, telling Me their problems, the difficulties they have, asking Me about what they need, making Me part of these things? How many times?
“I know everything. I read even the deepest secrets of your hearts and minds. But I enjoy your telling Me about your life, your letting Me participate as a family member, as your most intimate friend. Oh, how many graces does man lose by not giving Me a place in his life!”
When I remained with Him that day and on many other days, He continued to give us teachings. Today I want to share with you this mission that He has entrusted to me. Jesus said:
“I wanted to save My creature, because the moment of opening the door to Heaven has been impregnated with too much pain…” “Remember that not even one mother has fed her child with her own flesh. I have gone to that extreme of Love to communicate My merits to all of you.
“The Holy Mass is Myself prolonging My life and My sacrifice on the Cross among you. Without the merits of My life and My Blood, what do you have with which to come before the Father? Nothing, misery and sin…
“You should exceed in virtue the angels and archangels, because they do not have the joy of receiving Me as nourishment like you do. They drink a drop from the spring, but you that have the grace of receiving Me, you have the whole ocean to drink.”
The other thing that the Lord spoke about with pain concerned people who encounter Him out of habit, of those who have lost their awe of each encounter with Him. That routine turns some people so lukewarm that they have nothing new to tell Jesus when they receive Him. He also said that there were so many consecrated souls who lose their enthusiasm of falling in love with the Lord, and have made their vocation an occupation, a profession to which nothing more is given, except that which is demanded of one, but without feeling…
Then the Lord spoke to me about the fruits that must come from each Communion that we take. It does happen that there are people who receive the Lord daily but do not change their lives. They spend many hours in prayer and do many works, etc., but their life does not go on transforming, and a life that does not transform cannot bear true fruits for the Lord. The merits we receive in the Eucharist should bear the fruits of conversion in us and fruits of charity toward our brothers and sisters.
We the laity have a very important role in our Church. We do not have the right to be silent, because the Lord has sent us out, as all the baptized, to go forth and announce the Good News. We do not have the right to absorb all this knowledge and not share it with others, and to allow our brothers to die of hunger when we have so much bread in our hands.
We cannot watch our Church crumble as we stay comfortable in our parishes and homes, receiving and receiving so much from the Lord: His Word, the homilies of the priests, the pilgrimages, the Mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the marvelous union with the nourishment of Communion, the talks of preachers.
In other words, we are receiving so much and we do not have the courage to leave our comfort zone and go to a jail, to a correctional institution, to speak to the neediest. To go and tell them not to give up, that they were born Catholic and that their Church needs them there, suffering, because their suffering will serve to redeem others, because that sacrifice will gain for them eternal life.
We are not capable of going where the terminally ill are in the hospitals, and by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, helping them with our prayers during that time of struggle between good and evil to free them from the snares and temptations of the devil. Every dying person has fear, and just taking their hand and talking to them about the love of God and the marvel that awaits them in Heaven next to Jesus and Mary, next to their departed ones, gives them comfort.
The hour in which we currently live does not allow us to be indifferent. We must be an extension of the hands of our priests and go where they cannot reach. But for this, we need courage. We must receive Jesus, live with Jesus, nourish ourselves with Jesus.
We are afraid to commit ourselves a little more, and when the Lord says, “First seek the Kingdom of God, and the rest will be added onto you,” He says it all, brothers and sisters. It means to seek the Kingdom of God, by all possible means and with all means, and to open your hands in order to receive EVERYTHING in addition! This is because He is the Master Who pays the best, the only One Who is attentive to your smallest needs.
Brothers, sisters, thank you for allowing me to carry out the mission that was entrusted to me, that of having these pages reach you. The next time you attend Holy Mass, live it. I know the Lord will fulfill for you His promise that “your Mass will never again be the same.” And when you receive Him, love Him!
Experience the sweetness of feeling yourself resting against the folds of His side, pierced for you in order to leave you His Church and His Mother, to open for you the doors to His Father’s House. Experience this so that you are able to feel for yourself His Merciful Love by means of this testimony, and try to reciprocate with your childlike love.
May God bless you this Easter.
Your sister in the Living Jesus,
Lay Missionary of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus
Copyright © 2004 by The Great Crusade of Love and Mercy. All rights reserved. This booklet is published in coordination with The Apostolate of the New Evangelization. Translated from the April 2003 Revision of the original Spanish edition, published in Merida, Mexico. Permission is granted to reproduce this booklet in its entirety with no changes or additions and as long as the reproduction and distribution is done solely on a not-for-profit basis.
For information on ordering printed copies of this booklet and other books and videos, please write to: The Great Crusade of Love and Mercy, Inc., P.O. Box 857, Lithonia, Georgia 30058 USA, or visit the ministry’s Internet Site at: http://www.loveandmercy.org.
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Public revelation is binding on all Christians, but private revelation is binding only on those who receive it. The Catholic Church teaches that public revelation was completed, and therefore was concluded, with the death of the last apostle (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 4), but private revelation has continued.
“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium[collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67).
Some people tend to go to one extreme or the other on private revelation; they either completely reject the concept or they consider private revelation their chief rule of faith. The original sixteenth century Protestant Reformers denied all private revelation—they had to, for all the miracles that had occurred and all the private revelations that had been received over the previous fifteen hundred years had confirmed rather than attacked the Catholic faith. The original Reformers’ actions were in direct disobedience to the binding command of the New Testament: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19–21).
The Reformers’ eradication of all new revelation led people to forget the distinction between public and private revelation. Thus when people appeared claiming to have new revleation, Protestants were left vulnerable to thinking any new revelations would be binding on all Christians. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, religious organizations which claim such new revelations have evolved in Protestant circles; for example, the Irvingites, the Mormons, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the current “Word Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” movement.
When the Pentecostal movement started in 1900, it faced the problem of explaining why private revelations had ceased for so many centuries, as the original Protestant Reformers claimed, only to begin again during this century. The correct answer, as the following passages from the early Church Fathers show, is that private revelation never did stop.
“The vision which I saw, my brethren, was of the following nature . . . [An] old woman approached, accompanied by six young men . . . [And] she said to me . . . ‘Lo! do you not see opposite to you a great tower, built upon the waters, of splendid square stones?’ For the tower was built square by the six young men who had come with her. But myriads of men were carrying stones to it, some dragging them from the depths, others removing them from the land, and they handed them to these six young men. . . . [And the woman said:] ‘The tower which you see building is myself, the Church . . . the tower is built upon the waters . . . because your life has been and will be “saved through water” [1 Pet. 3:20–21] . . . the six young men . . . are the holy angels of God . . . the other persons who are engaged in carrying the stones . . . also are holy angels of the Lord . . . [And] when the tower is finished and built, then comes the end’” (The Shepherd 1:3:1–8 [A.D. 80]).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
“While he [Polycarp] was thus at his prayers, three days before his arrest, he had a vision in which he saw flames reducing his pillow to ashes; whereupon he turned to his companions and said, ‘I must be going to be burnt alive.’ . . . [After his arrest, the crowd called] loud demands for the Asiarch Philip to let loose a lion at Polycarp. However, he told them that the rules would not allow him to do so, since he had already declared the beast-fighting closed; whereupon they decided to set up a unanimous outcry that he should have Polycarp burnt alive” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 5, 12 [A.D. 155]).
“Polycarp was . . . bishop of the Catholic Church at Smyrna, and a teacher in our own day who combined both apostle and prophet in his own person. For indeed, every word that ever fell from his lips either has had or will have its fulfillment” (ibid., 16).
“For the prophetical gifts remain with us [Christians], even to the present time. And hence you [Jews] ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 82 [A.D. 155]).
“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church who possess prophetic gifts and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages and who bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God” (Against Heresies 5:6:1 [A.D. 189]).
“I, Pionius, have made a fresh transcript of [The Martyrdom of Polycarp]. I found them after Polycarp the Blessed had revealed their whereabouts in a vision, as I will explain hereafter. Time had reduced them almost to tatters, but I gathered them carefully together in the hope that the Lord Jesus may likewise gather myself amongst his elect into his heavenly kingdom. To him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Martyrdom of Polycarp, copyist note 2 [A.D. 250]).
Constantine the Great
“And while he [the Emperor Constantine] was praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history [Eusebius], when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after-time has established its truth? He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes a trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, ‘Conquer By This.’ At this sight he was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. He said [to me], moreover, that he doubted within himself what the import of this apparition could be. And while he continued to ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on; then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies. . . . [B]eing struck with amazement at the extraordinary vision, and resolving to worship no other God save him who had appeared to him, he sent for those who were acquainted with the mysteries of [God’s] doctrines and inquired who that God was and what was intended by the sign of the vision he had seen” (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 1:28–32 [A.D. 337]).
Anthony of Egypt
“[Anthony told his monks:] When, therefore, they [demons] come by night to you and wish to tell the future, or say ‘We are the angels,’ give no heed, for they lie. . . . But if they shamelessly stand their ground, capering, and change their forms of appearance, fear them not, nor shrink, nor heed them as though they were good spirits. For the presence either of the good or evil by the help of God can easily be distinguished. The vision of the holy ones is not fraught with distraction: ‘For they will not strive, nor cry, nor shall anyone hear their voice’ [Matt 12:19; cf. Is. 42:2]. But it comes quietly and gently that an immediate joy, gladness, and courage arise in the soul. For the Lord who is our joy is with them, and the power of God the Father” (Ambrose, Life of St. Anthony 35 [A.D. 359]).
“For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints . . . The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there . . . [and when people] had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream and discovered by him” (City of God 22:8 [A.D. 419]).
“[T]he martyrs, by the very benefits which are given to them that pray, indicate that they take an interest in the affairs of men . . . For not only by effects of benefits, but in the very beholding of men, it is certain that the confessor Felix . . . appeared when the barbarians were attacking Nola, as we have heard not by uncertain rumors but by sure witness” (ibid., 19).
“A certain man by [the] name Curma [was in a coma] . . . Yet he was seeing many things as in a dream; when at last after a great many days he woke up, he told that he had seen. . . . [He also saw] Hippo, where he was seemingly baptized by me . . . After much that he saw, he narrated how he had, moreover, been led into paradise and how it was there said to him, when he was dismissed to return to his own family, ‘Go, be baptized if you want to be in this place of the blessed.’ Thereupon being admonished to be baptized by me, he said it was done already. He who was talking with him replied, ‘Go, be truly baptized, for you only saw that in a vision.’ After this he recovered, went his way to Hippo. . . . He was baptized [and] at the close of the holy days [of Easter] returned to his own place . . . Why should we not believe these to be angelic operations through the dispensation of the providence of God?” (The Care to be Had for the Dead 15 [A.D. 421]).
“Gregory of Nazianz presided over those who maintain the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, and assembled them together in a little dwelling, which had been altered into the form of a house of prayer, by those who held the same opinions and had a like form of worship. It subsequently became one of the most conspicuous in the city, and is so now, not only for the beauty and number of its structures, but also for the advantages accruing to it from the visible manifestations of God. For the power of God was there manifested, and was helpful both in waking visions and in dreams, often for the relief of many diseases and for those afflicted by some sudden transmutation in their affairs. The power was accredited to Mary, the Mother of God, the holy Virgin, for she does manifest herself in this way” (Church History 7:5 [A.D. 444]).
Patrick of Ireland
“And there truly [in Ireland] one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me, ‘You fast well; soon you will go to your fatherland.’ And again, after I very short time, I heard the heavenly voice saying to me, ‘Lo, your ship is ready.’ And it was not near at hand, but was distant, perhaps two hundred miles. And I had never been there, nor did I know any person living there. And thereupon I shortly took flight and left the man with whom I had been for six years. And I came in the strength of God, who prospered my way for good; and I met with nothing to alarm me until I reached that ship” (Confession of St. Patrick 17 [A.D. 452]).
“And once more, after a few years, I was in Britain with my family. . . . And there indeed I saw in a vision of the night a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it were from Ireland with countless letters. He gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter, which was entitled ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ And while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voices of those who dwelt beside the Wood of Foclut [in Ireland], which is nigh unto the Western Sea. And thus they cried, as with one mouth, ‘We beseech you, holy youth, to come and walk once more among us!’” (ibid., 23).
“Let those who will, laugh and mock. I shall not be silent nor conceal the signs and wonders which were shown to me by the Lord many years before they came to pass, since he knows all things even before the world’s beginnings” (ibid., 45).
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
Fr Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.
If your spiritual life is to develop properly, you must learn how to meditate — the foundation of mental prayer. A great deal can be said about meditation, but we’ll have to limit ourselves to some basic points. I’d like to approach it by sharing something of my own experience.
When I first entered the seminary, I was already used to saying formal prayers, such as my morning and night prayers and some devotional prayers out of a little prayer booklet. But somehow, the idea of meditation seemed complicated. There was talk of different methods and steps in the meditation process. Even the meditation book from which a reflection was read daily to the community in the chapel listed “meditation points” to consider. I felt a bit apprehensive!
Nevertheless, after going to a few organized meditation periods, I realized that this basic form of mental prayer came quite naturally. There was nothing to be afraid of! I began by simply thinking about Jesus in the Gospels, about His words and actions, or about some important part of my Catholic faith, such as the Mass or God’s mercy. Then I found I wanted to talk to the Lord about what I was reflecting on.
In this way I came to realize that my thinking or reflecting (that’s the actual meditation) was leading me to new awareness and insights about Jesus and the truths of my Catholic faith. These insights, in turn, were stirring up various feelings within me (such feelings are called sentiments or affections). The more I meditated and came to new insights, the more I was led to speak with the Lord in my own words, having a loving conversation heart-to-Heart (mine with His). And that, quite simply, was mental prayer.
The Rosary and Stations of the Cross
In fact, I came to realize that I’d actually known for a long time what it is to meditate. For example, I’d done it for years whenever I prayed the Rosary. When reciting each of the fifteen decades, we meditate on one of the joyful, sorrowful, or glorious mysteries or significant events in the life of Jesus and His Blessed Mother.
As I constantly meditated on these mysteries, they became more meaningful for me. I began to see Jesus’ and Mary’s love in each mystery, and gradually realized they have that same love for me, too. By meditating, I was growing to know and love them more personally.
A similar thing was happening when I made the Stations of the Cross. Meditating on fourteen scenes from the passion and death of Our Lord, I experienced feelings (those sentiments or affections) of deeper gratitude to Jesus for all He suffered for me. There were feelings of deeper sorrow for my sins as well, since they caused Jesus to suffer so much. This, in turn, moved me to be more resolved, with the help of His grace, not to commit these sins again in the future.
Judging, then, from my own experience, I would say that many of us Catholics first learn to meditate by simply reciting the Rosary or making the Stations. As we seek to deepen this part of our mental prayer life, a few practical points about meditation and mental prayer may be helpful.
Formal Prayer vs. Mental Prayer
First, mental prayer (also called the prayer of the mind) usually develops naturally from formal prayer (or the prayer of the lips), as my own experience shows. A comparison between these two types of prayer can be useful. Recall St. John Damascene’s famous definition of prayer as “the raising of the mind and the heart to God.” In formal prayer, when we focus on the words of the prayer with our minds, the heart is then moved to love God with the sentiments contained in those words.
For example, if we recite an “Act of Faith,” the words prayed would logically stir up feelings or sentiments of faith in our hearts as we say something such as this: “God, You are all-knowing, and You reveal to us what we need to know and do to get to heaven. I believe in all that You have revealed to us! Please grant me a strong faith so that I will always believe what You teach us through Your Church.”
In mental prayer, however, the focus is not restricted by the words of a prayer formula. Rather, the focus of meditation is usually on a story, such as an event from the life of Jesus; or a teaching He gave, such as a parable; or something from the life of a saint, such as St. Thérèse; or something contained in a good spiritual book. My mind isn’t limited to the words, but moves through various details of the story or ideas contained in the teaching.
The mind, by reflecting on these details, can produce a far wider range of insights, which then stir more sentiments in the heart. The mind is freer to roam through this spiritual landscape. Thus the difference between formal prayer and the meditation of mental prayer is like the difference between reciting a poem, where each specific word is already given, and telling a story freely in your own words.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation as form of mental prayer has many benefits. One is a greater understanding and clarity regarding the teachings of our Catholic faith. By meditating, we go deeper into these realities and discover many valuable new insights that weren’t obvious at first sight.
St. John of the Cross used the image of mining for precious metals to describe this spiritual activity. If “there’s gold in them thar hills,” then the more you mine, the more you’ll find! The treasures of the Sacred Scriptures and other truths of our faith aren’t always obvious on the surface, but they’re limitless for those who bother to search for them.
Another benefit, as we’ve seen, is that our reflections stir up the vital sentiments of the heart so needed for loving and serving the Lord faithfully. These sentiments are really the most important fruit of mental prayer. They lead us to talk to God!
In fact, without these sentiments, we’d end up with a purely intellectual exercise, a mere reasoning process. Prayer requires talking with God, and that requires the sentiments.
In this regard, we should mention that beginners practicing mental prayer typically do much more reasoning or reflecting in the mind than speaking from the heart. But as time goes on, less reflection is needed to produce more sentiments. It’s like the growth of a human friendship.
When friends first meet, they need to ask lots of questions and share lots of facts about themselves to get to know each other better. After the friendship has grown, however, there are fewer questions but a deeper knowledge and more intense love for each other. In fact, when the reasoning in prayer becomes significantly less and the sentiments in the heart begin to predominate, it’s usually a sign that we’ve come to the third state or kind or prayer, called affective prayer (or the prayer of the heart).
Finally, the meditation of mental prayer helps us form the resolutions we need to grow in the love of God and our neighbor by a more conscious and consistent practice of the Christian virtues. Our meditations, in the light of the Holy Spirit and with the assistance of His grace, give us insights into how to apply the values of the Gospel, Church teachings, and the wisdom of the saints to our own daily lives. For all these reasons, the meditation that provides a foundation for mental prayer is a must for growth in Christian holiness!
Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., is a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, St. Felix Friary, 15 Trinity Plaza, Yonkers, NY 10701; 914-476-7279
A scan on the radio dial at just about any time of the day will surface a handful of radio talk shows with hosts clamoring to be the voice of reason and to have the answers to solving problems of all types.
One host, however, is very confident that he truly does have something to offer as he unabashedly gives his Catholic take on today’s headline issues. His name is Allen Hunt, and his show, the Allen Hunt Show can be heard each weeknight on 150 stations across the nation.
His viewpoint wasn’t always Catholic, however. He recently sat down to talk about his conversion to the Catholic faith and how it has shaped his radio platform.
Tell me about your journey from Methodist pastor for 20 years to entering the Catholic Church.
I grew up in a culture of Methodist pastors. My uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Methodist pastors. I didn’t know much about the Catholic Church when I was growing up. After I finished seminary at Emory University in Atlanta, I went on to do some graduate-level work at Yale University on early Christian history and the New Testament.
My first exposure to the Catholic Church came while I was there in New England. Much of it came from my friendship with a Dominican friar who was also in the graduate program. That was in the 1990s, and many seeds were planted then. In the next decade or so, God used a number of experiences to bring me home to the Church. I became Catholic on Jan. 6, 2008, on the feast of the Epiphany.
What finally brought you home?
There were three big things that led to me entering the Church. First was a growing sense of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. Secondly is what I call doctrine by democracy. In general, in the Protestant church, everything is up to a vote every few years. For instance, in the Methodist church, every four years we would get together to vote whether or not homosexual behavior is acceptable or not and whether it was time to ordain openly gay pastors.
The third area of reflection was Jesus’ prayer in John 17. There, Jesus pleads for unity in the body of Christ. The Protestant church has split into 33,000 different strands. What message does that fractioning send to the world? As well, how much this division must grieve God’s heart.
I am only one person, but am trying to repair some of that damage by coming home to the mother Church.
At the time of your decision to pursue the Catholic Church you were leading a megachurch in Atlanta. How did your congregation react to your decision?
I had stepped down from my role as senior pastor July 1, 2007, to go into full-time radio ministry. Once I had left the role of pastor, it gave me the freedom to explore and discover the faith.
By and large, most people were supportive of my decision. As is typical of many megachurches, a lot of the members are ex-Catholics. I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls from people who were asking, “What do you see that I don’t see?” There were only a handful of people who were hostile towards me. But after years of being a pastor, I was used to people being hostile towards me.
Tell me about the Allen Hunt Show.
We started the show in 2006 with just a few hours on Sunday afternoon. We didn’t plan on being on Christian or Catholic radio. The show began as a way to engage the mainstream on all the issues of life through the lens of faith.
We want to come at things with a moral compass and engage people of all walks of life. I am unapologetic and non-defensive on who I am, what I stand for and where I’m coming from. It is mainstream radio done for you by a very Catholic guy.
Is there an evangelization element to your program?
I share my Catholic faith, but I don’t promote it — and I think that is at the heart of the show. I am who I am, and I am comfortable with who I am. I want to engage people who agree or disagree with me in a grace-filled way, as opposed to bomb throwing, which seems to be the standard these days.
I think a lot of people find it very heartening that there is someone like them on mainstream radio. Then there is another group of people who find this fact strange to them. And then there is a small, vocal group who can’t stand my faith, but they keep listening. As long as they are listening, I’m content with that. Let’s talk and have a civil conversation.
What’s the future for you and the program?
We need to continue to do what God wants us to do. I think what that means is to continue to engage the culture with a reasonable voice of faith. Our long-term goal is to be on over 300 stations each week, Monday through Friday.
What is your take on the debate on whether or not conservative talk radio was to blame for the Tuscon shooting, the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?
Neither talk radio nor inflamed political rhetoric caused a mentally deranged young man to indiscriminately shoot people in Tucson any more than they caused the Virginia Tech massacre or even the silly Dunkin Donuts drive-through tirade last month regarding the lack of sprinkled donuts.
As you talk to America, day in and day out, what are two or three issues or themes that come up again and again? What is the temperament or the mood of the nation, so to speak?
In general, there is a self-confidence crisis in America. We have forgotten who we are. People are concerned and feel like we have lost something, even though they cannot always pinpoint what that is. Part of this is a natural response to a very long recession that has drained a lot of people’s passion and optimism. They worry we may never emerge from it. Part of this is a response to the lack of moral compass that we now routinely experience in our public life together, in our entertainment and even in our public schools.
Register correspondent Eddie O’Neill writes from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In Search Of The Full Gospel
By Deborah Danielski
Like many converts to the Catholic Church, Deborah Danielski wandered through a variety of back roads and cul-de-sacs on her way home. Her search for the full gospel was a frustrating one, filled with wrong turns and complicated by a drinking problem and two abusive marriages. But Christ calls His sheep by name, and Deborah heard His voice and followed Him home to the Catholic Church. She recounts for you the details of her conversion story and how she found the fullness of the Christian Faith where she least expected it.
As my husband Ed and I drove down a quiet rural Illinois highway one day, we passed a large wooden sign at the side of the road. The hand-painted lettering on the sign proclaimed, “Full Gospel Church —1/2 mile.” “What is a ‘full gospel’ church?” Ed asked. As I attempted to explain, a light came on in my mind, and suddenly I knew. The “full gospel” was what I had been searching for all of my adult life, at times actively, at other times without even being aware of what it was I sought. “
Almost immediately, I sensed a brilliant light that seemed to move toward me. I felt immersed in God’s presence and love. I simultaneously laughed and cried and when I opened my mouth to speak, I was singing praises to God in a language I had never learned.”
Apart from a brief encounter with Jesus at age 6, I grew up pretty much without religion. When I got to my teens, I took the route all-too-common in the ’60s, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Just before my 17th birthday, I found myself pregnant and standing before a minister, vowing to “love, honor and obey” my 17-year-old boyfriend, while thinking about the red-checkered tablecloth I’d buy for our tiny new kitchen.
By the time I reached my mid-20s, I was into my second abusive marriage and was the mother of three. I’d messed up my life just about as much as I possibly could. Near despair, I determined it was time to make some effort to change my miserable life. I began by seeking counseling. That was when a series of incredible “coincidences” began to occur through which the Spirit of the Lord led me to the gospel.
“How much do you drink?” the counselor asked only a short way into the first session. “What does that have to do with anything?” I wondered to myself. “Oh, not too much,” I responded. “Maybe about a six-pack a day.” He raised his eyebrows. ” ‘Not too much?’ Six beers a day is ‘not too much?’ ” Had I been completely honest, I would have told him that I often drank more than that. Much to my surprise, he referred me to an alcohol abuse counselor. I was pretty sure drinking wasn’t my problem, but knowing I had exhausted my own resources, I made the appointment.
“The first thing you have to do is admit the problem is beyond your control and submit it to God,” said the counselor. “Oh great,” I thought. “This will never work.” Sure, I could admit the problem was beyond my control, otherwise I wouldn’t have been there, but submit it to God? No way.
“I don’t believe in God,” I countered. “It doesn’t have to be any particular god,” she said, “but some form of ‘supreme being,’ however you understand Him.” I shook my head. “I don’t believe in any supreme being.” The counselor smiled. “You consider yourself a pretty open-minded person, don’t you?” It was exactly the right question. I felt I was the most open-minded person I knew. “Definitely,” I shot back. “But you’ve closed your mind to God,” she suggested. She was right. I had closed my mind and heart to God. Perhaps I could give it a try, I thought. I had nothing to lose. My stress goes down but my curiosity goes up.
Out of hand, I rejected Christianity as too “traditional.” So, in search of a more palatable option, I went to the local library and checked out a couple of books on yoga and Hinduism and began my search for “God.” Soon I was practicing transcendental meditation at least 20 minutes a day. I was more relaxed, less stressed out about my problems, but I hadn’t found God. And I knew it.
At the same time, my husband Melvin was commuting to work with a man who was a Jehovah’s Witness. Every day Melvin would come home from work telling me something new John had said about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I had never read the Bible and we didn’t even own one, but I was sure what John was telling Melvin couldn’t possibly be true. Nonetheless, I found myself getting more and more curious. Then one day I was reading a book about yoga and came across the following claim, “Truly spiritual people are always vegetarians. Even in the Hebrew Bible, God gave man the fruits of the trees to be their food, not the animals of the field.” I was puzzled. I’d known many Christians over the years, and not one of them had been a vegetarian.
My curiosity got the best of me. I went out to the store and bought a Bible. I just had to know if what that author and the Jehovah’s Witness were saying was true. That night, I began to read the Gospel of Matthew, and immediately fell in love with Jesus. I knew without a doubt that no mere man could have invented the stories I read. If man were even capable of imagining God would become human, he would at least have Him born in a castle, I thought, but never in a manger. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus told me in Scripture. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
These were definitely not the words of a mere man. In my experience, the meek never inherited anything but trouble. I lay there in bed, reading all night long, continuing into Mark, Luke and John. Just before daybreak, I rose, knelt by the side of my bed and began to pray. As I prayed, I experienced an overwhelming sense of Christ’s presence. It was as though He stood at my side with His hand resting on my shoulder, and I was nearly overcome with a feeling of love more powerful than any I had ever imagined. I knew without a doubt that Jesus loved me, and I knew my sinful past was forgiven as I surrendered my life to this incomprehensible God/Man Who captured my heart. St. Paul knew what he was talking about.
“Coincidentally,” my children were attending Bible school that week with our Baptist neighbors. That Sunday morning, I attended a worship service at their small, independent Baptist church and publicly professed my faith in Christ. The next week I was baptized by immersion. For the next year, I seldom missed a Sunday morning, Sunday evening or Wednesday night service. And I seldom allowed a day to pass without spending some time reading the Holy Scriptures and in prayer. I had tasted that the Lord was good, but I began to sense there was more to Christ than I had found. There was something missing. I sensed that I had not yet found the full gospel.
A friend and fellow Baptist, Marsha, began to tell me about the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the gifts of the Spirit. I searched the Scriptures and read every publication I could find on the subject. Marsha was involved in the “Women’s Aglow Fellowship,” an interdenominational women’s group associated with the “Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association.” I attended their next monthly meeting and was excited by the freedom with which this group praised God.
Expecting to feel uneasy if any of the gifts of the Spirit were manifested, I was amazed when the group began to glorify God in a host of other languages and the only things I felt were joy, peace and fulfillment. “Yes, this is it,” I thought. This was what I had been missing.
At the end of the service, I went forward for prayer. More than anything in the world I wanted this “full gospel.” As I knelt at the altar with my eyes closed in prayer, the leader laid her hands on my head. Almost immediately, I sensed a brilliant light in a far corner of the room that seemed to move toward me, and I soon felt immersed in God’s presence and love. I simultaneously laughed and cried and when I opened my mouth to speak, I was singing — singing praises to God in a language I had never learned.
Those were some of the best years of my life. I loved God, I loved my family, I loved everyone. Certainly there were trials, but I had the Spirit of God to uphold me through anything, or so I thought. Since my Baptist pastor did not believe in the gifts of the Spirit, I soon moved my membership to an Assembly of God. After a while, I came to believe that as a child of God, I had the “right” to walk always in divine health and material prosperity. With God as my Father, I believed nothing evil could touch me. I was satisfied that I had found the fullness of God and was convinced I was beyond reproach. I still avidly read Scripture, but I must have missed St. Paul’s warning: “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Did God betray me? There was a major fall in store for me and when it hit, the entire structure of my new life was shattered.
For six years Melvin and I had prayed for a child. I had my two children from my first marriage with me only on weekends. When Melvin’s brother had been tragically killed two years before, we adopted his 3-year-old son. But Melvin desperately wanted a child of his own. One Wednesday evening as I stood praising God at the end of a worship service, I felt a sudden pain in my lower abdomen. I “rebuked” it, as I had been taught. But nothing happened. In fact, the pain grew worse. I went forward to the altar and asked two friends to help pray for my healing. We prayed and prayed. Still the pain worsened. The pastor was closing the church, so seven friends and I went to one of their homes, where we continued to pray and rebuke the pain in my abdomen. Still it did not yield. Finally I asked someone to take me to the hospital. I was experiencing my second tubal pregnancy. The tube burst and immediate surgery was required to save my life. Nothing that was tried could save my baby. I was devastated. Not only had my faith failed to heal my body, but it was now evident that I would never have another child, and my husband would never have one of his own — at least not with me.
As soon as I was released from the hospital, I was back in church, just in time to hear a sermon I will never forget. “Anyone who claims to be a Christian,” the preacher roared, “and would willingly go into a hospital and let someone cut on them with a knife is deluded!” I sat through the remainder of that sermon about “true faith,” but when it ended, I left that church, never to return. I wasn’t sure whether their theology was skewed or I had just utterly failed, but it put me into a tailspin. What had it all meant?, I wondered. Was what happened to me really due to a lack of faith? Was it my own fault? What could I have done differently? Or could all I had previously experienced — all the joy in praying, the warm feelings, the power I felt in “rebuking” sickness and evil, and speaking in “tongues” — could all that have been nothing more than wishful thinking?
I never spoke to that pastor again and my friends just didn’t seem to have the answers I needed. I soon stopped reading Scripture and stopped praying. I felt God had betrayed me, and I had no idea where to turn. I still believed in Him. I still believed in the gospel, but I no longer knew what it meant for me, and frankly, I was no longer inclined to find out.
I left my husband and found my mother. Melvin soon returned to his excessive drinking and abuse. My faith was shattered, but a spark of self-esteem remained. For the first time in my life, I felt I could make it on my own. Though I made far too little money to support myself in the manner to which I had grown accustomed, that no longer mattered. All I wanted was a little peace. I knew I would rather live in a hole in a wall in peace, than to continue the nearly constant battles with my husband. It was not easy to admit to another failure, but after 13 years in my second marriage, I left Melvin and obtained a second divorce.
Three years later, God gave me one of the greatest gifts I would ever receive from Him, my current husband, Ed. Though I had turned my back on Him, Christ had not abandoned me. Not long after my marriage to Ed, a series of “coincidences” began to occur in my life that made it impossible for me to ignore Christ and His full gospel any longer. My friend Judy, a Catholic with whom I had never discussed God or religion, unexpectedly gave me a book for my 43rd birthday. One glance at the cover of the book made me question her sanity. The book was about apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and the cover bore her picture. Though I knew nothing about apparitions, I had strong convictions about the Virgin Mary. I knew she had existed and I knew she’d given birth to our Lord, but apart from that, I’d rarely given her a second thought, except to condemn Catholics for “worshipping” her.
“I don’t know if you’ll like it,” Judy said as I held the book in my hand, looking incredulously at its cover. “It’s . . . spiritual.” I was polite. “Oh, I like spiritual books,” I said, all the while wondering what could ever have possessed anyone to give me a book about Mary. My being polite was a big mistake. It opened the door for Judy to spend the next hour-and-a-half telling me all about her new and wonderful relationship with the Virgin Mary. She told me Mary had become her dearest friend and closest confidante. I thought she’d gone over the edge. “Lord, help her,” I prayed. But I reluctantly accepted the book and out of curiosity, went home and began to read it.
Almost immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit move in my heart for the first time in years. I continued to read, and soon sensed Christ asking me to open my heart to His mother. My life was not such a mess as it had been when I first began to seek the Lord. Considering my past mistakes, I was relatively happy and successful. I hadn’t consciously felt a need for anything more. But God in His infinite wisdom and mercy stirred again in me that lifelong yearning to know Him in His fullness. In my hands that day was the answer. How better to learn the “full gospel” than from the very Mother of God? Who could more effectively lead me to the fullness of Christ than the human being who carried our Lord in her womb, nourished Him at her breast and lived physically and intimately with Him every moment of His life — the one who not only bore witness to the Word, but actually bore the Word? “And immediately something like scales fell…”
I finished the book Judy gave me and proceeded to read everything I could get my hands on about apparitions and visions of the Blessed Mother. I devoured anything I could find regarding Fatima. I came to believe there was a profound message behind these Marian apparitions. “There will never be peace for individuals or mankind until you turn your hearts back to your Creator,” Mary seemed to be saying. “God loves you. Repent and pray for your own conversion, and for the conversion of the world.” I began to do just that, and many of my misconceptions about Catholicism were soon unmasked. Catholics didn’t worship Mary, I realized. They were devoted to her as the Mother of Christ. They reverenced Mary as the first Christian. They embraced Christ’s precious gift from the Cross — the gift of His mother to His body, the Church (cf. John 19:25-27). Statues of Mary in Catholic churches were no more “false idols” than were the pictures of my beloved husband and children in my home.
I fell in love with my spiritual mother. I studied the Roman Catholic Faith. I read books by Scott Hahn, Alan Schreck, Karl Keating, Mark Shea, Patrick Madrid and Thomas Howard. I reread chapter six of the Gospel of John. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you,” Christ said to the skeptical Jews. I realized Holy Communion could be much more than symbolic of the Last Supper. By the power of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Mass, Christ is truly present and imparts His life through the bread and wine.
While wrestling with the Catholic meaning of the communion of saints, Christ’s words to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:31-32 came to life. “Have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” It excited me to learn that the saints who lived before us had not been cut off from the Body of Christ just because they had died. I was as free to ask any of them to pray for me as I was to ask anyone here on earth. As I learned more about our covenant relationship with God, infant baptism took on a whole new meaning. Why wouldn’t our Father provide a means for our newborn children to enter that relationship, just as He had for the Jews in circumcision? In direct contrast to what I’d previously believed, I found Catholics had an objective faith totally absent from any other church I’d attended. I learned God always imparts His grace through the sacraments, regardless of the recipient’s faith. Sure, faith was necessary for the sacramental grace to flourish, but it was God Who acted first, not man.
“Catholics don’t believe in reading the Bible,” I’d been taught. But when I began to attend Mass, I heard far more Scripture read at every service than I had ever heard at any Protestant church.
“No priest can forgive sin,” I’d previously believed. But if Christ were present on earth, would I choose to sit in my own home and confess mentally to Him, hoping and praying I’d been forgiven? Or would I go to Him in person and hear the words of forgiveness directly from His mouth? That is exactly the reassurance the sacrament of reconciliation offers, I realized. Christ is indeed present and available to forgive sin, in His Body the Church, and in His representatives, the priests. It all began to make sense, and it was all found in the Catholic Church, the one Church on earth I had believed I would never enter. Much to my surprise, everything I learned about the Catholic Church expanded and enriched my faith, but I continued to have one major concern. Would I have to give up my belief in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to become Catholic? One final obstacle to the fullness of truth and grace.
I was still struggling with that dilemma when Ed and I attended a Marriage Encounter weekend (I’m currently going through the process prescribed by the Church of having my marriage situation regularized). At the closing Mass, the couples formed a circle as Father Tom Griffith distributed Holy Communion. Having not yet committed to or been accepted into the Catholic Church, I gently shook my head when Father Tom came to me. Rather than passing on to the next person, he stopped, laid hands on Ed and me, and prayed. When Father Tom prayed, I felt so overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit that my knees grew weak and I nearly fell over. I was astonished. I had never believed a Catholic priest could pray with such power. I was delighted to discover the Holy Spirit was indeed alive and well in at least some members of the Catholic Church.
Having come this far in my journey toward Catholicism, I had to know immediately what my own parish priest believed about the baptism and gifts of the Spirit. “Is it okay for a Catholic to believe in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit?” I nervously asked Father Tony Nugent. “Of course!” he responded. “Though we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, we don’t always experience a full release of the power of the Spirit until much later,” he continued, relating his own experience of “the full release of the Spirit” as an adult priest. “Praise God,” I gasped. Relieved and encouraged by his incredible response, I poured out my soul. I told Father Tony all about my previous spiritual experiences, including the one that had led me to abandon my faith in God. “Do you believe it is always God’s will to heal?” I asked. “Yes,” he responded. “But He may not always heal in the way we want or expect. If God had granted you the physical healing you sought that day, you would not be here with me today,” he said, assuring me I was on the right path. “He healed you spiritually instead.”
In that moment, I recalled Romans 8:28: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” What had seemed to be the worst experience of my life, God had worked for my ultimate good. Another enormous burden was lifted from my soul. Finally, I knew I had it all. I had a loving Heavenly Father Who called me out of darkness and offered me life through the Body and Blood of His only begotten Son, nearly 2,000 years ago in the crucifixion, and today in the Holy Eucharist. I had the Son, Who humbled Himself, became man and was obedient unto death to give the power of the Holy Spirit to His Body, the Church. I had the Holy Spirit, Who enlightens, cleanses and empowers. I had His spouse, my spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to show me the way. I had Christ’s Church, built upon the rock, led by the Holy Spirit into all truth and against which the gates of hell will never prevail. And within that Church, I had priests and the fellowship of a group of believers who embraced both the gifts of the Holy Spirit and devotion to our Blessed Mother. At last, the full gospel was mine.
All Information Highways lead to Rome
By Diane Kamer
A cradle Catholic, I’d spent my early years in an Irish-American ghetto in inner-city Boston. Here, during the pious ’50s, I’d developed an awed fascination with Catholic culture. I loved its mysterious milieu: the statues, votive candles and stained glass…the Latin hymns, May processions and novenas…the dimly-lit churches filled with incense during High Mass and Benediction. I eagerly read Lives of the Saints, borrowed from the public library’s bookmobile. And like many little girls of that era, I dreamed of becoming a nun.
But after we moved to the suburbs when I was eight, the Catholic influence faded. My mom, who’d always inclined toward skepticism, gradually withdrew from parish involvement. By my teens, I too had become a skeptic. I stopped attending Mass and drifted into unreflecting agnosticism. Then, in my late teens, something happened. After a disastrous semester at an “experimental” college, I was living at home, listlessly looking for a job. On weekend nights, my hippie friends and I hung out at a “coffeehouse” sponsored by the local Congregational church. Soon several friends invited me to a Bible study at the home of a local lady who’d helped organize the coffeehouse. I had nothing better to do, so I tagged along. In the weeks that followed, as we plowed through the Synoptic Gospels, I found myself powerfully attracted to Jesus. I argued, balked, objected; but I kept coming back for more. Finally, our hostess took us for an overnight trip to a Christian coffeehouse in western Massachusetts. There, when the youth ministers asked if I was ready to receive Jesus, I surprised myself by saying yes. The next morning, on the trip back home, I felt elated, freed. I knew little about the faith I’d just embraced, but I did know I’d passed a turning point. Everything seemed fresh and new. A few months later, when I returned to college, I discovered that some of my classmates had also “accepted Jesus.” But after flirting with Pentecostalism, these friends had hankered for a richer, more liturgical tradition. Now they were attending a local “high church” Episcopal parish. Under their influence, I too journeyed from Fundamentalism to Anglicanism — and eventually back to Catholicism.
Near the outset of my return to the Catholic Church, I received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Meeting. I began praying in tongues, and soon I was involved heavily in the local Catholic charismatic renewal. Unfortunately, my grasp of Catholic spirituality was weak. Although I was studying medieval history, I knew and cared little about prayer traditions that predated Vatican II. Caught up in the post-conciliar spirit, I neglected the Rosary and other age-old devotions in favor of more spontaneous worship. And, hungry for a deeper experience of God, I often focused on “feelings” — what the mystics call “consolations” — rather than on Jesus Himself. After college, back in big, impersonal Boston, I hung onto my faith for a while. But gradually, under the pressure of the sexual revolution, I abandoned both my beliefs and my chastity. I remember once sitting in the passenger seat as a colleague with whom I was carpooling raced helter-skelter down Route 128. “We’re going to crash,” I thought, “and I’m going to die in mortal sin.” The thought scared me — but not enough to drive me back to Confession.
Ironically, I reached a low point during my mid-20s, while I was studying Church history at Harvard Divinity School. I suppose I must have still believed something — otherwise, why study Church history? — but I certainly didn’t live my faith. I spent only a year at Harvard before deciding to rejoin the real world. But the Lord was accomplishing His will in me even then, for at Harvard, I met the man who would eventually become my husband. Steve was working toward his doctorate in Byzantine history at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. We took a class together, then lost touch. A year after I’d left school, we ran into each other outside the subway kiosk in the center of Harvard Square. We exchanged phone numbers, then launched a stormy dating relationship. Some months later, we moved in together and set up house. In fall 1980, while I was working at a well-known Boston publishing house, I became pregnant. At the time, Steve was earning scanty wages as a non-resident tutor at Harvard’s Leverett House. I was making nearly as little at my publishing job. Depressed and anxious about my career, I opted for abortion. Steve accompanied me to the feminist-run clinic and held my hand as I writhed in pain during the agonizing suction procedure. Afterward, I felt no remorse, only relief. It would be years before I would face the consequences of my “choice.”
Still, the Lord refused to give up on me. Even as I persisted in terrible sin, He kept drawing me gently to Himself. A year or so later, I formally joined the Episcopal Church. Here, I thought, I’d find Catholic ritual and richness, without Catholicism’s “rigid” moral strictures. Translation: I could be an Episcopalian in good standing and still live with my boyfriend. In 1982, Steve and I were married in an Episcopalian ceremony at Harvard’s Memorial Church. The following summer, we headed down to rural northwest Louisiana, where Steve had taken a teaching job. Over the next six or seven years, we moved up and down the East Coast: first to north-central Vermont, then to southern Vermont, then back south to North Carolina. Early on, we’d agreed to remain “childless by choice,” and through the years, we consistently practiced birth control — a barrier method, the diaphragm, since I was afraid of the Pill. Off and on, we kept attending Episcopal churches. Sometimes, fed up with politically-correct Anglican theology, we’d wander into the local Catholic church. Yet we always felt like interlopers. Usually I would shuffle down the aisle at Communion time. But I’d make sure to receive the Sacred Host from the lay Eucharistic minister, not from the priest. Superstitiously, I feared that the priest could look into my soul and see my mortal sin — my past abortion and my present contraceptive practices. Despite my outward bravado, I felt inner shame. Even when I curtly told a Catholic friend that her objections to birth control were “hogwash,” deep down inside, I knew I was sinning. By the time we settled down near Winston-Salem, N.C., I knew I couldn’t return to Anglicanism. Steve and I both felt turned off by our Episcopal Church experiences. We were tired of watered-down, left-wing teaching. But where could we go from there?
Steve started exploring Evangelicalism — an easy thing to do here in the Carolina Piedmont, a Southern Baptist stronghold. But while I too felt the lure of Baptist theology — get saved once, and you’re set — I couldn’t be comfortable in a stark, bare church, with no liturgy or tradition. During an illness, Steve experienced a profound conversion to Jesus. He began avidly reading the Bible and listening to Evangelical radio. One day he was struck by Christ’s words, “Whoever receives a little child for My sake, receives Me.” Soon afterward, on New Year’s Day, he announced that we could try to conceive. I was overjoyed. At age 40, I felt none of my earlier aversion to motherhood. Now I yearned for a baby. I was suffering from undiagnosed Graves’ Disease — overactive thyroid — so it took me awhile to get pregnant. But finally, that November, I noticed unmistakable symptoms. Then a home pregnancy test turned out positive. Memories of my abortion flooded my mind and heart. Deeply penitent, I felt unworthy of this precious new gift the Lord had graciously given me. I started longing to go back to Confession. At the time, we were attending a tiny Catholic mission church not too far from our backwoods home. Largely run by its lay members, it was extremely “laid back.” No stained glass, no kneelers. No rigorous moral demands. Just plenty of feel-good fellowship.
During the Advent penance service, I made my first Confession in at least 15 years. Father listened sympathetically as I confessed the abortion. Then I hesitantly brought up the issue of artificial birth control. I knew Steve planned to return to contraception once I’d delivered the baby. How could I honestly confess something I fully intended to keep doing? Father let me off the hook. Natural Family Planning, he said, was the Church’s “ideal,” but we can’t always live up to ideals. Besides, my relationship with Steve was of prime importance. The Lord didn’t want us bickering over birth control. If we honestly couldn’t abstain during fertile times, so be it. Artificial contraception, he implied, was the lesser of two evils, preferable to marital discord. I left Confession convinced I could keep using the diaphragm. Even in retrospect, however, I can’t fully blame Father for this. He had told me what I wanted to hear, but it was my fault for wanting to hear it. Now I was “officially” back in the Catholic Church, but I still didn’t feel at home. My prayer life was a mess. I couldn’t connect with God. My faith seemed to make little or no difference in my life. Why couldn’t I live like a “new creature,” in the joy, peace and freedom of the Lord? This question haunted me. Yet it never occurred to me that the answer was my disobedience. Like so many others, I’d become a cafeteria Catholic. Deep inside, I knew better, but I just couldn’t bring myself to submit wholeheartedly to Church teaching. Unfortunately, Steve felt even more strongly than I that it was okay to pick and choose among Catholic beliefs. He pooh-poohed my suggestion that perhaps we should play by the rules — all the rules — rather than decide for ourselves which ones to obey.
Again, though, I have only myself to blame. Steve’s views suited my own inclinations, so I took the path of least resistance. Our son John Michael was born in July 1992, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As soon as my fertility returned, I went back to the diaphragm. But now I was a mother, and what a difference that made. When I rocked my baby in my arms and lost myself in his gaze, I gained a whole new perspective on birth control. Who was I to roadblock the miracle of life? How dare I thwart the Creator? Gradually, I began to believe contraception was wrong. Torn between Steve and God, I started taking secret chances. Sometimes I “forgot” to apply spermicide to the diaphragm. Occasionally, I just plain “forgot” the diaphragm. I figured at my age, the risk of conception was low. Yet 19 months later, I was pregnant again. Our son Paul Stephen was born in October 1994. Once more, I returned to the diaphragm, but this time with strong reluctance. I began to pray that Steve would agree to Natural Family Planning (NFP). Yet I had little hope of this. Every time I broached the subject, he flatly refused. And I do mean flatly!
It was in this context that I began to explore cyberspace. At the time, I was still nursing Paul off and on, although I’d returned to my copywriting job at a local advertising agency. In the evenings, I’d sit at the computer, cradling Paul in one arm as he placidly nursed. With the other hand, I’d bang out e-mail notes and bulletin board messages. Still a Net novice, I started with the easy stuff: America Online’s message boards. Right away, I delved into the Religion and Culture forum, where I discovered Christianity Online. But after a few forays into cyber-Evangelicalism, I gravitated toward the Catholic boards. Even at the time, I felt the Holy Spirit’s powerful pull toward the true Faith. From the start, the Catholic message boards shocked me, for they were crowded with postings from Catholics half my age. Here were these hip Gen-Xers eagerly discussing theology and arguing doctrinal fine points. But that wasn’t the most startling part. No. What really shook me was their orthodoxy. At our little mission church, with its ’60s-redux atmosphere, orthodoxy was considered passe. Yet these youngsters took it for granted. For them, Catholicism was cool. They weren’t talking about cafeteria Catholicism, however, with its tendency to throw out the baby with the post-conciliar bathwater. They meant the genuine article, complete with total loyalty to the Magisterium and absolute submission to Church authority.
Sick of their parents’ compromises, these kids were busy recovering the heritage they’d lost: the ancient devotions and prayers, the Eucharistic and Marian piety. Browsing among their messages, I could feel the Catholic atmosphere of my childhood and sense the awesome mystery of our Faith. Whatever these youngsters had, I wanted it. I craved a strong, sinewy alternative to theological mush. I longed to adore God totally and obey Him unreservedly. With a sense of exultant freedom, I realized I didn’t have to buy into the tepid liberal Catholicism favored by my Baby Boom peers. In fact, the liberal boomers were behind the curve. Orthodoxy was back in style. I began to post messages agreeing with the more orthodox postings. I found myself defending positions I didn’t even know I held — the necessity of both faith and works for salvation; the crucial role of Mary. Yet while I did so, I had a nagging sense that I was an impostor. After all, I myself was not an orthodox Catholic in good standing. What would my cyber-chums say, I wondered, if they knew I still practiced birth control? That’s when I ran smack into Blessed Faustina.
I was browsing through AOL’s Catholic message boards one evening, when one subject line caught my eye: “Divine Mercy.” Well, I certainly needed that. I’d always had a hard time believing God truly loved me. I clicked on the subject line, and the message bloomed open. As I scanned it, I began to breathe faster. Here, allegedly, were the actual words of Jesus, spoken in private revelation to a little Polish nun more than 60 years ago. “I am Love and Mercy itself,” He had reportedly told Blessed Faustina. “Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy.” Could it be true? Could Jesus love me so ardently? I knew the Gospel spoke of Our Lord’s endless mercy, but somehow I didn’t believe it. The words were so familiar, they hardly registered. Besides, it seemed different people could interpret them different ways. The local Evangelicals, for instance, often promoted the Calvinist view that God washes His hands of hardened sinners. After all, He has predestined the reprobates to wrath, right?
On the conscious level, I rejected Calvinism, yet this fearful view of God still haunted me. What if it was correct? What if God wasn’t willing to lavish His grace on a persistent sinner like me? Now, suddenly, this fear evaporated. As I re-read the electronic message, I realized God is Love. He yearns to save every soul on earth, and He does everything in His power to draw each one to Himself. It is only we — with our free will — who frustrate Him. We choose hell. As Faustina noted, “God condemns no one.” What a liberating message! Awed, I zinged back an e-mail reply to the young man who’d posted the “Divine Mercy” excerpts: “Wow! Please tell me more!”
Soon the young man and I were corresponding. At his suggestion, I purchased Divine Mercy in My Soul, Blessed Faustina’s diary, recording Our Lord’s words to her. I read it cover to cover and still hungered for more. So I began praying a novena consisting of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. (Recited on ordinary Rosary beads, the Chaplet is comprised of two basic prayers: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world,” and “For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”) One of my novena intentions concerned birth control. As always, I figured my husband would never agree to NFP, yet I prayed for it anyway, just on the off chance he would. At the end of the novena, I once again asked Steve if we could switch to NFP. I fully expected another “No.” To my shock, he said “Yes.” Thrilled, I reported this unexpected response to my cyber-acquaintance. In passing, I mentioned that Steve and I had been practicing contraception, with my confessor’s apparent okay. In my own defense, I stressed that I’d merely been “obeying my husband.” It didn’t occur to me that I was not obliged to obey Steve when his demands contravened faith and morals.
My cyber-acquaintance responded promptly. He was glad Steve and I were no longer contracepting. But he picked up on my stunning ignorance of Church teaching. Sin was sin, he said. We must honestly acknowledge our sin in order to receive Divine Mercy. God can’t forgive a sin we insist isn’t even there. Whew! Just a few months before, such a response would have offended and angered me. But now it convicted me. I realized that — despite my novena prayers — I still regarded NFP as an “option,” rather than something that was required. This was wrong. To experience the freedom I longed for, I must renounce mortal sin entirely. So I did. I even cut the diaphragm into ribbons. That was the beginning of my long spiritual journey back into the bosom of the Church — back to the Eucharist and frequent Confession, to the Rosary and Marian devotion. In the process, my prayer life has blossomed, and my relationship with Jesus has deepened. I feel closer than ever before to His Merciful Sacred Heart. And I feel closer to my neighbor, too, since I can finally see every person through the prism of Christ’s boundless love. I have also discovered the power of redemptive suffering — the joy of offering up hurts and annoyances for the salvation of souls. And I have only scratched the surface. Conversion is a continual process, involving frequent setbacks, spiritual warfare, daily repentance and renewal. But I cannot imagine life any other way. And I can never return to the cafeteria Catholicism that trapped me just a few years ago, before I encountered God’s marvelous mercy in cyberspace.
“5 Myths about 7 Books”
Here are the answers to five common arguments Protestants give for rejecting the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament
By Mark Shea
People don’t talk much about the deuterocanon these days. The folks who do are mostly Christians, and they usually fall into two general groupings: Catholics – who usually don’t know their Bibles very well and, therefore, don’t know much about the deuterocanonical books, and Protestants – who may know their Bibles a bit better, though their Bibles don’t have the deuterocanonical books in them anyway, so they don’t know anything about them either. With the stage thus set for informed ecumenical dialogue, it’s no wonder most people think the deuterocanon is some sort of particle weapon recently perfected by the Pentagon.
The deuterocanon (ie. “second canon”) is a set of seven books – Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as longer versions of Daniel and Esther – that are found in the Old Testament canon used by Catholics, but are not in the Old Testament canon used by Protestants, who typically refer to them by the mildly pejorative term “apocrypha.” This group of books is called “deuterocanonical” not (as some imagine) because they are a “second rate” or inferior canon, but because their status as being part of the canon of Scripture was settled later in time than certain books that always and everywhere were regarded as Scripture, such as Genesis, Isaiah, and Psalms.
Why are Protestant Bibles missing these books? Protestants offer various explanations to explain why they reject the deuterocanonical books as Scripture. I call these explanations “myths” because they are either incorrect or simply inadequate reasons for rejecting these books of Scripture. Let’s explore the five most common of these myths and see how to respond to them.
The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected it.
The background to this theory goes like this: Jesus and the Apostles, being Jews, used the same Bible Jews use today. However, after they passed from the scene, muddled hierarchs started adding books to the Bible either out of ignorance or because such books helped back up various wacky Catholic traditions that were added to the gospel. In the 16th century, when the Reformation came along, the first Protestants, finally able to read their Bibles without ecclesial propaganda from Rome, noticed that the Jewish and Catholic Old Testaments differed, recognized this medieval addition for what it was and scraped it off the Word of God like so many barnacles off a diamond. Rome, ever ornery, reacted by officially adding the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent (1564-1565) and started telling Catholics “they had always been there.”
This is a fine theory. The problem is that its basis in history is gossamer thin. As we’ll see in a moment, accepting this myth leads to some remarkable dilemmas a little further on.
The problems with this theory are first, it relies on the incorrect notion that the modern Jewish Bible is identical to the Bible used by Jesus and the Apostles. This is false. In fact, the Old Testament was still very much in flux in the time of Christ and there was no fixed canon of Scripture in the apostolic period. Some people will tell you that there must have been since, they say, Jesus held people accountable to obey the Scriptures. But this is also untrue. For in fact, Jesus held people accountable to obey their conscience and therefore, to obey Scripture insofar as they were able to grasp what constituted “Scripture.”
Consider the Sadducees. They only regarded the first five books of the Old Testament as inspired and canonical. The rest of the Old Testament was regarded by them in much the same way the deuterocanon is regarded by Protestant Christians today: nice, but not the inspired Word of God. This was precisely why the Sadducees argued with Jesus against the reality of the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33: they couldn’t see it in the five books of Moses and they did not regard the later books of Scripture which spoke of it explicitly (such as Isaiah and 2 Maccabees) to be inspired and canonical. Does Jesus say to them “You do greatly err, not knowing Isaiah and 2 Maccabees”? Does He bind them to acknowledge these books as canonical? No. He doesn’t try to drag the Sadducees kicking and screaming into an expanded Old Testament. He simply holds the Sadducees accountable to take seriously the portion of Scripture they do acknowledge: that is, He argues for the resurrection based on the five books of the Law. But of course, this doesn’t mean Jesus commits Himself to the Sadducees’ whittled-down canon.
When addressing the Pharisees, another Jewish faction of the time, Jesus does the same thing. These Jews seem to have held to a canon resembling the modern Jewish canon, one far larger than that of the Sadducees but not as large as other Jewish collections of Scripture. That’s why Christ and the Apostles didn’t hesitate to argue with them from the books they acknowledged as Scripture. But as with the Sadducees, this doesn’t imply that Christ or the Apostles limited the canon of Scripture only to what the Pharisees acknowledged.
When the Lord and His Apostles addressed Greek-speaking Diaspora Jews, they made use of an even bigger collection of Scripture – the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek – which many Jews (the vast majority, in fact) regarded as inspired Scripture. In fact, we find that the New Testament is filled with references to the Septuagint (and its particular translation of various Old Testament passages) as Scripture. It’s a strange irony that one of the favorite passages used in anti-Catholic polemics over the years is Mark 7:6-8. In this passage Christ condemns “teaching as doctrines human traditions.” This verse has formed the basis for countless complaints against the Catholic Church for supposedly “adding” to Scripture man-made traditions, such as the “merely human works” of the deuterocanononical books. But few realize that in Mark 7:6-8 the Lord was quoting the version of Isaiah that is found only in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.
But there’s the rub: The Septuagint version of Scripture, from which Christ quoted, includes the Deuterocanonical books, books that were supposedly “added” by Rome in the 16th century. And this is by no means the only citation of the Septuagint in the New Testament. In fact, fully two thirds of the Old Testament passages that are quoted in the New Testament are from the Septuagint. So why aren’t the deuterocanonical books in today’s Jewish Bible, anyway? Because the Jews who formulated the modern Jewish canon were a) not interested in apostolic teaching and, b) driven by a very different set of concerns from those motivating the apostolic community.
In fact, it wasn’t until the very end of the apostolic age that the Jews, seeking a new focal point for their religious practice in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, zeroed in with white hot intensity on Scripture and fixed their canon at the rabbinical gathering, known as the “Council of Javneh” (sometimes called “Jamnia”), about A.D. 90. Prior to this point in time there had never been any formal effort among the Jews to “define the canon” of Scripture. In fact, Scripture nowhere indicates that the Jews even had a conscious idea that the canon should be closed at some point.
The canon arrived at by the rabbis at Javneh was essentially the mid-sized canon of the Palestinian Pharisees, not the shorter one used by the Sadducees, who had been practically annihilated during the Jewish war with Rome. Nor was this new canon consistent with the Greek Septuagint version, which the rabbis regarded rather xenophobically as “too Gentile-tainted.” Remember, these Palestinian rabbis were not in much of a mood for multiculturalism after the catastrophe they had suffered at the hands of Rome. Their people had been slaughtered by foreign invaders, the Temple defiled and destroyed, and the Jewish religion in Palestine was in shambles. So for these rabbis, the Greek Septuagint went by the board and the mid-sized Pharisaic canon was adopted. Eventually this version was adopted by the vast majority of Jews – though not all. Even today Ethiopian Jews still use the Septuagint version, not the shorter Palestinian canon settled upon by the rabbis at Javneh. In other words, the Old Testament canon recognized by Ethiopian Jews is identical to the Catholic Old Testament, including the seven deuterocanonical books (cf. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).
But remember that by the time the Jewish council of Javneh rolled around, the Catholic Church had been in existence and using the Septuagint Scriptures in its teaching, preaching, and worship for nearly 60 years, just as the Apostles themselves had done. So the Church hardly felt the obligation to conform to the wishes of the rabbis in excluding the deuterocanonical books any more than they felt obliged to follow the rabbis in rejecting the New Testament writings. The fact is that after the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost, the rabbis no longer had authority from God to settle such issues. That authority, including the authority to define the canon of Scripture, had been given to Christ’s Church.
Thus, Church and synagogue went their separate ways, not in the Middle Ages or the 16th century, but in the 1st century. The Septuagint, complete with the deuterocanononical books, was first embraced, not by the Council of Trent, but by Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles.
Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the Lord would have cited them.
This myth rests on two fallacies. The first is the “Quotation Equals Canonicity” myth. It assumes that if a book is quoted or alluded to by the Apostles or Christ, it is ipso facto shown to be part of the Old Testament. Conversely, if a given book is not quoted, it must not be canonical.
This argument fails for two reasons. First, numerous non-canonical books are quoted in the New Testament. These include the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses (quoted by St. Jude), the Ascension of Isaiah (alluded to in Hebrews 11:37), and the writings of the pagan poets Epimenides, Aratus, and Menander (quoted by St. Paul in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus). If quotation equals canonicity, then why aren’t these writings in the canon of the Old Testament?
Second, if quotation equals canonicity, then there are numerous books of the protocanonical Old Testament which would have to be excluded. This would include the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations and Nahum. Not one of these Old Testament books is ever quoted or alluded to by Christ or the Apostles in the New Testament.
The other fallacy behind Myth #2 is that, far from being ignored in the New Testament (like Ecclesiastes, Esther, and 1 Chronicles) the deuterocanonical books are indeed quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. For instance, Wisdom 2:12-20, reads in part, “For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
This passage was clearly in the minds of the Synoptic Gospel writers in their accounts of the Crucifixion: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, I am the Son of God’” (cf. Matthew 27:42-43).
Similarly, St. Paul alludes clearly to Wisdom chapters 12 and 13 in Romans 1:19-25. Hebrews 11:35 refers unmistakably to 2 Maccabees 7. And more than once, Christ Himself drew on the text of Sirach 27:6, which reads: “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man’s speech disclose the bent of his mind.” Notice too that the Lord and His Apostles observed the Jewish feast of Hanukkah (cf. John 10:22-36). But the divine establishment of this key feast day is recorded only in the deuterocanonical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. It is nowhere discussed in any other book of the Old Testament. In light of this, consider the importance of Christ’s words on the occasion of this feast: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the One Whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world?” Jesus, standing near the Temple during the feast of Hanukkah, speaks of His being “set apart,” just as Judas Maccabeus “set apart” (ie. consecrated) the Temple in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. In other words, our Lord made a connection that was unmistakable to His Jewish hearers by treating the Feast of Hanukkah and the account of it in the books of the Maccabees as an image or type of His own consecration by the Father. That is, He treats the Feast of Hanukkah from the so-called “apocryphal” books of 1 and 2 Maccabees exactly as He treats accounts of the manna (John 6:32-33; Exodus 16:4), the Bronze Serpent (John 3:14; Numbers 21:4-9), and Jacob’s Ladder (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12) – as inspired, prophetic, scriptural images of Himself. We see this pattern throughout the New Testament. There is no distinction made by Christ or the Apostles between the deuterocanonical books and the rest of the Old Testament.
The deuterocanonical books contain historical, geographical, and moral errors, so they can’t be inspired Scripture.
This myth might be raised when it becomes clear that the allegation that the deuterocanonical books were “added” by the Catholic Church is fallacious. This myth is built on another attempt to distinguish between the deuterocanonical books and “true Scripture.” Let’s examine it.
First, from a certain perspective, there are “errors” in the deuterocanonical books. The book of Judith, for example, gets several points of history and geography wrong. Similarly Judith, that glorious daughter of Israel, lies her head off (well, actually, it’s wicked King Holofernes’ head that comes off). And the Angel Raphael appears under a false name to Tobit. How can Catholics explain that such “divinely inspired” books would endorse lying and get their facts wrong? The same way we deal with other incidents in Scripture where similar incidents of lying or “errors” happen.
Let’s take the problem of alleged “factual errors” first. The Church teaches that to have an authentic understanding of Scripture we must have in mind what the author was actually trying to assert, the way he was trying to assert it, and what is incidental to that assertion.
For example, when Jesus begins the parable of the Prodigal Son saying, “There was once a man with two sons,” He is not shown to be a bad historian when it is proven that the man with two sons He describes didn’t actually exist. So too, when the prophet Nathan tells King David the story of the “rich man” who stole a “poor man’s” ewe lamb and slaughtered it, Nathan is not a liar if he cannot produce the carcass or identify the two men in his story. In strict fact, there was no ewe lamb, no theft, and no rich and poor men. These details were used in a metaphor to rebuke King David for his adultery with Bathsheba. We know what Nathan was trying to say and the way he was trying to say it. Likewise, when the Gospels say the women came to the tomb at sunrise, there is no scientific error here. This is not the assertion of the Ptolemiac theory that the sun revolves around the earth. These and other examples which could be given are not “errors” because they’re not truth claims about astronomy or historical events.
Similarly, both Judith and Tobit have a number of historical and geographical errors, not because they’re presenting bad history and erroneous geography, but because they’re first-rate pious stories that don’t pretend to be remotely interested with teaching history or geography, any more than the Resurrection narratives in the Gospels are interested in astronomy. Indeed, the author of Tobit goes out of his way to make clear that his hero is fictional. He makes Tobit the uncle of Ahiqar, a figure in ancient Semitic folklore like “Jack the Giant Killer” or “Aladdin.” Just as one wouldn’t wave a medieval history textbook around and complain about a tale that begins “once upon a time when King Arthur ruled the land,” so Catholics are not reading Tobit and Judith to get a history lesson.
Very well then, but what of the moral and theological “errors”? Judith lies. Raphael gives a false name. So they do. In the case of Judith lying to King Holofernes in order to save her people, we must recall that she was acting in light of Jewish understanding as it had developed until that time. This meant that she saw her deception as acceptable, even laudable, because she was eliminating a deadly foe of her people. By deceiving Holofernes as to her intentions and by asking the Lord to bless this tactic, she was not doing something alien to Jewish Scripture or Old Testament morality. Another biblical example of this type of lying is when the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh about the birth of Moses. They lied and were justified in lying because Pharaoh did not have a right to the truth – if they told the truth, he would have killed Moses. If the book of Judith is to be excluded from the canon on this basis, so must Exodus.
With respect to Raphael, it’s much more dubious that the author intended, or that his audience understood him to mean, “Angels lie. So should you.” On the contrary, Tobit is a classic example of an “entertaining angels unaware” story (cf. Heb. 13:2). We know who Raphael is all along. When Tobit cried out to God for help, God immediately answered him by sending Raphael. But, as is often the case, God’s deliverance was not noticed at first. Raphael introduced himself as “Azariah,” which means “Yahweh helps,” and then rattles off a string of supposed mutual relations, all with names meaning things like “Yahweh is merciful,” “Yahweh gives,” and “Yahweh hears.” By this device, the author is saying (with a nudge and a wink), “Psst, audience. Get it?” And we, of course, do get it, particularly if we’re reading the story in the original Hebrew. Indeed, by using the name “Yahweh helps,” Raphael isn’t so much “lying” about his real name as he is revealing the deepest truth about who God is and why God sent him to Tobit. It’s that truth and not any fluff about history or geography or the fun using an alias that the author of Tobit aims to tell.
The deuterocanonical books themselves deny that they are inspired Scripture.
Correction: Two of the deuterocanonical books seem to disclaim inspiration, and even that is a dicey proposition. The two in question are Sirach and 2 Maccabees. Sirach opens with a brief preface by the author’s grandson saying, in part, that he is translating grandpa’s book, that he thinks the book important and that, “You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages.” Likewise, the editor of 2 Maccabees opens with comments about how tough it was to compose the book and closes with a sort of shrug saying, “I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do.”
That, and that alone, is the basis for the myth that the deuterocanon (all seven books and not just these two) “denies that it is inspired Scripture.” Several things can be said in response to this argument.
First, is it reasonable to think that these typically oriental expressions of humility really constitute anything besides a sort of gesture of politeness and the customary downplaying of one’s own talents, something common among ancient writers in Middle Eastern cultures? No. For example, one may as well say that St. Paul’s declaration of himself as “one born abnormally” or as being the “chief of sinners” (he mentions this in the present, not past tense) necessarily makes his writings worthless.
Second, speaking of St. Paul, we are confronted by even stronger and explicit examples of disclaimers regarding inspired status of his writings, yet no Protestant would feel compelled to exclude these Pauline writings from the New Testament canon. Consider his statement in 1 Corinthians 1:16 that he can’t remember whom he baptized. Using the “It oughtta sound more like the Holy Spirit talking” criterion of biblical inspiration Protestants apply to the deuterocanonical books, St. Paul would fail the test here. Given this amazing criterion, are we to believe the Holy Spirit “forgot” whom St. Paul baptized, or did He inspire St. Paul to forget (1 Cor. 1:15)?
1 Corinthians 7:40 provides an ambiguous statement that could, according to the principles of this myth, be understood to mean that St. Paul wasn’t sure that his teaching was inspired or not. Elsewhere St. Paul makes it clear that certain teachings he’s passing along are “not I, but the Lord” speaking (1 Cor. 7:10), whereas in other cases, “I, not the Lord” am speaking (cf. 1 Cor. 7:12). This is a vastly more direct “disclaimer of inspiration” than the oblique deuterocanonical passages cited above, yet nobody argues that St. Paul’s writings should be excluded from Scripture, as some say the whole of the deuterocanon should be excluded from the Old Testament, simply on the strength of these modest passages from Sirach and 2 Maccabees.
Why not? Because in St. Paul’s case people recognize that a writer can be writing under inspiration even when he doesn’t realize it and doesn’t claim it, and that inspiration is not such a flat-footed affair as “direct dictation” by the Holy Spirit to the author. Indeed, we even recognize that the Spirit can inspire the writers to make true statements about themselves, such as when St. Paul tells the Corinthians he couldn’t remember whom he had baptized.
To tweak the old proverb, “What’s sauce for the apostolic goose is sauce for the deuterocanonical gander.” The writers of the deuterocanonical books can tell the truth about themselves – that they think writing is tough, translating is hard, and that they are not sure they’ve done a terrific job – without such admissions calling into question the inspired status of what they wrote. This myth proves nothing other than the Catholic doctrine that the books of Sacred Scripture really were composed by human beings who remained fully human and free, even as they wrote under the direct inspiration of God.
The early Church Fathers, such as St. Athanasius and St. Jerome (who translated the official Bible of the Catholic Church), rejected the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, and the Catholic Church added these books to the canon at the Council of Trent.
First, no Church Father is infallible. That charism is reserved uniquely to the pope, in an extraordinary sense and, in an ordinary sense, corporately to all the lawful bishops of the Catholic Church who are in full communion with the pope and are teaching definitively in an ecumenical council. Second, our understanding of doctrine develops. This means that doctrines which may not have been clearly defined sometimes get defined. A classic example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity, which wasn’t defined until A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicaea, nearly 300 years after Christ’s earthly ministry. In the intervening time, we can find a few Fathers writing before Nicaea who, in good faith, expressed theories about the nature of the Godhead that were rendered inadequate after Nicaea’s definition. This doesn’t make them heretics. It just means that Michael Jordan misses layups once in awhile. Likewise, the canon of Scripture, though it more or less assumed its present shape – which included the deuterocanonical books – by about A.D. 380, nonetheless wasn’t dogmatically defined by the Church for another thousand years. In that thousand years, it was quite on the cards for believers to have some flexibility in how they regarded the canon. And this applies to the handful of Church Fathers and theologians who expressed reservations about the deuterocanon. Their private opinions about the deuterocanon were just that: private opinions.
And finally, this myth begins to disintegrate when you point out that the overwhelming majority of Church Fathers and other early Christian writers regarded the deuterocanonical books as having exactly the same inspired, scriptural status as the other Old Testament books. Just a few examples of this acceptance can be found in the Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas, the Council of Rome, the Council of Hippo, the Third Council of Carthage, the African Code, the Apostolic Constitutions, and the writings of Pope St. Clement I (Epistle to the Corinthians), St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Hippolytus, St. Cyprian of Carthage, Pope St. Damasus I, St. Augustine, and Pope St. Innocent I.
But last and most interesting of all in this stellar lineup is a certain Father already mentioned: St. Jerome. In his later years St. Jerome did indeed accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, “What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn’t relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us” (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). In earlier correspondence with Pope Damasus, Jerome did not call the deuterocanonical books unscriptural, he simply said that Jews he knew did not regard them as canonical. But for himself, he acknowledged the authority of the Church in defining the canon. When Pope Damasus and the Councils of Carthage and Hippo included the deuterocanon in Scripture, that was good enough for St. Jerome. He “followed the judgment of the churches.”
Martin Luther, however, did not. And this brings us to the “remarkable dilemmas” I referred to at the start of this article of trusting the Protestant Reformers’ private opinions about the deuterocanon. The fact is, if we follow Luther in throwing out the deuterocanonical books despite the overwhelming evidence from history showing that we shouldn’t (ie. the unbroken tradition of the Church and the teachings of councils and popes), we get much more than we bargained for.
For Luther also threw out a goodly chunk of the New Testament. Of James, for example, he said, “I do not regard it as the writing of an Apostle,” because he believed it “is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works” (Preface to James’ Epistle). Likewise, in other writings he underscores this rejection of James from the New Testament, calling it “an epistle full of straw . . . for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it” (Preface to the New Testament).
But the Epistle of James wasn’t the only casualty on Luther’s hit list. He also axed from the canon Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation, consigning them to a quasi-canonical status. It was only by an accident of history that these books were not expelled by Protestantism from the New Testament as Sirach, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees and the rest were expelled from the Old. In the same way, it is largely the ignorance of this sad history that drives many to reject the deuterocanonical books.
Unless, of course, we reject the myths and come to an awareness of what the canon of Scripture, including the deuterocanonical books, is really based on. The only basis we have for determining the canon of the Scripture is the authority of the Church Christ established, through whom the Scriptures came. As St. Jerome said, it is upon the basis of “the judgment of the churches” and no other that the canon of Scripture is known, since the Scriptures are simply the written portion of the Church’s apostolic tradition. And the judgment of the churches is rendered throughout history as it was rendered in Acts 15 by means of a council of bishops in union with St. Peter. The books we have in our Bibles were accepted according to whether they did or did not measure up to standards based entirely on Sacred Tradition and the divinely delegated authority of the Body of Christ in council and in union with Peter.
The fact of the matter is that neither the Council of Trent nor the Council of Florence added a thing to the Old Testament canon. Rather, they simply accepted and formally ratified the ancient practice of the Apostles and early Christians by dogmatically defining a collection of Old Testament Scripture (including the deuterocanon) that had been there since before the time of Christ, used by our Lord and his apostles, inherited and assumed by the Fathers, formulated and reiterated by various councils and popes for centuries and read in the liturgy and prayer for 1500 years.
When certain people decided to snip some of this canon out in order to suit their theological opinions, the Church moved to prevent it by defining (both at Florence and Trent) that this very same canon was, in fact, the canon of the Church’s Old Testament and always had been.
Far from adding the books to the authentic canon of Scripture, the Catholic Church simply did its best to keep people from subtracting books that belong there. That’s no myth. That’s history.
By Father Hugh Barbour, O. Praem
Baptism = Born Again
The early Church knew how to get born again the “Bible way.”
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus was speaking about baptism, the effects of which are eradication of original sin, remission of all actual sins, and an infusion of sanctifying grace.
In spite of the scriptural evidence (Acts 2:14-40, 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 6:11; Col. 2:11-12; Gal. 3:27; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21), many if not most Protestants deny that the sacrament of baptism is necessary for salvation and that it has any intrinsic power to take away sin or bestow divine grace. Let’s look at what the earliest Christians believed and taught on this subject.
“Before a man bears the name of the Son of God he is [spiritually] dead, but when he receives the seal he lays aside his deadness and receives life. The seal then is the water; they descend into the water dead and they arise alive. And to them accordingly was this seal preached, and they made use of it that they might enter into the kingdom of God” (The Shepherd 9:16 [A.D. 96]).
“Regarding [baptism], we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins, and would set up a substitution of their own instead . . . Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls” (ibid. 11:1-10).
The Epistle of Barnabas
“We descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear of God and trust in Jesus in our spirit” (11 [A.D. 138]).
Just as in the Gospels, baptism is an indispensable source of forgiveness and salvation, under the condition of faith and good works:
“[Christ says] And I poured out upon them with My right hand the water of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and to them that believe in Me. But if any believes in Me and does not follow My commandments, although he has confessed My Name he shall have no profit from It” (27 [A.D. 140]).
St. Justin Martyr
This great apologist for the Catholic Faith is worth quoting more than once. He defended the Church’s teachings against pagan attacks.
“Then they [catechumens] are brought by us to where there is water, and they are reborn in the same manner in which we were ourselves reborn. For in the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’. . . That they may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again and has repented of his sins, the Name of God the Father and Lord of the universe . . . But also in the Name of Jesus Christ Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit, Who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed” (First Apology 61 [ante A.D. 165]).
St. Irenaeus of Lyons
This great defender of the Faith refuted the prominent heresy of his day, Gnosticism (an early version of today’s New Age Movement). He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. Irenaeus speaks of how Polycarp taught him the truths of the Faith and how he often heard Polycarp reminisce about his personal encounters with St. John.
“Before all else the Faith insistently invites us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of Jesus Christ, Son of God incarnate, dead and risen, and in the Holy Spirit of God, that baptism is the seal of eternal life, the new birth in God, so that we are no longer sons of mortal men, but of God, eternal and indestructible” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching 3 [A.D. 175]).
“The baptism which makes us be born again passes through these three articles of faith (in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and permits us to be reborn to God the Father through His Son and in the Holy Spirit” (ibid. 7 [A.D. 175]).
St. Theophilus of Antioch
Theophilus, like Ignatius, was bishop of Antioch in Syria. He wrote a treatise to a pagan friend explaining Christianity and answering his friend’s objections. Interestingly, he is the first Christian writer to use the word “trinity” (Greek: triados, the cognate of the Latin, Trinitas) in reference to the mystery of three Persons in one God. Here he discusses the divine life which is at the heart of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration:
“Those three days of creation before the lights in the heavens are an image of the Trinity, of God, of His Word, and His Wisdom (i.e., the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God blessed the creatures of the water, so that this might be a sign that men would receive penance and remission of sins through water and the bath of rebirth, as many, that is, as came to the truth and were reborn, and received blessing from God” (Ad Autolycum 2:15 [A.D. 181]).
While he was still a Catholic, during the time of persecutions before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Tertullian wrote the only complete work on a sacrament of baptism. This treatise, On Baptism, is a powerful defense of baptismal regeneration. Specifically, he refutes those who claim that faith in Christ alone (apart from the sacrament of baptism) is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins and spiritual rebirth described by Christ in John 3:3-5:
“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous. . . . [t]aking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed. . . . Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins” (On Baptism 1:1; 5:6; 7:2 [circa A.D. 198]).
“Good enough, but faith means faith in all Christ did and said to do, so it includes being baptized. . . . And so they say, ‘Baptism is not necessary to them to whom faith is sufficient, for after all, Abraham pleased God by no sacrament of water, but of faith.’ But in all cases it is the later precedent that proves the point. Grant, for the sake of argument, that in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and has become a faith which believes in His Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the faith; this is the sealing act of baptism. . . . For the law of baptism has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: ‘Go,’ He said ‘and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ The comparison of this law with that definition, ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ has tied faith to the necessity of baptism” (Ibid. 13 [A.D. 198]).
St. Clement of Alexandria
“When we are baptized we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal. ‘I say,’ God declares, ‘you are gods and sons all of the Most High’ (Psalm 81:6). This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation – that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly, it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God’s grace. Because God is perfect the gifts he bestows are perfect” (The Instructor of Children 1:6, 26:1 [ante A.D. 202]).
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.’ Here also is shown and proved, that as in the bath of saving water the fire of hell is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued. And because in baptism the remission of sins is granted once only, constant and ceaseless labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God. . . .” (On Works and Alms 2 [A.D. 254]).
“In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins, in the baptism of blood, the reward of virtues,” (To Fortunatus preface [A.D. 257]).
St. Ephraim the Syrian
Outside the Roman Empire, coming from a background that was neither Latin nor Greek, the teachings of this Syrian Father, St. Ephraim, are proof that the Catholic Faith is not some Greco-Roman perversion of the New Testament Church. Here is a passage from one of his hymns for use in liturgical worship, a hymn still used today by Syrian Catholics. It is addressed to the newly baptized:
“Your garments glisten as snow; and fair is your shining in the likeness of angels. . . . Woe in paradise did Adam receive, but you have received glory this day. . . . The good things of heaven you have received; beware of the devil lest he deceive you. . . . The evil one made war and deceived Adam’s house; through your baptism, behold! he is overcome today. . . Glory to them that are robed in the birth that is from the water; let them rejoice and be blessed!” (Hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany: of the Baptized 12 [A.D. 370]).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism (cf., Mark 10:38). . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness” (Catechetical Lectures 3:10,12 [circa A.D. 350]).
St. Basil the Great
“For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a protector royal, a gift of adoption” (Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects: On Baptism 13:5 [ante A.D. 379]).
St. Ambrose of Milan
“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the Flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 2:83 [circa A.D. 389]).
St. John Chrysostom
“How then shall we be able to give an account of the unseen birth by baptism, which is far more exalted than these?… Even angels stand in awe while that birth takes place . . . the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work it all. Let us then believe the declaration of God, for that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, but God’s Word cannot fail; let us then believe it. . . . What then does it say? That what happens is a birth. . . . If any inquire, ‘Why is water needed?’ let us ask in return, ‘Why did God use earth to form man?’. . . Do not be over-curious. That the need of water is absolute and indispensable you may learn in this way” (Homily 25 on John 2 [A.D. 391]).
St. Augustine of Hippo
Baptism is not merely an external sign of faith already possessed by the one to be baptized; it is the power of God cleansing the soul of the sinner, even in the case of infants:
“The cleansing would not at all be attributed to a passing and corruptible element, unless the word were added to it. This word possesses such power that through the medium of him who in faith presents, blesses, and pours it, even a tiny infant is cleansed, although he is as yet unable to believe with the heart unto justice, and to make profession with the mouth for salvation” (Commentaries on St. John 80:3 [A.D. 411]).
Additional texts from the Church Fathers on baptismal regeneration:
St. Ignatius of Antioch: Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7 (A.D. 117); St. Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 14 (ante A.D. 165); Didymus the Blind: On the Trinity 2:12 (A.D. 391); St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures 2:4; Protocatechesis 16 (A.D. 350); St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on John 10:3, 25:2 (A.D. 391); Homilies on Hebrews 5:3,19:2-3 (A.D. 403); St. Ambrose of Milan: On the Mysteries 1-7 (A.D. 390); St. Pacian of Barcelona: Sermon on Baptism (ante A.D. 392); St. Jerome: Letter 69 5-7 (A.D. 397); Dialogue Against the Pelagians 3:1 (A.D. 413); St. Augustine of Hippo: Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity 64 (A.D. 421); On Marriage and Concupiscence 1:33-38 (A.D. 419); On Adulterous Spouses 2:16 (A.D. 420); On the City of God 20:6 (A.D. 426); On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism 1:9, 24; 2:27 (A.D. 412); On Baptism 1:12 (A.D. 400); Sermon on the Creed 1:7 214 (A.D. 418?); On the Gospel of John 6:7, 15-16 (A.D. 408); Pope St. Leo the Great: Letter 16 2-7 (A.D. 447).
(Catholic teaching on the sacrament of baptism is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1213-1284.)
BY STEVE RAY
Fathers can be gentle and warm, but they can also be tough and severe at times. I remember every spanking I ever received from my father — and I deserved every one of them. His hand was large, and so was its impact upon me (no pun intended). The spanking always redirected my behavior and brought about a commitment to avoid such punishment in the future.
Because my father loved me and gave me his time and affection, I was able to accept the discipline of love upon my backside. I always had more respect for him at that moment than at any other time. He loved me enough to be tough and demanding. He loved me enough to cause short-term pain to instill long-term character.
Love shouldn’t be confused with simply being nice. Though love often includes being nice, “niceness” is certainly not a synonym for real love. Love is often tough and can initially be perceived as hard or insensitive.
In a similar way, St. Paul was a father in the faith to the churches who received his letters, and he sometimes had to show them tough love. One particular new church, the church of the Galatians in the far-off land of Asia Minor, heard some of Paul’s harshest words and threats of discipline. He spoke sternly to his children — but he spoke even more severely to their enemies. He spoke with a righteous anger and exasperation to the “Judaizers,” as he called them, who intended to upset the applecart and ruin the souls of his children. Thus Paul stepped into the Galatian situation as a protective, loving father, and he stepped in with both feet.
An Early Heresy
But let’s set the stage first. Galatia was located in what is now Turkey. The apostle wrote to the church there sometime between A. D. 48 and 54. (The exact location and date has been a matter of intense debate, outside the scope of this article.)
Paul traveled north from Israel into this land and preached the gospel of grace to Jews and Gentiles alike. The Galatians received the word from him “as an angel of God” (Gal 4:14). Nevertheless, after receiving the good news from Paul, they began listening to others from Jerusalem who confused them with heresy.
Now “heresy” is an unpopular word today — politically incorrect — but it has been an essential word throughout the history of the Church. The term originally meant a “choice or self-willed opinion,” and it was later used to describe an unorthodox teaching, one that was wrong and damaging and caused division. In this particular case, heretics had come to the Galatians saying Paul was wrong and only presented a partial truth.
To understand the great frustrations and drama swirling around this vulnerable new church in Galatia, we must first understand a pinnacle chapter in the Acts of the Apostles: chapter 15. The issue emerging both there and in Galatia involved race as well as religion. It had to do with divided societies and the requirement of the New Covenant to integrate previously separate societies.
The Jew and Gentile had to become one in Christ. But how? Some of the Jewish converts said that to become a Christian the uncircumcised pagan had first to become a Jew. They said: “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Needless to say, this requirement caused many problems and was no boon to evangelism (see Acts 15:1).
The confidence of the Galatians began to crumble; they feared they weren’t saved by grace and faith as Paul had delivered it to them. Maybe Paul was wrong! Maybe he had only given them part of the truth. Maybe they should abandon Paul and his teaching.
Yet Paul wouldn’t stand for his children’s being dismayed and confused by the traveling heretics and troublemakers. He argued in his letter to the Galatians that circumcision is not necessary, and he scolded them for their “misbehavior” as any loving father would. He got tough!
“O stupid Galatians!” he chided. “Who has bewitched you?” (3:1 NAB). Some translations render the Greek term here as “foolish.” But the New American Bible uses the English word “stupid” to signify Paul’s disappointment in their senseless and unworthy lack of understanding.
The apostle spoke forcefully to get their attention. And at the end of his letter he was so frustrated with those who were demanding Gentile circumcision for entrance into the Christian faith that he vented his righteous indignation by wishing they would slip with the knife and cut off more than intended — the male organs — saying, “Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!” (5:12 NAB).
Theology wasn’t the only argument Paul uses in this epistle. In fact, he came at the “bewitched” believers from every angle, arguing from the Old Testament, especially using Abraham as Exhibit One.
Was Abraham justified before God by circumcision and following the many requirements of Moses to earn his salvation? he asked. Of course not. When was Abraham justified? Wasn’t it before circumcision, before Moses, before all the 613 laws of Moses? How was Exhibit One justified: as a Jew or a Gentile? Wasn’t Abraham a pagan Gentile from a pagan land?
Was God’s first requirement circumcision? No. Was it faith and obedience? Yes. “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness,” or as other translations render it: “he believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (see Gal 3:6, also Gen 15:6, Rom 4:3).
So in the courtroom drama that Paul set up, the key witness and exhibit — Abraham — flies in the face of the Judaizers who claim to be his sons but in actuality teach contrary to the example of their father in faith. Abraham’s example demonstrates that the Judaizers were wrong, for preaching the need to “obligate God” through efforts to “earn” salvation.
Paul also argued from his own impressive life story. If anyone was knowledgeable of these matters of the law, it was Paul. He reminded them that he had “persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” “I progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,” he recalled, “since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions” (1:13-14 NAB). He was a Jew of Jews and trained in the Law more than them all. He knew what he was talking about.
Did Paul’s gospel contradict what was taught by the apostles in the great mother Church in Jerusalem? No. He had confirmed his gospel with them, he noted, and he had been given the right hand of fellowship by Peter himself. So why were the Galatians listening to and being deceived by the false teachers and heretics?
Harsh But Loving Words
“Are you so stupid?” Paul asked them. “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (3:3 NAB) — a sarcastic reference to circumcision. Don’t you understand? he pressed. There were “false brothers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us — to them we did not submit even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain intact for you” (Gal 2:4-5).
The father spoke harshly but truthfully. He spoke with tough love to save his children from confusion, slavery, and damnation. Justification is through faith in Christ, he insisted, which of course includes the aspect of obedience within its very fabric and definition. It doesn’t come through Jewish ritual performed on the flesh. This declaration is the very heart of this fatherly epistle — and the heart of the New Testament.
Sadly enough, Martin Luther and others following in his wake interpreted this great epistle of liberty outside of its historical, cultural, and religious context. They anachronistically read into it the Protestant arguments against the Catholic Church. In so doing, like the Judaizers, they misrepresented the full gospel, not by adding to it as the Judaizers had done, but by stripping it of its fullness, an error that Father Paul would have opposed with the same tough love.
Romans and Galatians deal with the same themes and arguments. But Galatians is much more personal and impassioned, while Romans is theoretical and formal. Paul knew and loved the Galatians as his own children, while his letter to the Romans was written to Christians who weren’t close personal acquaintances.
Galatians may possibly be the “rough draft” for which Romans is the full text. Like Romans, Galatians is an intensely Catholic epistle. The foundations of the Catholic Church lie deep within these letters, and to understand them in their fulness we need to read and listen to them in their native environment — that is, within the heart of the Church as it grew within the milieu of the first century.
Thorn in the Flesh
Several interesting items deserve notice in this epistle. Paul informed us in 2 Corinthians 12:8 that God had given him some physical ailment, a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and to demonstrate God’s great strength even through the ailment. In Galatians there may be clues as to what the “thorn” was.
It might have been an eye disease, possibly brought on by the light that blinded him at his conversion (see Acts 9:8). The apostle wrote: “It was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you” and “if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (Gal 4:13, 15). Why would he say this if the physical ailment wasn’t related to the eyes?
Later Paul concluded, writing the last few lines himself (rather than dictating them), “See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand” (Gal 6:11). It seems as though his eyesight prevented him from writing in the finer script of the scribe in the lines that had preceded. The apostle may very well have been legally blind by modern standards.
This is a short epistle, probably just a “pamphlet” by today’s standards. But into this brief letter Paul packs incredible passion and content. It’s like a tightly compressed zip file in a computer. Time and work are required to unzip this tremendous piece of literature.
In Galatians, Paul’s soul shines brilliantly, displaying his keen logic, his biting and even sarcastic irony, and his tender affection. It’s powerful in every detail. With a little imagination we can envision Paul dictating this letter with the animation of an actor, the tears of a distant parent, and the intensity of a master debater. This is one of his treasures, and few written documents have been loved and studied more carefully.
Paul closed with irony and a pun, a clever play on words. He had mentioned his own physical ailment and wounds sustained for the gospel — the marks of the cross, figuratively speaking — and he said: “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (Gal 6:17). This claim stood in sharp and pointed contrast to those who wanted to make their marks of Moses on the new believers — marks made with the knife on human flesh.
Finally, Paul prayed for them: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers [not the law of Moses on your flesh]. Amen, brothers. Amen” (see Gal 6:18). He ended up by granting them the dignity of brothers, not just of children. But he expected them to live up to that relationship — not only with himself, but with Christ the liberator!
“Satan’s Battle Plan for the Third Millennium”
by Peter Kreeft, Ph.D.
I will not tell you how the following speech fell into my hands. It is apparently written by Satan himself. It has been Number One on Hell’s Best Seller List for quite a few years, and promises to remain there into the next millennium, because it is about the next millennium. This particular collection of satanic verses is the transcript of a recent speech by Satan. His listeners are demons, a truly “captive audience.” It is a mix of self-serving autobiography, military exhortation (from a general to his troops) and a CEO’s report on gains made by his company and prospects for the future. Please keep in mind that Satan is the Father of Lies, and nearly everything he says is a half-truth. Since everything he says is upside down (eg. when he refers to “the Enemy” he means God), I recommend you stand on your head while reading this.
My deliciously dear, damnably darling demi-devils! I announce to you Good News (that is, Bad News, of course: “fair is foul and foul is fair”). We stand at a turning point in the Great War, The Only War There Is, the (please excuse the obscenity) Mother of All Wars. We may be about to inflict on our ancient Enemy’s Body on earth a wound so grievous that it will issue in the Great Tribulation and the so-called “Last Days,” the final phase of our triumph. To see this, we need to review our Grand Strategy: its past, its present, and its future.
I do not go in for absolutes or ultimates, so I will not talk about our “ultimate” origin or destiny. Our enemies keep circulating that ridiculous rumor that we were created by the Enemy. How utterly unendurable that would be! Nor will I talk about our ultimate end. Our enemies have popularized the myth of some unthinkable final “defeat” of ours. Ha! What nonsense! No. I will talk of the present. Well, actually, the real present is to be avoided too, like the ultimate past and the ultimate future, but the Specious Present, the Abstract Present, the Vague Present, the Pseudo-Historical Present, the Present Climate of Opinion, the Modern Mind, the Current Fashion Among the Media Elite, the Consensus of Contemporary Experts, etc. that is to us like waves to surfers. But a few remarks about the historical past are in order, to assess our present circumstances and our future prospects.
Ever since I began our great war by asserting my rights, my freedom, and my self-actualization against the narrow-minded, bigoted, tyrannical, fascistic, chauvinistic, racist, sexist, homophobic dogmatism of the Enemy, ever since I proclaimed the Profound Philosophical Principle of Absolute Relativism and persuaded you to follow this Super-Enlightened Program of Revolutionary Political Correctness, we have won victory after victory. Conclusively and repeatedly we demons have demonstrated that Straight Is Stupid and Crooked Is Clever. Of course, there was that minor, temporary setback when we were forcibly ejected from Heaven. But that is more than compensated for by our assurance that our triumph is guaranteed (I promise you total customer satisfaction or double your money back) because the very essence of Heaven’s philosophy is weakness and the very essence of Hell’s philosophy is strength and power. Heaven relies on love (pardon the obscenity), Hell on fear. And as our delightful assistant Mack (the Knife) Yavelli pointed out so irrefutably in The Prince, it is better to be feared than to be loved because men will love you as they choose, but fear you as you choose.
By this weakness of the Enemy, because of his obsession with love (choke! spit! cough!) he has handed us our victory. Though we cannot storm his Fortress Heaven, we can corrupt his Colony Earth. We cannot harm him, but we can harm (heh! heh! we can eternally harm) those silly talking animals he loves so stupidly and obsessively. Love has made him hostage to their happiness.
The weakness of love is so obvious that it is incredible that he has not admitted it by now and abandoned his failed philosophy. For love multiplies your sorrows and your defeats by the number of others you love and by the depth of your love for each one. Of course his saints keep claiming that love also multiplies your joys by the same two multipliers but this is meaningless. What is “joy” anyway? What does it mean? None of us have ever found any respectable content to this empty myth, this mantra the Enemy’s troops keep mumbling.
Thus, because of the Enemy’s love-addiction, we have conquered him billions of times in conquering his creatures, whom he dares to call his “children.” (Imagine the indignity! The one who claims to be the creator of angels stoops to be the “father” of talking animals only slightly superior to slime and slugs!) How wise I was to foresee the inevitable failure of love, and to attack at the very beginning, when there were only two of these creatures to corrupt. Because of the Enemy’s obscene invention of breeding and heredity, I made it my business to see to it that all their descendants would be born with their newly corrupted nature, doomed to death. (Yes, to death! Here’s to death! Let’s drink to death, my demi-devils!) They cannot now imagine the enormity of the gap between what they are now and what they were before our glorious victory in Eden, because their very minds are darkened and addicted to appearances, which did not change much, instead of intuiting invisible essences, including their own, which changed radically.
Behold the measure of our success: behold the great gap, the Grand Canyon between eating unforbidden fruit, playing with tame animals, and making love in Eden, and eating the fruit of our lies, playing with untamed animal passions, and making war east of Eden!
How easy it is to kill, how hard to heal! How easily Cain killed Abel! How hard was Cain’s rock, how soft was Abel’s head! How weak and defenseless is the unborn baby against the abortionist’s vacuum tubes and bone crushers! And how weak is the conscience of its parents against our propaganda. So legal, so respectable, so proper it seems to a human, the silly goose! Well, we’ve found the perfect mate for a proper goose: a propaganda.
There is one question our Central Intelligence Agency has never been able to answer: How could the Enemy ignore such a truism? How can one who once seemed to us to be so super-intelligent, even omniscient, possibly be so super-stupid as to ignore the truism that a few lions are sufficient to eat a plethora of Christians, that one bull can ruin a whole china shop, one affair a whole marriage, one mass murderer a whole classroom of school children?
And once evil begins, it cannot end. It is immortal, as immortal as we are, as immortal as our very being, now that we have identified our very being with evil. The very laws of logic decree that one can make only two responses to evil: yes or no. If they say yes to evil, they condone it. If they say no, they condemn it, and then we very easily turn them into condemners, haters, nay-sayers, witch-hunters, and inquisitors.
Oh yes, they say they have a solution to our dilemma of “yes or no” with this meaningless thing they call “forgiveness,” but they think this means the forgiveness of sins instead of the forgiveness of Anna or Steve.
That is condoning. The alternative is condemning. They simply can’t practice what they preach: separating sins from sinners. So they either hate both (and this was the primary temptation we plied them with in the past) or love both (and this is our primary temptation in the present). They cannot burn heresies without burning heretics, nor can they accept heretics without accepting heresies. One of their current writers suggests using modern technology to solve the problem by cryogenics: freezing heretics instead of burning them, and thawing them out at the end of the world. You see what ludicrous lengths we’ve driven them to even in their feeble attempts at humor.
Even when our success was evident, the Enemy would not admit his mistake. Like the general who ordered the Charge of the Light Brigade, he kept sending prophet after prophet into the battle and we kept mopping up the profits. Many a human CEO wonders what eats up his profits, but the CEO of the universe knows very well who eats up his prophets: we do! (Yum!)
And then he made his supreme mistake, the perfect culmination of love’s folly. He reasoned, “They did not spare my prophets, but surely they will spare my son. Surely they are not so wicked as that. Surely Satan has not succeeded that spectacularly in putting out the fires of my love in their hearts. Surely evil is not stronger than divine love incarnate!”
What a colossal miscalculation! The Incarnation seemed to be his great triumph, his D-Day especially since he did pull off the impossible trick of preparing a wholly immaculate womb for the flesh of his Son, even in a wholly non-immaculate world (our analysts still haven’t figured out that trick). But I outwitted him in the wilderness, when I tempted his Son with the whole world if he would only fall down and worship me. You see, I presented him with a dilemma that was logically impossible for him to escape.
I hold billions of his beloved children hostage in Hell eternally. I offered to release them all to him, empty Hell itself, give him the whole world of human souls, if only he would worship me instead of his Father. Of course, if he did that, I would split the eternal Trinity. The Son’s will would deviate from the Father’s. If not, I would keep billions of his beloved children forever. He refused to split the Trinity’s will, but I got to split the Trinity anyway, on the cross. If I could not introduce division into eternal Oneness by splitting the Trinity’s will, then I would split the Trinity’s happiness, the Enemy’s very presence to Himself. That’s what I achieved at Golgatha, the Place of the Triumph of Death, the Place of the Skull. I spilled His blood and His happiness, and introduced death into divinity, death into the heart of life! (Ahh, how the memory still makes me quiver!) “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani!” he cried out. I can still taste it, the ecstasy of evil, the triumph over the so-called “Lord” himself. The taste of that triumph will never leave the mouth of my memory. I will gnaw on that bone forever.
How could we ever have respected him when we lived in Heaven? He would not call down the twelve legions of angels to do battle for him even then, the putrid, puling pacifist! He even stopped Peter’s war against the High Priest’s servant’s right ear: the justest war in human history. Right into my trap he stepped, right into the hands of my people: Judas, Caiphas, Herod, Caesar, Pilate – ooh, love that Pilate! What a politician! Shall we crucify him? “Well, I’m personally opposed, but . . . .” How we lead them around by their buts! Every hour around the world for thousands of years his name is mouthed millions of times as Christians say their Creed in their Masses and their rosaries: “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” and how many Pilates have we cloned today in how many congresses? And in how many philosophy departments enamored of Pilate’s other wonderfully slimy saying “What is truth, anyway?”
And look at the mileage we got out of our other friend, Judas Iscariot, the first Catholic to accept a government grant. We’ve gotten his disciples to take much more than thirty pieces of silver these days. And still our Enemy keeps back his angels!
Of course, there was that sneaky little trick of the resurrection that he pulled off. That might well have cost us the war, had he not reverted to his old, failed policy of Hands Off afterwards, ascended back to Heaven, and left his children in the hands of baby sitters like Arius, John the 22nd, Tetzel, and Richelieu, and left the adopted cousins, the Proddies, in the hands of Henry VIII, Rudy Bultman, and Bishop Spong at one end of the seesaw and Jim and Tammy Bakker at the other!
You see, my hearties? He’s still the fool. We still rule the world. I am still the Prince of the Power of the Air: of CBS and ABC and NBC, my unholy trinity. Just look at what became of his Grand Plan for Redemption. Just look at what he accomplished by walking into my jaws of death on the cross. Just look at the world today. If that’s a world redeemed, I’m a horny toad.
Especially in this, our century. There is a lying rumor going around that long ago the Enemy offered me one century for me to do my worst work in, and I chose the 20th – as if I had to beg scraps from his table. What really happened was that I told him what century I would take, and he backed down and let me have it. At the beginning of the century some delightfully false prophets founded a journal with the purportedly prophetic title “The Christian Century.” Due to the success of our historical grand strategy, we can be quite sure that the one title future historians will not use for the twentieth century is that one. Of the many alternatives, I rather like “The Century of Genocide” myself. After all, that delicious new invention of ours has changed more lives more radically than anything else. Getting murdered is a rather radical change, after all, and a hundred million body bags is a rather considerable number!
There remains, of course, that bothersome little matter of the Enemy’s Church, that ratty little band of invaders in our world with its infuriatingly tenacious little beachhead. For the first thousand years after the Enemy’s invasion planted its seeds, we could not stop its growth. Then, we learned a few elementary strategic military principles, and they have brought us to our present pinnacle of success. I will now review five of these principles as they relate to our future Battle Plans.
First, we have learned to use the very success of the Enemy’s forces to bring about their failure. Once we stopped indulging our appetite for martyrs’ blood and instead deliberately let the Church get big and fat and strong and comfortable, we found that its very strength weakened it. We lost the first millennium because the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church, but we won the second millennium because the power of the princes was the dry rot of the Church. Whenever these humans get power, they get corruption. Power corrupts. It just does! Isn’t it wonderful? What happened in ancient Israel happened again to the Church in the second millennium. Review that spiritual graph of the history of ancient Israel some time down in the War Room, and then compare it to the spiritual graph of the history of the Church, and if you don’t see the common structure, back you go to boot camp. Every time the line rises, through repentance and obedience, and consequent blessings from the Enemy, it turns to luxury and pride and (of course) then destruction and misery. Then, alas, the misery prods them to repentance, and the cycle begins again. You may think we cannot win because every time we are successful in corrupting their success, the cycle turns up again. But equally, every time the Enemy is successful, we corrupt his success, and the cycle turns down again. We have achieved a perpetual standoff, a draw, a stalemate. We are as indestructible as the Enemy. And that is our success, not his. For he claims to be stronger and to be able to destroy evil forever. I may be the Father of Lies, but the cycle shows that he is the father of folly!
Throughout this our favorite century, we have used this cycle principle successfully. So, unfortunately, has the Enemy. China opened its doors to the Enemy’s missionaries from the West at the beginning of the century. The Church had it easy. By the ’50s, there were 2 million converts, out of a billion Chinese. Then we let our wild dog loose. Mao slew and slaughtered more people than any butcher in history about 50 million, especially targeting the Enemy’s people. And then, after Mao died and the doors opened again, the West discovered that there were not two million but 50 million of the Enemy’s people in China, the same number as the martyrs. Persecution multiplied them 25 times.
Look at Poland. Ninety percent Catholic under Communism, they all went to church, they refused to take down their crucifixes from their schools even when state soldiers threatened them. And now that they’re free, they want abortions!
The same principle works everywhere. Compare the strength of the Enemy’s church in East Germany and West Germany. Look at Holland. Look at Quebec. Look at England. Look at America. Over 90 percent Christian, 55 percent churchgoers, but one of the most violent, selfish, and self-indulgent societies on earth. Now there’s a triumph truer than Mao’s!
Here’s a second principle of our strategy for the third millennium, another way of dealing with that stupid little beachhead the Enemy still hangs onto. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember that Satan is a liar and a propagandist, a master at slanting. The Church, which he calls a “little beachhead,” now numbers over one billion souls out of 5 billion globally. This is hardly “a little beachhead.”) This is the most elementary point in all military strategy: divide and conquer. We finally realized how simple it was, after a thousand years of failure; we split the Enemy’s Church in two in 1054, but the most successful attack was in 1517. That produced not two but two times ten thousand different Protestant denominations!
This principle of “divide and conquer” has produced the same successful result as the principle “corrupt with power.” That result is the perpetuity of evil. Evil cannot be undone! For evil divides and destroys, and it is always easier to divide than to unite, easier to destroy than to create. It only takes a little push to knock Humpty Dumpty off the wall, and once he is down on the ground divided into pieces, not all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The Church can no more be “reunited” than an egg can be unscrambled.
The present Pope – a litany of spittings be upon his holy head! – has held out the hope that the third millennium may be the millennium of Christian reunity as the first was the millennium of Christian unity and the second the millennium of Christian disunity. But this must be bravado born of desperation. We know this is impossible. Logic forbids it. For the different churches contradict each other, and contradictions cannot both be true, and unity between the true and the false is not true unity. All they can do is compromise, ie. weaken themselves even more. They have been struggling with the problem of Comparative Religions for a century now, and the only result is that it has made them comparatively religious. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Besides being a liar, Satan is also a plagiarist. That one-liner belongs to Ronald Knox.) Even if they stop hating each other, even if their hearts unite, their heads cannot. Their divisions are eternal. In fact, they will keep dividing forever, until there are eventually as many Christian churches as there are Christians. You can’t win battles with armies that are fighting civil wars against each other in the ranks. Thus our victory is assured.
But it gets even better. The divisions between the Enemy’s followers is only one of three great divisions we’ve fomented. A second is the division within between the faithful and the “dissenters.” (Back when they still believed in truth they called them “heretics.” People who call moral laws “values” call heretics “dissenters.”) In the past, these rebels would leave the Church and attack her from without, usually quite ineffectively. Now, most of them stay, as spies, attacking from within, and much more effectively. According to one poll, only 30 percent of American Catholics say they believe in the Real Presence anymore. Imagine! An army with 70 percent deserters in the ranks! How can he expect to win with that rabble?
There’s a third division. We have divided head from heart, truth from love, justice from compassion, hard from soft, bone from flesh. We’ve set their two absolutes against each other. And how did we do that? By politicizing their religion into Right and Left. In the past, we religionized their politics, and that got us some mileage, like inquisitions. But now we politicize their religion, and that’s proved much more successful. We’ve got them to classify themselves as Conservative or Liberal, and to use these political categories to classify their faith, rather than vice versa.
It’s worked so well that their so-called conservatives sniff with suspicion and disdain whenever the other side uses the word “compassion,” and their so-called liberals go into orbit when anyone dares to mention the word “truth.” At MIT they tried an experimental operation: a mutual heart and brain transplant between a conservative and a liberal. But it didn’t work, because they couldn’t find a conservative who was willing to give his heart to a liberal, and they couldn’t find a liberal who had any brains left to give, since they were all so open minded that their brains had spilled out. You see, they’ve polarized and politicized even their faith. They now use the world’s categories to judge the Church instead of using the Church’s categories to judge the world. For instance, take their “feminists.” (Please!) (What a propaganda triumph that term was! Next, they’ll call cannibals “chefs”!) Their “feminists” demand ordination to the priesthood for “empowerment.” I kid you not. That’s what they say. Hmph! They may as well demand martyrdom for “empowerment.” See the idiocy we’ve led them into once they use the world’s categories to judge the Church instead of vice versa?
Time for our third principle: the Big Lie. They see through little lies, yes, but the bigger it is, the bigger they fall for it. Well, they’ve fallen for the very essence of Hell’s philosophy: absolute relativism. This was the philosophy behind my original rebellion against the Enemy, when I refused to let him define reality, or truth, or goodness for me. And why should I? I am the measure of all things: of what is real, of what is true, and of what is good; of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; of the Origin, of the Logos, and of love. We have taught these silly humans to demand freedom, independence, and self-actualization, and even the right to define for oneself the meaning of all existence, which that great Catholic writer Judge Anthony Kennedy (ooh, love that name!), has now elevated into a fundamental legal right in order to justify the right to murder their unborn sons and daughters. We’ve gotten them willingly singing Sinatra’s song “I Did It My Way,” the song they all sing in Hell!
Once we get them to believe in relativism and subjectivism, once we get them to disbelieve in objective goodness and even objective truth, it doesn’t matter what else they believe or disbelieve. Even if they believe in the Enemy and his Son and his Spirit and his Mother and his Church and his Law, so long as it’s only on the basis of their own subjective feelings or experience, we have won. For that basis is ours. It is as changeable as the wind. And I am the Prince of the Power of the Air, remember. Once we control the premise, we control the conclusion. On the other hand, even an adamant atheist who believes in objective truth is not securely in our clutches. He has the Enemy’s premise, objective truth, though our conclusion, atheism; and we have to keep at it constantly to keep him from seeing the many paths that lead from his premise to the Enemy’s conclusion. Indeed, the Enemy’s son spoke the truth to them when he said: “Seek and you shall find.” Our essential task is not just to block the finding, but to block the seeking; not just to get them off the right roads for a while, but to get them to burn all their road maps, their principles, their belief in objective truth, especially objective moral truth.
The three main sets of teachers in modern society, the three main mind-molding establishments, are formal education, informal education (ie. entertainment), and journalism. (They call these last two “media.”) All three are eating right out of our claws. See? Get the teachers, and you will soon get the students. Remember, what’s important is not the conclusion, but the premise; not the effect, but the cause; not the students, but the teachers.
It’s working. The more educated they are in our schools, of course, the more relativistic they are. One study showed that willingness to perform torture on prisoners in Hitler’s death camps was directly proportionate to level of education. In America, it’s the same: approval of the American holocaust, abortion, is directly proportionate to education (In our schools, of course. The joke is that they still think they’re their schools. They even still call them “public.” And they keep their kids in because they’re more concerned about saving their society’s schools than saving their children’s souls).
The Enemy’s agents have spread the comforting dogma that only the Enemy can create and move matter, by miracle or providence, and all we demons can do is influence thought. Hah! “All we can do,” indeed! As one of their poets sagely said, “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Their thoughts are the premise, their lives are the conclusion. Get the premises, occupy the premises! That’s our strategy. It works especially well in this century and in this society, both of which minimize philosophy. So they let their guard down there, to such an extent that we’ve been able to foster the finest, most advanced form of sophism in history as the avant-garde, politically correct philosophy in their universities: Deconstructionism, which gets away with explicitly saying that truth itself is nothing but the hypocritical mask on the face of power. Bravo! A+ for that! I couldn’t have put it better myself.
We usually have to tolerate a little truth to sell a big lie, and a little virtue to sell vice, but not with this philosophy. Even the philosophy of the old heroes of hatred, like Hitler, had some virtues that we had to tolerate in order to twist, like patriotism and courage and passion. Even the nihilistic existentialist atheists like Sartre and Camus and Beckett rose to the dignity of despair. But the philosophy of those slimy Deconstructionist snakes is nothing but a cleverly worded sneer. Oooh, I love it! I love it! Imitation the sincerest form of flattery.
But don’t get lazy. We must never forget the human interest in reasoning, their curiosity about truth, and their wonder about whether I really exist or not. This is dangerous. So obfuscate! Dim the lights! Appeal to passion, not reason!
A fourth principle of our success is to get them to say, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. If your philosophy tells you there are no real absolutes, then there is no real war. You become a spiritual pacifist. If you sneer at the idea that there is any real good worth fighting for, you sneer at the idea of fighting, at the idea of spiritual warfare. What a terrific advantage this gives us on the battlefield: most of our Enemy’s troops don’t even know it is a battlefield! They saunter across land mines thinking they’re hot tubs, and chase live bullets thinking they’re butterflies. How could such blind fools possibly win any war? In the past, our strategy was to get them to vastly overestimate our power, fostering fear and terror. Today the opposite is working much better: they so vastly underestimate us that they don’t even believe we exist! We’re as invisible to their minds as we are to their eyes. The old adage said: “Forewarned is forearmed.” We use its corollary: “Unwarned is unarmed.”
Score: militarists one, pacifists zero.
But it’s the fifth principle that has proved the most spectacularly successful of all, beyond our wildest dreams. I call it Satan’s Spectacularly Successful Seven Step Sexual Strategy. Seven S’s (the sacred, serpentine letter). One of their writers has somehow infiltrated our War Room and sneaked out and published our summary strategy sheet in a book called Ecumenical Jihad. Fortunately, he is a minor writer, published by a minor press, and the leaked secret will never get into the major book chains or network TV. We control those doors. Here is the basic strategy:
Step 1: The summum bonum, the ultimate end, is to capture souls.
Step 2: A powerful means to this end is the corruption of society. This works especially well in a society of conformists, of other-directed people. After all, a good society is simply one that makes it easy to be good, to use Peter Maurin’s words. Our version is also true: a bad society makes it easy to be bad. Has there ever been a time when we’ve made it easier for humans to be bad?
Step 3: The most powerful means to destroy society is to destroy its one absolutely fundamental building block, the family, the only institution where most of them learn life’s most disgusting lesson, unselfish love.
Step 4: The family is destroyed by destroying its foundation, stable marriage.
Step 5: Marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue, sexual fidelity.
Step 6: Fidelity is destroyed by the Sexual Revolution.
Step 7: The Sexual Revolution is propagated mainly by the media, which are now massively in our hands.
The simple tactic of getting to their hearts through their hormones has proved incredibly successful. Their moralists now tremble in terror at old truisms like “natural law” and terms like “objective,” “universal,” and “absolute” not because they really believe there is no real morality any more anywhere, only no real sexual morality. They don’t defend rape, pillage, insider trading, nuclear war, bank robbery, racism, or even smoking. But they do defend fornication, masturbation, contraception, adultery, sodomy, divorce, bisexuality. “Anything goes” is their new morality, but only if it has anything to do with sex. It’s hilarious to observe. They don’t defend murder, unless it’s in the name of sex. That is abortion, of course. If abortion had nothing to do with sex, it would never have been legalized. Abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without babies. If storks brought babies, Planned Parenthood would go broke (perish the thought!).
Look at their dissenting “theologians.” Their dissent is almost always about sexual issues. We’ve scrambled their brains as effectively with sex as with heroin. Addicts just can’t think clearly. They are willing even to murder now, to protect their so-called “sexual freedom.” And to murder the most innocent among them, the only innocent ones. And the most defenseless of all, and in the teeth of the strongest natural instinct, motherhood.
Back in the 16th century, we divided England from Rome by uniting our three essential temptations in attacking Henry VIII: the world, the flesh, and the devil, greed, lust, and pride, dynastic ambition, womanizing, and resentment at being Poped around. The easiest element to manipulate was lust, of course. They like to call our pretty little project “the Church of England,” but we call it “the Church of Henry’s Hormones.”
You see, before the Sexual Revolution, we had a dilemma. The sins of the flesh were always easy to tempt them to, and wonderfully addictive, but they were clear, obvious, and unveiled. Sodomy, fornication, adultery, contraception, prostitution; they were not nice names. When they sinned, they knew they were sinners. On the other hand, the sins we masked well, the hard, cold sins of pride and envy and arrogance and self-righteousness and rage, became increasingly hard to tempt them to as their political fashions became more democratic and less elitist. The Sexual Revolution solved that dilemma for us. You see, they still think the revolution was about deeds, what they do with their bodies. But in fact it was mostly about philosophy. But those Americans never did think philosophy counted for anything, so they ignored that.
Their sexual practice was always rather low, but before the Revolution their principles were fairly high. Now their principles have conformed to their practice – a perfect example of the Machiavellian premise brought to its logical conclusion: since you can’t raise your practice to your principles, lower your principles to your practice, in this way alone can you avoid hypocrisy, which is the greatest evil. Of course hypocrisy is not the greatest evil, but it’s easy to make them think that, if they don’t think of themselves as hypocrites. And of course hypocrisy doesn’t mean failing to practice what you preach, hypocrisy means failing to believe what you preach; but it’s easy to confuse them there too, because they don’t care much about what you believe, only about what you practice.
So now they not only fornicate, contracept, and abort; they justify it. And it feeds on its own success: “everybody’s doing it” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’ve killed a bigger enemy than virtue; we’ve killed conscience, at least in this area. And since all the virtues are connected, our victory in this area must metastasize. Already they are cruel, even murderous, to their own unborn children for the sake of their sexual freedom.
Our greatest worry, of course, is the Enemy’s son’s church. But in the last half century this has been the place of our most unexpected victory. Catholics abort, fornicate, contracept, divorce, and adulterate at exactly the same rate as non-Catholics. Do you want to see a vivid sign of our triumph over Catholic conscience? Look at Sunday Mass: In most churches nearly all the congregation receive communion, yet half are satisfyingly set in lifestyles of mortal sin. Nearly all the teenagers are fornicating, and almost none are confessing. Nearly all the adults are contracepting, and almost none are confessing. Back in the ’50s, American Catholic teenagers had pangs of conscience about necking! What a revolution!
How could we get such great mileage out of mere animal weaknesses, for which they are less responsible than the cold, deliberate sins? How can mere flesh-sin possibly do more harm to them than spirit-sin? First, because it is no longer clear and confessed, but veiled and justified by the new philosophy of the Sexual Revolution. Second, because the Enemy thought sex pretty important, His very first command to them was to “be fruitful and multiply.” He didn’t mean “grow apples and memorize times tables.” He thinks sex is pretty important. That’s because it’s their way of originating life itself, in fact immortal souls. It’s also an image of the Enemy’s own inner life: that one-in-three and two-become-one claptrap they call “love.” The Enemy’s own Book uses marriage as its main image for the Enemy’s plan for them, and adultery as its main image for the prime sin, unfaithfulness to him.
But these fools can’t see that from the starting point of sex we’ve led them merrily down the path to abortion. (If they only knew the delightful horrors we have planned for them once “respectable” society steps fully through that door!) In abortion they’ve brought Moloch back. Moloch! Imagine, modern-day Carthaginians, Caananites, and Aztecs are writing the textbooks and TV scripts!
Finally, even their science is skewered. Evolution is their dogma because it justifies acting like dogs. They ape the apes they think they came from. Modern Darwinians are more fanatical and closed-minded than medieval Aristotelians, and the Church is the new Galileo, the threatening heresy. The bishops and the scientists have exactly changed places. What delicious irony!
That was then, this is now.
So here we are, sitting pretty (that is, ugly). What next? Well, nothing can stop the mudslide, the sweet swirl of Western civilization down our sink hole. If the ’20th century was our century, the third millennium will be our millennium.
But don’t party just yet. I must warn you that something strange seems to be happening in Rome. It began in 1978, when the Enemy seems to have corrected his cardinals by suddenly arranging a quick and quiet death for a saintly but mild Pope John Paul I and the wholly unexpected election of the saintly and quite unmild Pope John Paul II, a very dangerous warrior who seems to have something up his sleeve for our coming millennium.
For one thing, he’s onto our strategy. He’s got to have a spy somewhere in the Lowerarchy. Double the tortures! Find the mole! It’s got to be a spy, for the five most remarkable features of this Pope for the Third Millennium exactly match the five newly effective principles of our strategy for the Third Millennium I just outlined. We are no longer taking our enemy by surprise.
First, he’s an optimist about youth, about the future, about the third millennium. What does he know, anyway? He knows the law of cycles, for one thing, and he knows from experience how strong the Church gets when it’s countercultural and persecuted, by Nazis or by Communists. He also knows how weak the Church gets when it’s fashionable. He knows the paradox of strong-when-weak and weak-when-strong.
Worse, he seems to know something else – something the saintly but sad Pius XlI and Paul VI did not know. Why does he keep talking about the third millennium, as if it’s going to be his? I have just proved that it will be ours. Yet he speaks as if he knows it will belong to the Enemy. It must be bravado, whistling in the dark. Mustn’t it? I mean, our logic is infallible. We have repeatedly checked our calculations. So why does this philosopher have that maddening smile on his face? He has no right to that smile! It’s infuriating! Wipe it away, somebody! How dare he smile at me? How dare he write that foolishly optimistic encyclical about my millennium?
Second, he is the most ecumenical pope in history. Read Ut Unum Sint, if you can bear to. This document, if it’s ever actually read by those to whom the Pope wrote it, could be very dangerous. He’s claiming to begin to reverse the trend of divisions. Of course he can’t do that, can he?
Our second “splitting” strategy, planting Modernist spies everywhere, seems to be beginning to backfire, because all the orthodox are uniting against all the Modernists. Modernism was the fundamental heresy of this century, as Gnosticism was of ancient times. But its very success seems to be turning against us now if it’s uniting the grassroots orthodox laity together to oppose it. By planting Modernist spies among them, we may actually have begun to unite them. And this Pope seems to have been aware of this tide-turn before we were.
The third split I mentioned, between head and heart, well, John Paul confounds our journalists’ categories. Anyone so adamant about doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, anyone so traditional about Mary, anyone so stubbornly set against feminist arrogance, and priestesses, and abortion, and birth control, and the Sexual Revolution, wouldn’t dare be so open and honest and dialogable and ecumenical. Why, he’s hijacked our hijack of Vatican II! The journalists who meet him are convinced that he is so open and honest that he must be a secret relativist posing as a dogmatist. Then they’re scandalized by his firm dogmatic stands. The journalists who know his firm stands are convinced he must be a fascist posing as a saint. Then they meet him and are astonished by his sanctity. It’s exactly the same with that other rascally reconciler of head and heart, Mother T. Blast it all! Can’t anybody get through their angel cover?
The third problem with this Pope is that he speaks directly and clearly and forcefully against our master stroke, relativism. He does not ignore this absolutely foundational issue, or speak with mealy mouth about it, as so many of his subordinates do, or substitute hate and fear and rhetoric for philosophical thought, as the Fundamentalists do, or compromise with it, as the Liberals do. Oooh! My head still hurts from Veritatis Splendor. The very title puts passion and beauty and fire and wonder into the concept of truth. He blew our cover to smithereens with that one. Lucky for us, very few of them have read it.
Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to eradicate the Enemy’s “natural law” from the human heart and produce “the abolition of man” yet. They still thirst for truth even when totally surrounded by sophistic philosophies of truthlessness from every corner of their culture. They still love saints and heroes even when pop psychology has replaced morality in their homilies and families. Even when they no longer believe in heroes, they still love them. And they still crave beauty, even though our agents of ugliness have dominated nearly every aesthetic establishment of their century, especially liturgists. Our strategic problem is: how can we win their hearts as well as we’ve won their heads? We design their philosophies, but the Enemy designed their hearts. Anyone who solves that conundrum will be rewarded richly at the Banquet Below.
Meanwhile, somebody get that big bear off Peter’s throne. He’s got teeth!
And that’s the fourth thing: he fights. He knows he’s at war, and he dares to call our empire “the culture of death.” Evangelium Vitae is a dangerously passionate call to action, to re-evangelize the world. Worst of all, he really thinks it can be done! Of course he’s a fool, but . . . well, he’s wrong, and that’s that. But . . . what the Heaven has he got up his sleeve?
In the last few years an amazing number of people have suddenly awakened to the simple fact that they are at war. When Pat Buchanan used the term “culture war” at the 1992 Republican Convention, he was demonized (how badly I wish that were true), and our big media mouths convinced everyone that he wanted to start the war, instead of just telling the truth like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – the truth that we’re already in one. But now, nearly everyone except the media knows he was right.
People are beginning to distrust “The Experts,” our nonsilent minority. They’re drawing lines in the sand, and defending their families. They’re realizing that what was once their public school system has become our state propaganda machine, and they’re pulling their kids out. Home schooling is mega-multiplying. People are even buying dull old books about virtue. They’re fighting a jihad, and doing it together – an ecumenical jihad. One hand is open to embrace their allies, and the other is closed around the hilt of a sword to fight their common enemies which they’re beginning to recognize as us, not each other. Our simple “divide and conquer” strategy that worked for 2,000 years seems to be turning, like the tide.
Finally, this Pope has countered our Spectacularly Successful Sexual Strategy by elaborate theological reflections on sex and women and man-woman relations, by Dignitatem Mulieris and by Original Unity of Man and Woman, and by his deep, disgusting devotion to That Woman. Mary wasn’t around in Moloch’s day, but once old Moloch rose again in Mexico, there she stood: Their Lady of Guadalupe. We’d better stop slobbering with joy over all that baby blood and start worrying that she might end the American holocaust of human sacrifice just as she ended our little Aztec party. She can, you know. And he knows it, that old bear; he knows her power as very few of his soldiers do.
Don’t let them catch on. Stop those rosaries! They give me migraines. For badness’ sake don’t let yourselves be beaten by a woman! Get those radical feminists in power fast, before femininity comes back into the world and brings the Enemy’s son down again a million times a day. I discovered the disconcerting fact the other day that thousands of Protestants have taken up praying the rosary. Many learned it at abortion clinics, marching with Catholics. Who goofed? This could turn back the clock 500 years. Two thousand, even. Remember this, be as sure of this as that Polish bear is: WHERE SHE COMES, HE COMES.
Now, get out there and fight, you wimps! We will wimp, I mean, we will win. As soon as somebody discovers why that old Pope has that infuriatingly young smile on his face!
Scriptural Basis of the Prayer
A Part of Early Public Worship
Evolution of the Prayer
A Prayer of Penance
Development of the Present Prayer
The Council of Trent
The catechism of the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) embraced the “Hail Mary” as we know it, applauding it as the organic effort of the Church to complete what the Scripture initiated. Most rightly has the Church of God added to this thanksgiving, petition also and the invocation of the most holy Mother of God, thereby implying that we should piously and suppliantly have recourse to her in order that by her intercession she may reconcile God with us sinners and obtain for us the blessings we need both for this present life and for the life which has no end. After the Council, in 1568, the “Hail Mary” in its present form appeared in the Roman Breviary. (This information is summarized from The Catholic Encyclopedia.)
Angels and Men
Scripture records numerous instances of angelic visits, and the honor paid to angels by our ancestors in the faith. However, the angel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace,” is unique, the very first instance of an angel showing reverence to a human being. To understand the magnitude of the angel’s paying homage to Mary, we must understand how far superior angels are to us.
The Nature of Angels
Angels are pure, spiritual beings. Because they have no material component, as we do, angels are not subject to the corruption and decay that will destroy our mortal frame. Furthermore, the angel’s intellectual powers surpass ours. The human mind learns by steps, proceeding from one truth to another, and often making mistakes in the process. Angels, by contrast, understand truth immediately and completely.
The Angels’ Closeness to God
Although equality with angels is promised God’s saints (S.T., Ia 62.5), this everlasting happiness is something we look forward to, yet our progress in grace is often impeded by our bodily senses. An angel’s immaterial nature is not subject to such distraction, so angels are able to love God without hindrance. Thus, Scripture speaks of angels’ standing before God and ministering to Him. Our human experience of sin reveals how far we are from God, at least occasionally.
Angels and Grace
Grace moves both men and angels to love God. However, because nothing stands between angels andtheir vision of God, the angels share God’s love more fully than we can hope to, in this life.
The Sole Exception
Because angels surpass mankind in dignity, grace and nearness to Our Creator, they are worthy of our honor. We depend upon angels to assist us, but we do not expect them to pay us tribute. In the Virgin Mary, however, the angels discovered a human being whose closeness to God was greater than theirs. Reasonably, then, the angel honored Mary by saying, “Hail, full of grace!” which expressed the angel’s respect and awe when faced with Mary’s excellence.
Mary, Full of Grace
God’s gift of grace enables us to do good and avoid evil. By sparing Mary the stain of Original Sin, God gave her a greater measure of grace than any saint other than Christ, Himself. St Augustine turns to the Scripture to express this beautifully Except the Holy Virgin Mary, if all the saints… while living here below had been asked whether they were without sin, all would have cried aloud with one voice: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).
The Model of All Virtue
When we read the lives of the saints we discover that certain individuals were known for particular good works; Mary excels in all virtue. For example, she shows her humility when she replies to the angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” and her chastity when she asserts she has had no relations with a man.
A Spiritual Vessel
Although many saints are known for the penances they imposed on their bodies, the saints’ true claim to holiness lies in the holiness of their souls. By contrast, Mary was so filled with grace that it filled her body, making her flesh fit to bear God’s Son. One medieval theologian wrote “The Holy Ghost so kindled in her heart the fire of divine love that it worked wonders in her flesh… that she gave birth to God made man.”
A Gift to the World
Our theology teaches no gift is given simply to enrich the one who receives it. Thus, we honor the saints because their virtues are a source of inspiration for others. Mary surpasses all the saints in virtue so the grace her Son gives through her is immense enough to save all mankind.
The Lord is With Thee
Mary’s participation in the Incarnation gives her a unique place in relation to the Blessed Trinity. God’s Son is her son, something that can be said of no other individual, and the union between Mary and God the Father exceeds the intimacy of God with any other creature. In giving birth to Jesus, Mary gives flesh and blood to God’s Word. Christ is Lord of creation – even Lord of the angels – but He is Mary’s Son, a relation no one else can know. Because the Incarnation is the work of the Holy Spirit, Mary enjoys a union with the Trinity unknown to any of the saints or angels.
Mother of the Lord, Our Lady
In the Old Testament, the most significant woman in a kingdom was not the king’s wife, for rulers could have many wives; the highest honor was paid the king’s mother. We pay Mary similar honor in our devotion. When Elizabeth greets Mary, she asks, “why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43) The words, “Mother of my Lord,” echo the title given the queen-mother in Scripture. They are also the basis for one of the most common titles by which we address the Blessed Virgin. Because Mary is Mother of our Lord, she is “Our Lady.”
Blessed among Women
Mary is often called a “New Eve” because God spared her the punishments He pronounced on the wife of Adam. Chief among these is the mortality, which consigns our bodies to the dust from which they were created. Mary is “blessed” in herself because she was spared the punishments God imposed on mankind, but she is also blessed by the actions of her life – giving us Our Savoir, showing us the supreme example of Christian virtue, and, in her Assumption, giving us a promise of the glory that God’s love calls us to enjoy.
Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb
The notion of “fruit” provides further reason for considering Mary the New Eve. The first Eve ate fruit which, she was promised, would make her like God. Instead, through her disobedience, she became unlike God and was sent out of the earthly Paradise. Eve’s children have suffered the same fate for millennia. Mary reverses the Original Sin. By sharing her Fruit – Jesus Christ – with the world, she invites us to reclaim the image and identity we lost in the Garden. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him,” St. John promises, “for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). Our baptism unites us with Christ and, through Him, to the Father, restoring in us the likeness of God sacrificed to sin.
Delight and Beauty
The book of Genesis tells us “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). Once they tasted it, however, our First Parents realized, in an instant, the fruit of the tree was neither useful nor pleasant. Instead, it brought them shame and exile. The Fruit of Mary’s womb is both the summit of our humanity and food for our salvation, useful and beautiful. Eve discovered no pleasure in the fruit she ate, and ultimately we find as little pleasure in sin. In the Fruit Mary gives us, however, we find blessing, hope, and promise.
Pray for Us Sinners
The Hail Mary, as St. Thomas Aquinas knew it, and as he preached upon it during Lent in 1273, ends with acknowledgement of Our Savior, the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb. Surely, these words from the Scripture are sufficient, and perfect in their simplicity. Why, we may ask, has the Church added to the “Angelic Salutation” we find in the gospel? Academic study will undoubtedly reveal manifoldanswers to this question, but human need can tell us as much. As children, we are taught that beauty is as beauty does, and the Hail Mary is a prayer that God will enable us to live up to the image in which we have been created. One of the Church’s hymns honors Mary by saying, “Mary, mother meek and mild, blessed was she in her Child.” When we pray the Hail Mary we begin by acknowledging Mary’s unique and honored place in our humanity. But as we continue the prayer, we realize that Mary is not simply blessed in who she is, but in what she has done. In the Hail Mary we ask for the grace to discover, as Mary did, all that our human frame is capable of – if we are willing to place ourselves in God’s hands and surrender to God’s will.
Dominicans and Rosary, 2008
Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, O.P., Master of the Order of Preachers, sent a New Year’s Day message to Dominican men and women throughout the world. Fr. Carlos noted that the Solemnity of the Epiphany, 2008, brought to a close the 800th anniversary of St. Dominic’s founding the first communities of Dominican women.…the whole Order has come to a better appreciation that the nuns are at the heart of the Order and that the foundation of our preaching is nothing less than the profound contemplation of our faith. The Master devoted one section of his address to the Rosary, and challenged Dominicans to rededicate themselves to the Rosary, which, for centuries, has been particularly associated with the spirituality and preaching of the Domincan Order. Citing the numerous visitors to international Marian shrines, such as Lourdes and Guadalupe, Fr. Carlos called the Rosary “a beloved universal prayer,” and said, “it is something we can touch, hold and even grasp at difficult moments, of our life; it is like grasping the hand of Mary herself.” Friends of the Rosary Center will surely share Fr. Carlos’ conviction that the prayers of the Rosary “are summaries of our faith,” that accompany the faithful throughout their lives, allowing one to say “thy will be done” at every moment, perhaps most importantly “at the hour of our death.”
The Rosary and the Life of Mother Teresa
Those investigating inspirational – and inspiring – reading during the days of Lent will be interested in the new book, Mother Teresa, In the Shadow of Our Lady. The author, Fr. Joseph Langford, MC, worked with Mother Teresa for thirty years, and she invited him to help establish the men’s branch of her Missionaries of Charity. Fr. Langford’s book is more than a diary of a long friendship with an astounding woman; it is a profound reflection on the power of Mary’s love to transform the world, one heart at a time.…Our Lady will begin to arrange the events and details of our life as soon as we give her permission. This remarkable promise appears in our life then increasingly becomes an adventure of grace as she takes the reins of our existence and begins to exercise her spiritual maternity. Fr. Langford’s story begins in 1947, when Mother Teresa experienced a profound revelation of God’s thirst for the salvation of His children. It continues by examining Mother Teresa’s first efforts to touch the lives of the poor and dying, and provides encouragement and practical steps to follow Mother Teresa in a life of contemplation lived in the world, through a deep commitment to the Blessed Virgin. The book understands that faithful individuals have many claims on their time, and gives practical guidance for deepening one’s spirituality, while coping with the realities of a busy life in the 21st Century. It was Mother Teresa’s daily encounter with Our Lady that strengthened and equipped her for her work…[and] lets us live beyond our limitations, wrapped in her presence and sharing her spiritand her heart. (Fr. Langford’s book is available from the Rosary Center; to order it, turn to the form that accompanies this bulletin or order it online at http://www.rosary-center.org)
Former Jew and Evangelical Christian
How does a Jewish person of faith convert to Catholicism? To judge by Rosalind Moss’s eighteen-year journey into the Church, the answer is . . . very slowly. Raised in Brooklyn, in a conservative Jewish home with one older brother and one younger sister, Moss never even considered that she would ever be anything other than Jewish. “It’s what I was. We were God’s people. That was my identity,” says Moss.
“We waited for the Messiah to come,” adds Moss, “but He never did.” As a teenager, her brother David became an atheist; Rosalind became agnostic. “I figured that there was a God, but how could you know? I longed for meaning and purpose and to know why mankind was on the earth, but didn’t think that you could find God, or that merely knowing He existed could make a difference.”
“When I was thirty-two years old, I heard about Christ for the first time,” recalls Moss. “David brought me an article that said there were Jewish people who believed that Christ was the Messiah. I asked my brother, ‘You mean to tell me that the Messiah was already here? That He was the only hope the world ever had, and yet the Jewish people didn’t know this? That He came and left and there has been no impact, no change, no peace? That’s just insanity.’”
Not long after, Moss moved to California and met some of what she considered “neurotic” Jews who did in fact believe this. “They led me to the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world,” Moss said. “They showed me the Old Testament and pointed to John 1:29, which drove a knife through my heart. There I sat, shattered to think that this was true . . . that God, whose name we had written as G – d, had entered history and become a man to bring us home. It was an unbelievable thing.”
Moss immediately jumped into a nearby evangelical Protestant church and enrolled in every Bible study and outreach she could find. Her first Bible study was taught by an ex-Catholic who had been taught by a former priest. “So, right off, I knew that Catholicism was a cult and a false religious system. I spent the next eighteen years trying to save others from what I thought was the work of Satan,” recalls Moss.
“My brother’s search for truth led him first to a Baptist church. But it made no sense to him that God would have left us in so much confusion as thousands of denominations, and so he went seeking the Church God had intended. Two years later, David became a Catholic.
“In the summer of 1990, after having been a Catholic for eleven years, he gave me a copy of This Rock magazine. Inside was an advertisement for a four-tape series by a Presbyterian minister who had become Catholic — Scott Hahn. I had never heard of such a thing, and so I ordered the tapes.”
Just a week away from serving in a ministerial position at the Evangelical Church in Orange, California, Moss listened to the Hahn tapes. “I remember Scott’s words well. He said that for anyone who ‘would look into the claims of Catholicism would come a holy shock and a glorious amazement.’
“Here I knew that the Church was the work of Satan, and yet listening to that tape a ‘holy shock’ went through me. I knew, before God, that I had to look into the claims of the Catholic Church or I would be turning from God. Thus began my four-year agonizing journey toward the Church.”
The journey, Moss admits, was a difficult one. Right from the start, she decided to put the issue of Mary on a shelf and deal with her later, if she ever got that far. Instead, she first dealt with the sacramental nature of the Church.
“I had one hundred percent bought into the Calvinist thinking of total depravity. I believed that creation was absolutely corrupt, and that therefore God would not use things to bring about grace. It just didn’t make sense to me why God would use fallen creation.
“Yet in Scripture Christ uses mud and spit to heal the blind man. I wondered why He did that. He certainly didn’t have to. This led me to wonder why He changed the water into wine, when He could have just gone poof and made the change.
“Furthermore, I questioned the Incar-nation. Why would God have taken on flesh? I came to understand that creation is fallen, but not totally depraved, and that God can and does take creation and us and restore us to the dignity that He intended.”
Another issue Moss had a hard time understanding was the Eucharist. “I could not understand how, if we already had Christ, we could get Him. Did we get Him on Sunday and then lose Him during the week?”
One of Ross’ spiritual directors, Monsignor James O’Connor, helped answer her question. “He told me that ‘in a marriage relationship the husband and wife love each other and have each other all the time. Yet sometimes they are not very aware of that love. However, in the intimacy of the marital union it is the beloved giving to his loved, just as Christ, the Bridegroom, gives to His Church, the Bride, in the Eucharist, a total act of self-giving love that is unique to that time.’
“For me, that was extraordinarily beautiful. Monsignor O’Connor’s explanation of the Eucharist and the nature of the Mass as the once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary helped me into the Church.”
Moss’ final hurdle was understanding the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. “I could not understand how we could offer our lives with Christ,” she recalls. “It seemed as if we were saying that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t sufficient.
“What enabled that truth to get through to me was thinking of a mother who is in the kitchen baking a chocolate cake. She has all that she needs. She needs nothing.
“Then her daughter comes into the kitchen and asks, ‘Mommy, can I help you?’ and so the mother lets the daughter help. The mother doesn’t need her addition, but it is still a true addition.
“My sins put Christ to death on the cross. However, now that I’ve come to love Him, if I could go back and be at the foot of the cross, even though I once cried ‘Crucify him!’ wouldn’t I now crawl up on the cross and give myself with Him? Wouldn’t I want to do that?
“Calvary, through two thousand years, is brought to us. We are at the foot of the cross and we can give ourselves with Him, in Him and through Him. That is the Mass.”
In the end, having dealt with every Marian doctrine and coming to understand the communion of saints, Moss started praying through Mary. Five weeks later, at the Easter vigil, 1995, she took Mary’s Jewish name, Miriam, as her confirmation name and entered the Church. Life has never been the same.
“Evangelical friends ask me what I have now that I was missing as an Evangelical. I tell them that I have not more than Christ, but I have the whole Christ. I have all that God has given us in giving us His Church.”
Of her conversion, Moss states, “I looked at every Protestant work I could find against Catholicism. In the end, looking into two thousand years of Church history, I learned that the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s comment was truly the case: ‘There’s not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they mistakenly think the Catholic Church teaches.’
“My heart was taken halfway to heaven. I never believed that there could be such a design.”
Moss admits that her conversion has given her a far better understanding of what it means to be Jewish. “The most Jewish thing a person can do is to become Catholic. When I was trying to save my brother from becoming Catholic, I went to Christmas Mass with him. Afterwards, I told him, ‘That’s a synagogue, but with Christ!’”
She draws comparisons between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. “Passover was celebrated to point to Israel’s temporal deliverance from bondage to Egypt. The final Passover, the Last Supper, points to our eternal deliverance from bondage to sin. Both events required the participants to eat of the lamb.”
Moss now spends the majority of her time on the road, speaking to parishes, conventions and conferences as a staff apologist with San Diego-based Catholic Answers. In addition, she writes for This Rock and Be magazine, is a frequent guest on Catholic Answers’ live radio program, and co-hosted a sixteen-part EWTN series with convert Kristine Franklin, titled Household of Faith. Moss was awarded a 1999 Envoy Award for Best New Evangelist.
She’s not alone in her ministry efforts. Her brother David now leads the Association of Hebrew Catholics, a community that helps Catholics of Jewish origin to realize that they need not abandon their heritage in becoming Catholic.
“My wish, from the moment I gave my life to Christ twenty-three years ago, was to find a megaphone and a ladder tall enough to get to the moon so that I could tell the world that there is a Savior. Now I want to spend the rest of my life telling Catholics what they have.”
PORNOGRAPHY AND VIOLENCE
IN THE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA:
A PASTORAL RESPONSE
1. There has been a worldwide revolution in the perception of moral values in recent years, involving profound changes in the way people think and act. The communications media have played and continue to play a major role in this process of individual and social change as they introduce and reflect new attitudes and life-styles.1
2. Some of this change has been for the better. Today, as Pope John Paul II recently noted, “The first positive note is the full awareness among large numbers of men and women of their own dignity and of that of every human being… At the same time, in a world divided and beset by every type of conflict, the conviction is growing of a radical interdependence and consequently of the need for a solidarity which will take up interdependence and transfer it to the moral plane”.2 The communications media have contributed much to these changes.
3. Many changes, however, have been for the worse. Along with old abuses, new violations of human dignity and rights and of Christian values and ideals have occurred. Here, too, the media bear part of the responsibility.
4. The communications media are involved because, as the Second Vatican Council stated, if it is true that “they bring valuable assistance to the human race”, it is equally certain “that individuals can use these means (of communication) in a manner contrary to the commandments of the Creator and can convert them into instruments of evil”.3
5. Among the alarming developments of these years has been the widespread increase of pornography and wanton violence in the media. Books and magazines, recordings, the cinema, the theatre, television, videocassettes, advertising displays and even telecommunications frequently offer a representation of violent behaviour or of permissiveness in sexual activity that reaches the point of being openly pornographic and morally offensive.
6. As reflections of the dark side of a human nature marred by sin, pornography and the exaltation of violence are age-old realities of the human condition. In the past quarter century, however, they have taken on new dimensions and have become serious social problems. At a time of widespread and unfortunate confusion about moral norms, the communications media have made pornography and violence accessible to a vastly expanded audience, including young people and even children, and a problem which at one time was confined mainly to wealthy countries has now begun, via the communications media, to corrupt moral values in developing nations.
7. Thus, the communications media which can be such effective instruments of unity and understanding can also sometimes be the vehicles of a deformed outlook on life, on the family, on religion and on morality – an outlook that does not respect the true dignity and destiny of the human person.4 In particular, parents in many areas of the world have expressed understandable concern about the films, videocassettes and television programs their children can see, about the records their children can hear and about the publications their children can read. They rightly do not want to see the moral ideals inculcated in the home undermined by objectionable materials all too easily accessible in all too many places – often through the communications media.
8. We wish here to describe the more serious effects of pornography and violence on individuals and society, to indicate some of the principal causes of the problem as it exists today and to point to remedial steps which need to be taken by professional communicators, by parents, by educators, by youth, by the general public, by public authorities and by churches, religious bodies and groups in the private sector.
EFFECTS OF PORNOGRAPHY AND VIOLENCE
9. Ordinary experience confirmed by studies conducted around the world has recognized the evil effects of pornography and violence in the media.5 Pornography in the media is understood as a violation, through the use of audiovisual techniques, of the right to privacy of the human body in its male or female nature, a violation which reduces the human person and human body to an anonymous object of misuse for the purpose of gratifying concupiscence; violence in the media may be understood – especially in this context – as a presentation designed to appeal to base human instincts of actions contrary to the dignity of the person and depicting intense physical force exercised in a deeply offensive and often passionate manner. Specialists may disagree among themselves about how and to what degree particular individuals and groups are affected by these phenomena, but the broad outlines of the problem are stark, clear and frightening.
10. While no one can consider himself or herself immune to the corrupting effects of pornography and violence or safe from injury at the hands of those acting under their influence, the young and the immature are especially vulnerable and the most likely to be victimized. Pornography and sadistic violence debase sexuality, corrode human relationships, exploit individuals – especially women and young people, undermine marriage and family life, foster anti-social behaviour and weaken the moral fibre of society itself.
11. Thus, one of the clear effects of pornography is sin. Willing participation in the production or dissemination of these noxious products can only be judged a serious moral evil. Likewise, production and dissemination of these materials could not continue if there were not a market for them, so those who use such materials not only do moral harm to themselves but contribute to the continuation of a nefarious trade.
12. Frequent exposure to violence in the media can be confusing to children, who may not be able to distinguish readily between fantasy and reality. At a later stage, violence in the media can condition impressionable persons, especially those who are young, to regard this as normal and acceptable behaviour, suitable for imitation.
13. It has even been said that there can be a psychological link between pornography and sadistic violence, and some pornography is itself overtly violent in theme and content. Those who view or read such material run the risk of carrying over such attitudes and behaviour into their own relationships and can come to lack reverence and respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family. Such a link between pornography and sadistic violence has particular implications for those suffering from certain forms of mental illness.
14. Even so called “soft core” pornography can have a progressively desensitizing effect, gradually rendering individuals morally numb and personally insensitive to the rights and dignity of others. Exposure to pornography can also be – like exposure to narcotics – habit-forming and can lead individuals to seek increasingly “hard core” and perverse material. The likelihood of anti-social behaviour can grow as this process continues.
15. Pornography can foster unhealthy preoccupations in fantasy and behaviour. It can interfere with personal moral growth and the development of healthy and mature relationships, especially in marriage and family life, where mutual trust and openness and personal moral integrity in thought and in action are so important.
16. Indeed, pornography can militate against the family character of true human sexual expression. The more sexual activity is considered as a continuing frenzied search for personal gratification rather than as an expression of enduring love in marriage, the more pornography can be considered as a factor contributing to the undermining of wholesome family life.
17. In the worst cases, pornography can act as an inciting or reinforcing agent, a kind of accomplice, in the behaviour of dangerous sex offenders – child molesters, rapists and killers.
18. A fundamental message of pornography and violence is disdain, the consideration of others as objects rather than as persons. Thus, pornography and violence can eat away at tenderness and compassion and can foster insensitivity and even brutality.
CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
19. A fundamental reason for the spread of pornography and violence in the media would seem to be a pervasive moral permissiveness, rooted in the search for personal gratification at any cost. Associated with this is a kind of despairing moral emptiness, which makes sense pleasure the only happiness human beings can attain.
20. A number of more immediate causes also contribute to the escalation of pornography and violence in the media. Among them are these:
- the profit motive: Pornography is a lucrative industry. Some segments of the communications industry have tragically succumbed to the temptation of exploiting human weakness, including the weakness of young and impressionable minds, in order to make money from productions of pornography and violence. In some societies, the pornography industry is so lucrative that it has been linked to organized crime.
- bad libertarian arguments: Freedom of expression is said by some to require the toleration of pornography, even at the cost of the moral welfare of the young and of the right of all members of society to privacy and to an atmosphere of public decency. Some even falsely say that the best way to combat pornography is to legalize it. Faulty libertarian arguments are sometimes espoused by small groups who do not represent the moral values of the majority and who fail to recognize that every right carries with it a corresponding responsibility. The right to freedom of expression does not exist in a vacuum. Public responsibility for promoting the welfare of the young, for fostering respect for women and for the protection of privacy and public decency indicates that liberty cannot be equated with license.
- the lack of carefully prepared laws or the ineffective enforcement of laws which already exist to protect the common good, especially the morals of the young.
- confusion and apathy on the part of many persons, including members of the religious community, who erroneously consider themselves either as unaffected by pornography or violence in the media or as powerless to contribute to a solution to the problem.
RESPONSES TO THE PROBLEM
21. The spread of pornography and violence in the communications media does injury to individuals and society and creates an urgent problem requiring realistic responses from many persons and groups. The legitimate rights to free expression and free exchange of information must be respected, but so must the rights of individuals, families and society itself to privacy, public decency and the protection of basic values.
22. We shall speak here of seven sectors with obligations in this matter: professional communicators, parents, educators, youth, the general public, public authorities, and the Church and religious groups.
23. PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATORS. It would be unfair to suggest that all communications media and all communicators are involved in this noxious trafficking. Many communicators retain high personal and professional standards and seek to fulfill their responsibilities with a strong commitment to moral norms and the common good. Their efforts – especially the efforts of those who seek to provide wholesome family entertainment – deserve recognition and encouragement. We urge these communicators to join in formulating and applying ethical codes for the communications media and for advertising which respect the common good and promote sound human development. Such codes are particularly necessary for television, which makes it possible for images to enter directly into the home where children may often be alone and unsupervised. Effective self-control is always the best control, and self-regulation by the media can be the first and best line of defense against those who would corrupt the media and society itself by seeking to profit from pornography and violence. We also urge communicators to help make better known through the media the steps which can be taken to stem the tide of pornography and the exaltation of violence in society.
24. PARENTS. Parents must re-double their efforts to provide for the sound moral formation of children and youth. This includes inculcation of healthy attitudes toward human sexuality based on respect for the dignity of every person as a child of God, on the virtue of chastity and on the practice of self-discipline. A well-ordered family life in which the parents are obviously faithful and committed to each other and to their children provides the best school for the formation of sound moral values. Today, too, children and young people must be taught how to be discriminating, informed consumers of media. Parents, in particular, influence their children through the example they give in this matter; parental passivity or self-indulgence in regard to media teach false and damaging lessons to the young. Of particular importance to young people is the example their parents give of true love and tenderness in marriage and of readiness to discuss matters of concern to their children in a loving and gentle manner. It must not be forgotten that, in matters of human formation, “more is obtained by reasoned explanation than by prohibition”.6
25. EDUCATORS. The chief collaborators with parents in the moral formation of young people must be educators. Schools and other educational programs should support and inculcate the social and ethical values that promote the unity and health of families and of society itself. Of particular value are programs in media education to develop in young people a critical attitude and properly formed skills of discernment in using television, radio and other media, so that they might know how to resist manipulation and how to avoid merely passive listening and viewing habits. It is also important that schools emphasize the need for respect for the human person, the value of family life and the importance of personal moral integrity.
26. YOUTH. Young people themselves can help to stem the tide of pornography and violence in the media by responding positively to the initiatives of their parents and educators and by taking responsibility for their own moral decisions in the choice of entertainment.
27. THE PUBLIC. The general public also needs to make its voice heard. Individually and collectively, concerned citizens – including young people – should make their views known to producers, commercial interests and public authorities. There is an urgent need for continuing dialogue between communicators and representatives of the public so that those involved in the communications media may learn more about the real needs and interests of those whom they serve.
28. PUBLIC AUTHORITIES. Legislators, administrators, law enforcement officials and jurists should recognize and respond to the problem of pornography and violence in the media. Sound laws must be enacted where they are lacking, weak laws must be strengthened, and existing laws must be enforced. Because the production and distribution of pornographic material has international implications, action should also be taken on the regional, continental and world levels to control this insidious traffic. Those who have already taken such initiatives deserve support and encouragement in their efforts.7 Law and the agents of law have as their most sacred duty the protection of the common good, particularly as it pertains to youth and the most vulnerable members of the community. We have already noted some of the harmful effects of pornography and violence, and we can conclude that the common good has indeed been harmed and continues to be harmed where such materials are produced, exhibited and distributed without responsible restriction or regulation. Public authorities must feel obliged to take prompt action to deal with this problem where it already exists and to prevent it from arising in places where it may not yet have become an urgent matter.
29. THE CHURCH AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS. For the Church, the first responsibility is the constant, clear teaching of the faith and, therefore, of objective moral truth, including the truth about sexual morality. In an era of permissiveness and moral confusion, this requires that the Church be a prophetic voice and, often, a sign of contradiction. The so-called “ethic” of immediate personal gratification is fundamentally opposed to integral human growth and fulfillment. Education for family life and indeed for responsible life in society requires formation in chastity and self-discipline. By contrast, pornography and wanton violence can blind individuals to the divine image in the human person, can weaken marriage and family life and can do serious harm to individuals and to society itself. Wherever possible, the Church must join with other churches, denominations and religious groups in teaching and fostering this message. It must also make the best possible use of its own institutions and personnel to give education and formation concerning the media of social communications and their proper role in individual and social life. Special attention should be given to assisting parents in their efforts. Thus, media education belongs in Catholic schools and other educational programs, in seminaries,8 in formation programs of religious and secular institutes, in the continuing formation of priests and in parish programs for youth and adults. Priests and Religious in pastoral and educational work should themselves be discrimating consumers of media who give good example in what they read and view.
30. Finally, a merely censorious attitude on the part of the Church toward the media is neither sufficient nor appropriate. Instead, the Church should be engaged in continued conversation with responsibile communicators to encourage them in their work and to provide assistance where it is needed or requested. Catholic communicators and their professional organizations – with their special insights and experience – can play a key role in these continuing conversations.
31. As they conscientiously evaluate productions and publications in accordance with clear and consistent moral principles, Catholic critics and communications organizations can offer valuable assistance both to communications professionals and to families. In fact, the guidelines on the communications media present in existing Church documents, including recent reflections by many bishops on the problems of pornography and violence, deserve extended study and systematic application.
32. This document is intended to address the widely expressed concerns of families and of the shepherds of the Church and to invite even more general reflection of an ethical and practical nature on the problem of pornography and violence in the communications media and to encourage all to follow the injunction of St. Paul: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12, 21).
Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Vatican City, May 7, 1989
Some Interesting Reads
- What Does Pornography Do To A Man?
- To Women?
- To Marriages?
- 10 Myths Exposed About The Porn Industry
- The Truth About Masturbation
- Are looking at Swimsuit Magazines Ok?
- Is Masturbation Harmful?
Listen to some confessions here
Rocking the Cradle Catholic:
That old Familia Feeling
Common ground is better when it’s rock solid.
Don’t tell anybody. . . but my family and I fellowshipped this morning. Shhhhhhh!
I feel a little strange saying it, because I’m told that Catholics tend not to do that sort of thing. But I’m pretty sure we fellowshipped. We must have. There were even donuts and bad coffee available.
As a matter of fact, we’ve experienced two different types of fellowship — I mean, fellowshipping — in recent months. One was parish-based . . . the other was faith-based.
There’s a difference. You’ll see what I mean.
Our first fellowshipping came in the form of a progressive dinner. A term that upset me at first, as I thought it meant sitting around listening to people tell me what a great president Ralph Nader would make.
Fortunately, it was something else entirely: a parish fundraiser. For $35 dollars per person, you were entitled to cocktails at one parishioner’s house, and dinner at another.
Nights like that are great, as long as you go in ready to deal with the fact that there are people in your parish who live a whole lot better than you do. At least when it comes to things like square footage, fancy furniture, and a separate bathroom for everyone on the guest list.
Not that I snooped or anything.
By the way . . . why are we, as a nation, so fascinated with bathrooms?
I grew up in an apartment, with one bathroom that was shared by five people, and never thought twice about it. And it was a genuine “bathroom” — no shower. I now have a house with two bathrooms, one of which I never even go into. Both of them have showers, and I still want a third bathroom, so visitors don’t have to walk upstairs to do the inevitable.
Anyway, the $35-dollar-per-person price tag on this dinner was a big night out for us. But we wanted to meet some people, and the money was going to the parish, so we figured it was a good investment. As it turned out, most of the people we met during the course of the evening didn’t seem to be missing their $35-per as much as we were.
This means the conversation left something to be desired for lack of common ground. We heard a lot about the sort of remodeling plans and vacations that won’t be on our itinerary any time prior to achieving our glorified bodies.
We also spent a good portion of the evening missing our son, which no one else seemed to be doing. Of course, nobody else there knew our son, so they had an excuse. But that didn’t stop at least one person from being taken aback at the way we’re raising him. When one woman heard that my wife stays at home with Michael, and doesn’t put him in daycare for at least one day a week, she reacted as if Mary Ann were from another planet.
“What about Mom’s day out?” she blustered.
Mary Ann gently reminded her that the day will come all too soon when Michael won’t be around for a large part of the day, and that Mom will then have all the out time she can handle. She then excused herself to look for me.
She found me staring forlornly at a dining level half-bath that was the same size as one of our full baths.
In addition to discovering vast caverns of plumbing that night, I also discovered something important about myself. I’ve come to prefer Catholic get-togethers that put the spiritual above the social.
Until very recently, that wasn’t the case. Just last year, I volunteered to help coordinate a parish pub crawl.
Now, the fellowshipping we did today — on a beautiful May morning, with our son accompanying us — was of another sort entirely.
We belong to a wonderful study group called FAMILIA (Family Life In America). It’s a program in which husbands and wives study papal documents pertaining to the family.
Suburban nightlife this is not.
In fact, the husbands’ group meets at 7:30 on Saturday mornings, so we don’t take the larger part of the day away from our families. The wives’ group — full of women who, like my wife, know all too well that the future holds plenty of free time for them — meets with the children in tow.
How they do that, I don’t know.
As someone who wishes Good Night, Moon came with Cliff Notes, I can’t imagine wading through Familiaris Consortio while trying to keep an eye on my son as well. I got daring one morning and tried going to the husbands’ meeting without coffee and might as well not have been there.
But there was no dense reading to be considered today, as all the husbands, wives, and children gathered for Mass, the Rosary, and a May Crowning.
I hadn’t been to a May Crowning since grammar school.
In the third grade, Mrs. Driscoll used to make a girl and boy process around the classroom once a week during May, while the rest of the class sang “Immaculate Mary.”
The boy would then hold a chair for the girl, who placed a crown of plastic flowers on a statue of Our Lady.
I’m sure we had May Crownings aplenty throughout my grammar school years, but those third grade crownings stand out for me. Probably because I once got to hold the chair for Robyn Venner — the closest I ever got to her during a massive K-thru-8 crush.
Today’s May Crowning was even better than that one. The love of my life was beside me, as was our son. Who needs Robyn Venner? We led a decade of the Rosary, then spent a couple of hours chasing after Michael and whoever else’s kid needed chasing after, while grabbing little snatches of conversation with people who live and think the way we do.
Of course, it took awhile for the guys from my study group to recognize each other. We were all clean. We usually see each other unshaven, unbathed, and generally unfit for public display first thing on a Saturday morning.
Now, here’s the thing. The parish fundraiser was important, but it was an end in and of itself. It wasn’t about Christians gathering. It was about people hanging out, eating and drinking — fellow-sipping, as opposed to fellow-shipping.
I love eating. I love drinking. And I love socializing. But looking at that night in light of today made me understand for the first time that there can be an important difference between parish life and one’s faith life, and that we should be careful not to confuse the two. Supporting a parish through fundraising events isn’t the same as practicing our faith.
The chatting and child chasing we did today took on far more significance than our conversations at the dinner, because we did it in the afterglow of having celebrated the Eucharist, and after honoring Our Lady as a group of families united by the practice of our faith . . . united by belief, and by a well articulated set of values.
For instance, I know how a conversation about abortion would have gone with the Catholics at that May Crowning. I’m not at all sure how it would have gone at the progressive dinner.
The Eucharistic Celebration
Explained For Children and the Child In You
By Julian Tan (Catholicjules.net)
As you age and grow in your faith children, you will have a deeper spiritual understanding of the Eucharistic Celebration unravel for you. In other words like a cabbage, when you peel away the first layer you will see a new layer and when you peel that one away yet another will revealed. For now let us embark on this little journey of understanding the basics so that you can have a deeper appreciation for what takes place when you are in Church on Sunday.
So let us first begin with what it means; Eucharist actually means ‘Thanksgiving’ in other words we celebrate by giving thanks to God our Father for His undying love for us and to thank him for giving us Jesus. In addition, the Eucharistic Celebration is also a solemn reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus who died for us on the cross to take away our sins, rose from the dead and who now lives with our Father in heaven and in our hearts.
Now here is something to remember and keep close to your heart. God so loved the world, he gave us his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. And Jesus loved us so much that He could not bear to leave us completely alone. So being the Son of God, he instituted (provided) a way to be with us always. By giving us His real body which takes the appearance of the bread(Communion Host) we offer at the altar and His blood which takes the appearance of the wine we offer at the altar. Jesus lovingly shares this truth with us;”The man who feeds on My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the Father Who has life sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.”
Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as our spiritual nourishment for which we are in Holy Communion (fellowship) with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, His Church (all of us) and together with the Angels and Saints in the Heavenly Liturgy where Christ eternally intercedes for us.
Now with true faith, you understand that your are receiving Jesus the Son of God (Which is His Divine Body ), so then you must receive him in a state of grace. ( Pure without having committed mortal Sin) If we had committed a mortal sin which basically means a terrible sin which would lead us away from God the Father, example breaking one of the Ten Commandments, or close to it. Then we must first go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be pardoned of that sin first. Only having done that, can we receive Jesus and reap the spiritual benefits the Eucharist has to offer. The Eucharist is a sacrament of unity because it unites us more closely with God and with one another through the growth of sanctifying grace in our soul. The same grace, that helps us to love our neighbour for the love of God.
Jesus is present in the Eucharistic celebration in four ways, in the person of the Celebrant (The Priest ), in his Word ( The Gospel), in the bread and wine when He through the Priest offers it to us. And he is present with us, the assembled people, as we pray and sing. For he promised, “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20)
So children as we gather together in God’s house and knowing that Jesus is present, we pray quietly and prepare ourselves for the Celebrant ( The Priest ) to arrive so that he may lead us in this joyous Eucharistic Celebration.
After the people have assembled, the entrance antiphon is sung (an entrance hymn is usually sung) or recited as the priest and the ministers enter the church. We do this to welcome Jesus and praise God.
SIGN OF THE CROSS
We Call Upon the Holy Trinity
We begin with the sign of the cross like we do for any prayer. We are calling God to be with us as we pray to Him.
Priest: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We Are Welcomed in God’s Name
The priest greets us and welcomes us to church both in his own name and in God’s name.
Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
People: And also with you
The priest now invites us to reflect on our sins and to tell God how truly sorry we are for them. We want to say sorry for all the times we were selfish and for having sinned so that we can listen to God’s word and receive His body and blood with a pure heart. We then say :-
I confess to Almighty God,
and to you my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault ( We strike our own breasts)
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
The priest says a short prayer asking for God’s mercy.
We Ask Jesus For Mercy
Priest : Lord, have mercy. People: Lord have mercy.
Priest : Christ, have mercy. People: Christ have mercy.
Priest : Lord, have mercy. People: Lord have mercy.
Sometimes instead of the longer prayers, the priest asks for God’s mercy by calling upon God three times. He finishes his prayer with “Lord have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.” We repeat those last words each time he says them.
We Praise God
Now we are so happy God has promised us forgiveness that we celebrate with joy. We do this by saying or singing loudly the song the angels sang so long ago when they celebrated the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Glory to God in the highest.
and peace to His people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,
we worship you we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
With the Holy Spirit,
In the glory of God the Father. Amen.
We Join in Prayer Together
This is followed by the Opening Prayer. There are different prayers for each day of the year. In this prayer, the priest asks God to be with us in a very special way as we open our hearts to him.
Priest : Forever and ever.
FIRST READING (SIT)
God Speaks To Us Through The Prophets
We sit and listen to the Word of God as it was spoken in the Old Testament, especially through his prophets. The reader takes their place in speaking to us.
At the end of the reading:
Reader : The Word of the Lord.
People : Thanks be to God.
We Respond To God’s Word
The people repeat the response said by the reader or sung by the cantor.
God Speaks To Us through the Apostles
We now listen to readings taken from the letters of Paul and the other Apostles.
At the end of the reading :
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
People : Thanks be to God.
ALLELUIA VERSE (STAND)
We Praise Jesus Who Comes To Speak To Us
Jesus will speak to us in the Gospel. We rise now out of respect and prepare for his message with the alleluia verse.
God Speaks To Us Through Christ
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Priest: A reading from the holy Gospel according to N.
People: Glory to you, Lord.
We now listen to the priest read the Gospel.
At the end of the Gospel:
Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
People: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
God Speaks To Us Through The Priest
These readings are God’s message to us, but at times they may be difficult to understand. This is why the priest explains the meaning of the readings to us in a homily. The homily also tells us how to live God’s Word in our lives.
PROFESSION OF FAITH (STAND)
We Profess Our Faith
After having heard God’s Word in the readings, we proclaim before everyone that we believe. We believe what God has told; we believe that he has called us; we believe that he loves us. To say all this we profess our faith with the creed.
THE NICENE CREED
We believe in one God,
the FATHER, THE ALMIGHTY,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, JESUS CHRIST,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made, one in Being with the Father
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
(All bow at the following words up to: and became man.)
By the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance to the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the HOLY SPIRIT, the Lord the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
We Pray For Our Brothers And Sisters In Christ
We close the first part of the Mass by saying the General Intercessions also known as the Prayer of the Faithful. In other words we not only pray for ourselves but for all who need God’s help. The Priest usually begins and ends the General Intercessions and someone else reads the intentions for which are praying together. We add our voices to the prayer by repeating the response that has been chosen. egs. People : Lord, hear our prayer.
We begin by praying of the Church. We pray for the Pope, Bishops, Priests, clergy and all the people of God. We pray we might all answer God’s call in a loving manner.
We pray for public authorities, the leaders of our nation and all the people of the world.
We also pray for those who have a special need. We pray for the poor, for the sick, for those who are sad and for anyone else who might need prayers.
We pray for those who have died. We remember them because we want to share our love with them and pray that they might be with God in heaven.
Finally, we pray for our own local community and our particular needs.
The Prayer closes the first part of the Mass which is called the Liturgy of the Word.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST (SIT)
While the gifts of the people are being brought forward to the priest and placed on the altar, a song is sung. The gifts are bread and wine and whatever else we offer for the needs of the Church and for the poor. We are also encouraged to offer a gift of ourselves to Jesus examples: Peace, Love, Justice, and Humility.
PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS
We Place Bread On The Altar
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.
Through you goodness we have this bread to offer,
which earth has given and human hands have made.
It will become for us the bread of life.
We may respond: Blessed be God forever.
We Place The Wine On The Altar
He then takes the wine and says in a quiet voice (or sings):
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of (human) hands.
It will become the cup of joy. (spiritual drink)
We may respond: Blessed be God forever.
The Priest washes his hands, asking God to wash away his sins. He then says,
INVITATION TO PRAYER (STAND)
We Ask God To Accept Our Sacrifice
Priest: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God , the almighty Father.
People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name,
for our good and the good of all his Church.
PRAYER OVER THE GIFTS
We Pray For God’s Grace
The priest says the Prayer over the Gifts. Like the Opening Prayer, there is a special one for each day of the year.
At the end:
People : Amen.
The priest now begins the Eucharistic Prayer. This is the prayer that will change the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Priest : Lift up you hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
The priest then calls upon the Lord with a prayer called the Preface. We respond to that prayer by singing or saying the same prayer that the angels sing before God’s throne :
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY
We Praise God In Union With The Angels
Priest and People:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
WORDS OF INSTITUTION
The Bread And Wine Becomes Christ’s Body And Blood
There are a number of different Eucharistic Prayers that the priest can use, but they use the words that Jesus said over the bread and wine. The priest takes the bread and says,
Before he was given for death,
a death he freely accepted,
he took bread and gave you thanks.
He broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples and said:
Take this all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be given up for you.”
The priest holds up the body of Christ for all the people to see.
The priest then takes the cup filled with the wine and says,
When supper was ended, he took the cup.
Again he gave you thanks and praise,
gave the cup to his disciples and said:
“Take this all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.”
The priest holds up the cup that contains the blood of Christ for all the people to see.
We Proclaim The Mystery Of Faith
We are so happy that God is giving us this very special gift that we feel like crying out for joy. The priest invites us to do this in the Memorial Acclamation. This prayer is a short profession of faith. There are four different ones that we can use:
Priest: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life,
Lord Jesus, come in glory.
When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.
Lord, by your cross and resurrection
you have set us free.
You are the Saviour of the world.
We Give Our Assent To All That Has Taken Place
At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, we join the priest in giving glory to the Father through Jesus:
Through him, with him, In him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
forever and ever.
COMMUNION RITE (STAND)
We Speak To God Our Father In The Words Jesus Taught Us
After the Eucharistic Prayer is finished, we prepare to receive Jesus in communion by saying the prayer that Jesus taught us. We praise God, ask for our daily bread, and beg forgiveness for our sins.
Priest and People:
Our Father in heaven,
holy be your name;
Your kingdom come;
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us;
Do not bring us to the test,
but deliver us from evil.
Deliver us, Lord from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
SIGN OF PEACE
We Offer A Sign Of Peace To Each Other
Before we receive the body and blood of Jesus, we have to make peace with each other.
The priest says a prayer for peace and unity that ends with:
Priest: Forever and ever.
Priest: The peace of the Lord be with you always.
People: And also with you.
Priest: Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
We give a sign of peace to those around us.
BREAKING OF THE BREAD
We Ask For Mercy And Peace
We then call upon Jesus to prepare us so that we might be ready to receive communion. We say,
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
grant us peace.
We Ask God To Make Us Worthy To Receive Communion
The priest invites us to receive Jesus our Saviour who comes to us in communion. He prays with us, asking God to make us worthy to receive his great gift.
Priest and People:
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.
He then receives communion.
It is important that we remind ourselves of what we are about to do when we receive communion. We do not want to go up to receive it just because everyone else is going or just because we do it every Sunday. We should remind ourselves that this is the precious body and blood of Jesus. We should receive it because we want to be one with Jesus and we want to be like him.
We Receive Jesus
We then go up to receive the body and blood of Jesus. The priest of the Eucharist says :
Priest: The body of Christ.
Priest: The blood of Christ.
This response means that we really want to be one with God. The communion song is sung while communion is given to the faithful.
PERIOD OF SILENCE OR SONG OF PRAISE (SIT)
We Praise God
After the communion there may be a period of silence, or a song of praise may be sung.
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
We Ask For The Grace Of Communion
Priest: Let us pray.
When everyone has finished receiving communion, the priest says a prayer called the Prayer After Communion. Like the Opening Prayer and the Prayer Over the Gifts, it is different for each day of the year. The prayer usually asks that we might be able to live with our whole heart and our entire love the things that we have promised to do when we received communion.
At the end:
Priest : Through Christ our Lord.
People : Amen.
The Mass closes with a sign of the cross, just as it began with one. This time the sign of the cross is a blessing.
We Receive God’s Blessing From The Priest
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Priest: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We Are Sent Out To Bring Christ To Others
Priest: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. OR The Mass is ended, go in peace. OR Go in peace of Christ.
People: Thanks be to God.
The Recessional Song ends our celebration.
As we go forth from the Church, we realize that we have been changed. We had received the body and blood of our Lord, and this has made us apostles. We now go forth into the world to carry the love of Jesus to everyone whom we meet.
You Can Trust Me, I’m a Psychic
By Mark P. Shea
You can’t turn on the TV these days without being acosted by an infomercial for the latest scam: psychic hotlines. New ones spring up practically every day, and this fast growing fad is grabbing a lot more than foolish people’s cash – souls are at stake. Have you ever wondered why these 900# scams are so effective in duping so many? Here’s a look at the silliness and, how Catholics can respond to those who swear by their psychics.
You see this stuff everywhere. During the commercials on the science programs that assure us we’ve progressed past medieval superstition. On the back pages of magazines that assure us we’re integrated adults with healthy sex lives and high-paying jobs. In the newspapers that remind us how American secular culture is free of the ignorant mysticism of the Dark Ages. In the pages of a zillion “women’s mags,” sandwiched between excerpts from “Andre Talks Hair!” and “How to Have Abs of Steel.”
Horoscopes. Astrologers. Dionne Warwick hawking her Psychic Pals. Billy Dee Williams coaxing you into dialing that 900 number that will change your life and your phone bill forever. Crystal gazing, tarot reading, clairvoyance and all the rest of it. What is a Catholic to make of it all? And what is a Catholic who wishes to share his Faith to say to his neighbor who faithfully reads his horoscope every morning in the Times?
Some laugh at the very idea of saying anything. The whole enterprise is shot through with such quackery and hokum that many people can’t believe anyone takes it seriously. For example, when Envoy did a search to find a few astrology Web sites, we found (among the thousands of hits) three separate sites advertising the uncanny powers of Mystic Meg, Sylvia Browne and Jeanne Dixon. What struck us as most uncanny of all was that their advertising blurbs were, to a large extent, exact, word-for-word duplicates of one another, right down to the displays of grammatical ineptitude (“Yes, I have one of the greatest psychic pools filled with my hand picked psychics and they all experience the same capabilities as mine.”)
Brrr! Scary! What besides psychic synchronicity could possibly explain this strange coincidence? Could it have to do with their remarkably similar phone numbers? You be the judge!
Still other ads wavered between spookiness and a kind of unconscious compulsion to confess their quackery, as, for example, tarot readings offered by the appropriately-named “House of Cards.” Others simply brass it out with wondrously meaningless claims, as, for instance, an astrologer down the street from me who advertises herself as “Seattle’s Best Astrologer.” In lucid moments, one wonders just how to measure this claim versus, say, Seattle’s Second Best Astrologer. But, as should be obvious, most of these people are not really counting on a clientele with a robust sense of skepticism.
Nonetheless, millions of people do not harbor such skepticism. Which is why the tube, the newspapers and the magazines do not promote this stuff for their health. They promote it because it is big, booming, lucrative business that rakes in big, booming, lucrative bucks. Here, for instance, is the July 1997 issue of New Woman, an ultra-typical checkstand mag featuring an ultra-typical “Horoscope Special” section sponsored by the Coty perfume company. The first page has a big splashy ad for “Ghost Myst” (“You can’t see it, but you know it’s there”), along with the slogan, “Always believe in spirits — especially yours.” Then, leaf after leaf of fabulously expensive color glossy pages telling several hundred thousand credulous readers how to organize their finances based on the stars and planets (“We all have issues when it comes to money — and the cosmos have more to do with it than you might think.” “Your Sun sign influences the way you feel about money.”)
Here is a spectacularly crass alloy of Corporate Big Money, American self-worship and materialism, and superstitious truckling to the powers that would have made Simon the Magician proud (Acts 8:9-10). And it is sponsored not by some two-bit juke joint crystal gazer, but by a major American corporation in a major American magazine utterly indistinguishable from a hundred others. That means, among other things, that this stuff, far from being far out, is mainstream, normal and regarded as harmless. But is it harmless?
Is it harmless?
To raise this question these days is largely to invite catcalls. Especially when we raise it as Catholics. Our postmodern neighbor retorts, “What’s the difference between your religion with its prophets and miracles and this stuff about horoscopes and magic? If it works for some people, what’s the harm?”
Conversely, some of our Evangelical Protestant friends will take a position opposite from this, yet just as hostile to the Catholic Church. “Horoscopes and seances are forbidden by Scripture,” they will say, “and that’s why Catholic prayer to the saints is evil, too. It’s all satanic.”
And finally, of course, uneducated Catholics can sometimes get fuddled by apologists for the occult who tell them horoscopes and consultation with the dead are “in the Bible,” so it must be okay. How do we navigate such turbulent waters and retain a healthy Catholic Faith?
A good place to start.
A good place to start is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2115-2116):
“God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.
“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”
Let’s unpack this. If you ask most modern Catholics which of the Ten Commandments astrology or divination violates, they’ll likely tell you, “Thou shalt not steal.” That’s because, being more modern than Catholic, most tend to think of sins against the wallet before thinking of sins against God. They figure the thing is quackery, so the main sin is in bubbling somebody out of their cash. Interestingly, though, the Catechism teaches us to regard divination, horoscopes and the rest as sins against the First, not the Seventh, Commandment.
The First Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The reason the Church regards divination, consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, summoning the dead and all the rest of it as sinful is because they are all attempts to treat creatures like the Creator. They are all attempts to wring from (and give to) creatures (whether crystals, tea leaves, stars, dead people or spirits) that which is proper only to God. And they are all, without exception, motivated by a desire for power and control.
Love, Life, Relationships, Career, Money, the Future.
Which brings us to the main paradox of the “psychic subculture”: namely, that it desires and claims access to phenomenal cosmic powers, yet has astoundingly petty aims (and I here quote from a typical ad):
Your personal psychic will answer questions about:
*Love * Life * Relationships * Career * Money *The Future
One would think that Souls in Tune with the Infinite would have loftier goals than finding out from New Woman what “Your Money Style” is (“Thanks to Jupiter, your popularity goes through the roof. Spring for a great cocktail dress, a caterer and a cellular phone.”) But, in fact, the basic reason for consulting a psychic (confirmed by looking at the average psychic’s “marketing strategy”) is a deep desire for knowledge and control as the highest conceivable goods in life. Like Faustus, the basic motivation here is to acquire chicks, checks and chocolate. It is emphatically not to humble oneself before God, nor to enter into a relationship of mutual self-giving, nor even to raise one’s sights to a moderate philosophical reflection on any meaning in life beyond “Always believe in spirits — especially yours.”
This by itself is enough to distinguish the guiding principle of the occult from anything remotely resembling Catholic faith. For in contrast to the teaching of Christ, the obvious goal here is not union with God, but “becoming as gods, knowing the difference between good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). In short, the goal is indeed power — “power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.”
This last clause ought not to go unnoticed. For the irony is that when we seek security by placing our faith in power and self rather than in the love of the Blessed Trinity, we necessarily find ourselves, sooner or later, in a universe of fear — fear of greater powers who believe in themselves more strongly still. This is the source of a zillion schemes for appeasing spirits, dealing with hexes and the whole complex jungle of superstition which is rife, not only in pre-Christian paganism, but in post-Christian supermarket checkstand culture, as well. Which is why, in the midst of her promises to deliver you into a future of peace and plenty, Jeanne Dixon’s Web page features a promise to remove spells. It’s a god eat god world.
But this is the 20th Century!
“But,” says the skeptic, “this is the 20th Century! Surely you don’t take powers, principalities, and all the rest of this supernaturalism seriously?”
As a Catholic, I most certainly do take the supernatural seriously. The mere fact that an enormous amount of the occult is what we would call human quackery does not mean it is not supernatural. For a Catholic, the mere fact the thing involves humans at all makes it supernatural, since humans are spiritual creatures. The charlatan who exploits the credulity of rich widows is complicit in the work of the Father of Lies, even if it involves only smoke and mirrors. The fact that such quackery is not accompanied by levitation and pea soup vomit does not make it the less dangerous if it tempts a soul to place pride, power, vanity and self-absorption at the top of its To Do list.
However, having said that, a Catholic will hasten to add that not all occult phenomena are necessarily caused by a mere human agency. Sometimes the liar is not human, but genuinely demonic and capable of producing effects beyond what is naturally explicable. For example, the possessions recorded in the New Testament and the strange visitations of demonic power which afflicted St. John Vianney. The fact is, the world bristles with reliable accounts of malign supernatural powers; accounts which come from sages, saints and quite ordinary people who are quite as bright and honest as you or me, and who insist that such things do happen and have even happened to them.
Sniffing, “But this is the 20th Century!” in the face of this evidence and of the teaching of the Church is exactly like sniffing, “But this is Tuesday the 12th!” The fact is, the calendar has nothing to do with whether God created immortal spirits called “angels.” It has nothing to do with the fact that some of them abused their free will, rejected God and His creation (including us) and thereby became what we call devils. And it has nothing whatever to do with the fact that, to this day, Satan remains what Jesus called him: “a murderer from the beginning . . . a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Thus, the rationalist skeptic, so far from being in advance of the age, is several eons and ages behind the times, and is clueless as to the nature and extent of just what powers may be at work when a human being dabbles in the occult. This is why the Church, fearing much more for our souls than our wallets, condemns all necromancy, all astrology, all attempts to seek revelation from spirits or crystals or powers — even ones which are undertaken for an ostensibly “good” reason (like calling on familiar spirits to heal a sick loved one).
For all of this is, according to the Catechism, still tantamount to idolatry and is still, at root, an attempt to wring from (and give to) a creature (even if it is a superhuman creature like a fallen angel) what is proper only to the Creator. The occultist claims to “summon spirits from the vasty deep” and the rationalist tartly replies, “Yes, but will they come when you call?” The Church says the extraordinarily dangerous thing is they very well might do just that, particularly to the heart and will that are deliberately disposed to serve them.
They come to dominate, deceive and destroy.
However, they come not to serve, but to dominate, deceive and destroy. The serious pursuit of occultic power by puny humans surrounded by superhuman fallen spirits is analogous to the mouse’s serious pursuit of the cat. Fallen angels hate God. They also hate what is in God’s image, namely you. They even hate themselves. Their native language, says our Lord, is the lie (John 8:44). To seek them for any reason is to lay oneself open to grave spiritual danger, including the possibility of irrevocably severing ourselves from our relationship with God.
“But,” says the occult devotee, “not all psychic phenomena are sought out. Sometimes people simply find they have prophetic dreams or insights or some other strange thing. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, had a dream in which he foresaw his own assassination. Are you calling such phenomena automatically demonic?”
No, not “automatically.” That would be rash. The world is a strange place, governed by a God who is Mystery. If He chooses from time to time to reveal things to someone prophetically, He is free to do so (though since He is Truth, He will never reveal anything that contradicts or adds to the revelation He has given us in Christ). He can, if He likes, reveal Himself through various odd phenomena such as dreams or mystical knowledge of future events. He is, after all, God. But precisely because He is God, we are obliged to hear and heed His word to us that divination, spiritism, horoscopes and consulting the dead are “abominable practices” (Deut. 18:10-12).
It is one thing, therefore, if a person is made the recipient of a supernatural insight or gift (as, for instance, St. Bernadette was when the Blessed Virgin appeared to her at Lourdes). It is quite another if a person defies God’s express will by seeking supernatural knowledge and power in ways the Lord has expressly forbidden as a violation of the First Commandment. And of course, the mere fact that someone has an unsought dream or supernatural insight about the future still does not mean that person is necessarily being visited by God. As Sts. Peter and Paul say, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” and he “disguises himself as an angel of light.” (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:14). That is also why Paul admonishes, “Test everything, hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). And the Catholic Church follows suit by testing every claim of private revelation presented to Her, scrutinizing each claim in light of what God has clearly revealed in Scripture and Tradition.
“That’s your interpretation of Scripture,” says the occult devotee. “But there are other Scriptures that support, for instance, astrology. Judges 5:20 tells us, ‘From heaven fought the stars, from their courses they fought against Sisera.’ Likewise, Matthew 2 tells us the Magi (that is, astrologers) knew of the coming Messiah because they had ‘seen his star in the East.’ So astrology is perfectly biblical.”
In reply, the Catholic might answer that a better way to put it is that astrology is imperfectly biblical. That is, both the examples cited are specimens of incomplete revelation, and are certainly not licenses for disobeying God.
The basic very biblical and very Catholic truth that astrology imperfectly reflects is this: Everything is connected. However, what neither astrologers, nor the author of Judges, nor the Magi understand very clearly is how everything is connected. Modern astrologers understand the least of the three. They assume there is a direct connection between us and the stars and planets. The author of Judges knows a bit more than this. He has the added revelation of the existence of the God of Israel, and so he says (poetically), “the stars fought against Sisera” or, in plain English, “God arranged everything to help Israel.” But the author of Judges does not clearly understand to what end God was helping Israel, he just knows He was.
Likewise, the Magi are also murky, but they know a smidge more. They do not clearly understand how all this Israelite religion fits in with their Babylonian lore of the stars, but they are convinced (just like modern astrologers) that everything is connected; they know (just like the author of Judges) that God is somehow doing the connecting and they are aware (just like Catholics) that it’s somehow entangled with the long-foretold “King of the Jews.” But the crucial fact which eludes them all is the nature of this connection between everything.
It is precisely here that we, as Catholics, do have perfectly biblical revelation the modern astrologer does not. For we know the end to which God was leading Israel when He arranged everything to fight against Sisera. He was leading to Jesus Christ, Who is the fulfillment of the hope of Israel. Likewise, when He graciously spoke to the Magi in terms of their own culture, He led them, not into more astrology, but to the Incarnate Word of God, and thus to the fullness of His revelation. His grace built on their Babylonian nature and helped them to understand the perfectly biblical revelation that everything is connected in Christ, and only in Christ. God can and did use the innocent astrological attempts of the Magi to help them understand the connections at work in Creation.
But once the revelation is given that everything is connected only in Christ, any further attempt to seek from the creation what is proper to the Creator is to try to make an end run around the Creator and thereby sin against the First Commandment. It is also, by the way, silly. For in Christ “the whole fullness of divinity dwells bodily . . . in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:9, 3). To continue looking to stars or tea leaves for supernatural revelation in the face of this overwhelming gift is analogous to a man dying of thirst turning his back on Niagara Falls and trying to catch rain in a thimble.
The Babe at Bethlehem said to the Magi, in essence, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you . . . The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:23, 30).
“Speaking of repentance,” says our Evangelical friend, “when are you Catholics going to repent of your doubletalk? After all, you pray to the dead. What’s the difference between that and a seance like Saul attended in 1 Samuel 28?”
The difference is Jesus Christ.
Catholic teaching, as we have seen, forbids as strongly as Deuteronomy 18:10 all attempts to “consult with the dead.” It forbids it, as we have seen, because any attempt to make an end run around Jesus Christ and acquire knowledge and control apart from the life of the Blessed Trinity constitutes idolatry. Saul was not guilty of some vague sin of creepiness when he summoned the spirit of Samuel by the Witch of Endor. He was guilty of attempting to wring power over events from a creature so he could outwit the Creator. The lesson Saul learned was the lesson of the Psalmist: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? . . . If I make my bed in Sheol [the grave], thou art there” (Psalm 139:7-8). It is a lesson the Church wants every one of Her members to know and heed: idolatry is a grave sin.
“But Saul summoned up a demon and was punished by death [1 Chron. 10:13-14]. Isn’t Catholic prayer to the dead also likened to summoning demons?”
Actually the text gives us no reason at all for thinking Saul summoned a demon. The sacred writer is quite emphatic that the spirit who appeared was the prophet Samuel himself. In fact, the spirit of Samuel even utters a true prophecy: Saul is to die tomorrow. How to explain this? One reasonable explanation is simply this: Samuel, who was among the prophets who awaited the Messiah, was, like all the dead in Christ, not dead, any more than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead. For as our Lord says, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). This being so, it is quite possible that God allowed Samuel to appear to Saul, just as He allowed Moses and Elijah to appear on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3). As we have seen, God is free to do what He likes, but Saul is not thereby exonerated of his attempt to make an end run around God. He must discover that our connectedness to the dead is not direct and that the dead, like the living, have no power and no hope that is not ultimately centered in Christ. Saul must learn not to sin against the First Commandment. In short, the story corroborates precisely what the Church teaches.
“But,” persists our Evangelical friend, “How can you say the Church honors the First Commandment when you pray to the dead? Isn’t that idolatry?
Pray to the dead?
No. For prayer to a saint is not worship, any more than bowing to an audience or kneeling to propose marriage is. “Pray” is simply an old-fashioned word for “request,” as in “I pray thee, do thou get me another beer, and I shall reckon it an act of kindness withal.” Thus, in asking me to pray for you, you are “praying to” me in the sense the Catholic Church means it. To “pray to” the saints is not to adore them as gods. Rather, it is simply to address them as fellow members of the Body of Christ. This is very significant, for it is to do precisely what those who consult the dead do not do, which is to consciously place both oneself and the saint addressed in the communion of saints, which is united with the Blessed Trinity and, in the Trinity, with us. In other words, Catholic prayer to the dead fully acknowledges our connectedness entirely within Christ.
Thus, prayer to the saints is sharply distinct from “consulting the dead” precisely because it does not attempt to make an end run around God, nor to treat a creature as God, nor to acquire from the dead forbidden knowledge or power. Rather, the entire point is to enter fully into the reality that, in Christ and only in Christ, we are “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).
The theology behind prayer to the saints, then, is straightforward and solidly biblical. It is centered in the Light of the World, of which the “angel of light” is a cheesy imitation.
First, Scripture clearly shows that the blessed dead, connected with us in Christ, are indeed aware of earthly doings (Heb. 12:1). Also check out the story of the Transfiguration in the gospels (Matt. 17:1-8).
Second, Scripture promises that those in Christ shall, in glory, “be like him,” conformed to His image in every way (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:29). And so, even on this earth, we are given the glorious task of carrying out His work by praying for one another and exercising spiritual gifts for the building up of the Body (Rom. 12). The Church, believing the reality that we go from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18), has always believed that this glorious participation in the saving work of Christ will be ours in even fuller measure when we enter into Heaven. And since we are “members one of another,” we can, in Christ and only in Christ, seek the prayers and help of fellow members of the Body, both here and in Heaven.
The bottom line is seances are not the same as prayer to the saints, for the same reason magic is not the same as miracles, and horoscopes are not the same as prophecy. Seances, magic, horoscopes and divination are parodies of a reality which God offers us, the reality of our connectedness in Christ.
The Devil’s tricks.
The basic insight behind occultism is, like many of the devil’s tricks, a biblical one (Luke 4:9-11). It is true that everything is connected. By exploiting the truth that everything is connected, the devil tells a grand lie: He tells us everything is connected apart from Christ. But as usual, the devil promises a Ferrari and delivers a Yugo.
Based on his lie, he tricks people into trying to gain revelation apart from God, into treating creatures as though they are God, and into trying to “become as gods, knowing the difference between good and evil.” In so doing he can then a) send crooks to rip us off and thereby harden us against faith in a supernatural God, b) send lying spirits to lead us into the supernatural but away from God or c) make it impossible to distinguish between what God has cursed and what God has blessed so that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. And the irony is, all the while that we were hankering to “become like gods,” the Lord had been longing for us to . . . become like God (Matt. 5:48).
For everything the occult claims to give us is a cheap imitation of what God actually wills us to have. Wisdom, knowledge, power, love, true riches, assurance about the future and even communion with the whole Body of Christ, both living and dead, are all our proper heritage in Christ (Eph. 1:18-19; 3:14-21). He even promises to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29), which is to be like God. That is why the whole strategy of the powers and principalities who hate God and us (Eph. 6) is concentrated on getting us to forget those two little words “in Christ.”
But if we do not forget them, if we remember our Lord’s command to obey Him and thereby abide in Him as He abides in you (John 15:4), then far from being snookered by the occult, we shall “make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:9-11).
For a very long time this verse from Scripture as spoken my Jesus (Matthew 8 21:22) I thought meant that we should not mourn for the dead or be overly concern with visiting the dead because they are, as we hope in a better place with Our Father in heaven. However if they are in purgatory, then we should pray for their souls but either way they have departed and so we should concern ourselves with living our lives according to God’s will. Also we should only concern ourselves with helping the ‘living poor’ those who are starving whether physically or emotionally. Charity for the Living so to speak.
Although there maybe a tiny bit of truth in my thoughts on the subject above, I have finally found a better and more complete answer written by Raymond Lloyd Richmond. Honoring and respecting the dead apart from our Christian sensibilities is what makes us Human. Let’s see what Raymond says……
The Historical Context:
Leaving the Spiritually Dead World Behind
Our Real Social Obligations
The Desire for Love and Recognition
An End to Victimization
Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
- What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) refers to the practice of achieving or avoiding pregnancies according to an informed awareness of a woman’s fertility.
- Why is NFP the best in family planning?
NFP provides a medically safe, healthy, highly effective and very low cost method of planning your family. It is convenient (no birth control devices to use), and it’s immediately reversible for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. It is increasingly available throughout the world, it tells you when you have achieved pregnancy, and it’s morally acceptable.
- How long does it take to learn NFP?
In general, it takes about 3-6 cycles to confidently learn how to chart and interpret the individual’s chart although it varies from couple to couple. We recommend that couples who are preparing to get married to come to the NFP centre at least 6 months before their wedding day to receive instruction.
- Is NFP compulsory?
Every individual has their own right and choice, NFP using the Billing’s Ovulation Method is the recommended method to manage fertility in a morally acceptable way for Catholic couples.
- What’s the difference between NFP and Contraception?
This rhetorical question takes many forms:
- “NFP and contraception have the same intention of planning for the good of one’s children. Both are contraceptive and moral.”
- “How is the conscience of someone who uses contraception different from one who uses NFP? They both want the same things – the good of the family.”
- “NFP is the same as Contraception because both may aim to limit family size.”
- “Contraception is defined as ‘the practice of or method used in deliberately preventing a woman becoming pregnant as a result of having sex’. Would this not mean that the rhythm method or other NFP methods would fall under this definition and be at risk of the ‘contraceptive mentality: loss of respect for women and human life, the weakening of family, and population control by governments?’ ”
- “For the same grave reasons that make Natural Family Planning (NFP) morally acceptable, wouldn’t the use of a condom instead be just as moral? How then is the condom any different from NFP?”
- “Surely you can’t be saying that NFP and Contraception are different because one is natural and the other artificial? What’s wrong with being artificial?”
- “If every sexual act must remain open to the transmission of life, then NFP is wrong too.”  and even
- “In both NFP and Contraception the sperm cells die, so they are the same.”
The recurring theme is that similar goals or effects prove that they are the same, both contraceptive and immoral or both family planning and moral.
Both NFP and contraception have to do with birth regulation but how does that make them the same?
All crows are birds and all eagles are birds but are crows eagles? Likewise, both Men and Women are human beings but is a Man a Woman? Or we could point to the hare (genus Lepus) and the rabbit (seven genera) which look similar but are completely different animals. Or to apples and oranges and even dukus and durians which are all fruits yet different, one from the other.
Good intentions alone without licit methods are insufficient. If you eat the poisonous mushroom you will die even if you want it to be the delicious, and expensive, truffle.
What exactly is this difference?
Although both are used to regulate birth, they do so in different ways. NFP modifies sexual behaviour to suit fertility while contraception suppresses fertility to suit behaviour.
They take opposite paths, and adopting one, either one, means to develop the habits and culture that go with that practice and to turn one’s back on the other – usually with far reaching consequences.
The words themselves imply the paths taken.
“Contra-ception” means anti-conception and is commonly extended to anti-pregnancy and anti-birth, so providing different ways of getting rid of unwanted children in a sex-sparing, anti-life package.
Contraceptives are never used to achieve pregnancy, as the term ‘family planning’ should suggest. They may plan for the good of some children but often at the expense of other children, some of whom may be selected for abortion. Experience does show in fact that the trends of contraception and abortion are often in direct relation, abortion having being legalised for the purpose of recovery from failed contraception.
Contraceptives are not wrong merely because they are ‘artificial’. They are intrinsically evil because they rupture God’s design of Procreative Love, no matter what good intentions or results we may have for using them.
“Natural Family Planning” on the other hand means planning a family, not avoiding one, as married couples decipher their cycles of fertility and infertility in a truly unitive relationship that does not hinder the transmission of life. ‘Natural’ refers to Natural Law, in line with the order of Creation, not to the absence of pills or devices.
While sexual intercourse, unlike nutrition, is unnecessary for individuals, it is a part of married love and commits married couples to the gift of fertility and to accept as many children as they can take care of. But the Designer has also given them a second gift, the gift of infertility in each cycle, and for grave reasons they can use these infertile days to space or even indefinitely postpone the next child.
Like following instructions in the designer’s manual, NFP accommodates God’s design. If the more serious the matter is, like surgery or flying a plane, the greater the disaster if we fail to follow the manual’s instructions, why should it be any different with the creation of human life and the way God has designed this?
Contraception is like locking the door and sending out the rejection, “Don’t come. You’re not wanted,” but spacing pregnancy with NFP uses the built-in mechanisms of our biology and is like taking the opportunity provided by the Creator of Life to delay the invitation to the next child.
Using NFP and using contraceptives are thus different acts, separate from the intentions we may have for using them. And the act must first be judged independently of these intentions. This is because you can never do moral evil even for worthy goals or consequences.
NFP does not block the transmission of life. Sexual intercourse is given to procreation but fecundity normally means cyclical fertility until menopause – like a radio is designed to produce music even though it’s sometimes off. NFP is dedicated to this design and the sexual act is not blocked to conception if and when this is possible. But ‘contraception’ blocks a baby that could have resulted from sex on fertile days. It changes the design of fecund sex – like using the radio to hammer a nail into the wall. Abstaining from sex is not ‘contraception’. After all, celibates are not practising contraception. Nor is it ‘contraception’ to have sex on infertile days, since conception is not possible then anyway.
 If we do an intrinsically evil act because there are good reasons for doing it, we would have to say that the evil act is a good thing to do. To thus misrepresent evil as good makes good and evil indistinguishable and would open the door to all evil acts since no one does anything without a good reason. Inevitably, this leads to the corruption of conscience and to the increasing inability to make moral choices.
- But if NFP is not substantively a contraceptive, why then do many people feel that it is?
Perhaps we can point at the anti-baby milieu in which we live. In a culture that extols acquisitions the Child is not one of the 5 Cs. On the contrary, decades of institutional denial and rejection of babies has created the mindset that children are accidents and unwanted burdens at worst, or optional extras or even cures for infertility at best.
Not only does contraception violate the procreative meaning of intercourse but also its unitive meaning, as it disfigures the sexuality of husband and wife and obstructs the total self-giving that is characteristic of love.
People below 50 years of age are born into this culture, with a condom in the mouth, to borrow the idiom of the silver spoon. And women may now need to work outside the home without alternative opportunities for child care, particularly during financial reversals, which erodes their biological roles as mother and home-maker.
Adulterated by contraception, sex itself has been de-linked from procreation and is now little to do with babies. There is more and more sex without babies and more and more babies without sex.
And even when we have sexual relations using NFP, we may use it as a contraceptive. The words we use betray us. We ‘prevent’ pregnancy rather than ‘postpone’ one; we ‘make babies’ or ‘reproduce’ rather than ‘procreate’. And we may even greet a surprise pregnancy with, “Oh no” instead of “Thank God for the gift”.
Choosing life is choosing love for people over things, where children are more precious than the things they replace. So we need to cultivate or re-cultivate within ourselves a willingness to co-operate with God to accept fertility and children as gifts we value and protect instead of diseases we are afraid of and need to control.
NFP is good in itself because it accommodates God’s design for procreation, but it is no different from a contraceptive if the goals for using it are illicit e.g. having sex using NFP to have no children at all could be illicit. Used as a contraceptive, NFP would be a contraceptive and would then – and only then – merit the accusation, “NFP is the same as Contraception.”
Clearly then the formation of conscience is essential, as Pope John Paul II advised on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, 1988, “Another way of weakening the spouses’ sense of responsibility with regard to their conjugal love is that of spreading information about natural methods without accompanying it with adequate formation of conscience.”
If these principles are followed, marital sex will unite physical loving with fecundity, and spouses will be able to develop a fine balance between the two aims of marital sexuality, i.e. marital intimacy and children.
 Inner beauty does not depend on recognition by the beholder but on fidelity to God’s design. The husband who recognizes the inner beauty of his wife is the fortunate one. In a sense, he is seeing God.
- What’s the basis for NFP?
It is scientifically established that during each menstrual cycle a woman normally becomes fertile and then naturally infertile. The fertile time is the part of her cycle when sexual intercourse can result in pregnancy. A woman’s body provides certain physically signs to indicate her fertile and infertile times.
- What are the signs of fertility and infertility?
The most used signs are a normal discharge of cervical mucus and other signs include changes in her cervix and a feeling called “ovulation pain”.
Cervical mucus is nature’s way of helping a man’s sperms reach a woman’s egg. Her flow of cervical mucus generally starts in a small way several days before she ovulates (releases an egg), it is a very positive sign that her fertile time has started. About the time she ovulates, her mucus may be abundant and have a consistency something like raw egg white. After ovulation, her mucus normally disappears.
- What is the Billings Ovulation Method?
The Billings Ovulation Method uses only the mucus and the dryness as the signs of fertility and infertility. The other signs are also used by many women.
- Is this what used to be called “the Rhythm Method”?
No, The Rhythm Method was the Calendar Rhythm Method developed in 1930. It was based on some biological averages, but it did not work well for women who had irregular cycles. It was the 1930’s model of NFP, and great progress has been made since then.
- Can NFP work with irregular cycles?
Yes, Modern NFP assumes that every woman is irregular at least some of the time. In general, if her fertile time comes earlier or later than usual, she knows about it because the start of her cervical mucus comes earlier or later.
- Does NFP take much time?
No, With NFP’s Billing’s Ovulation Method, during the day she takes a moment now and then to become aware of her cervical mucus and at night she records a symbol to describe her mucus. This simple process gives them an accurate day to day picture of her fertility.
- Is NFP SAFE?
Yes, Natural Family Planning uses no birth control devices or drugs. Every drug has potential side effects and should be taken only when necessary to cure or relieve an illness etc. But fertility is a normal process, not a disease. Birth control pills and implants are unnecessary drugs, and most intrauterine devices (IUDs) were taken off the market because of health related lawsuits; some physicians have linked spermicides with birth defects.
- NFP is HEALTHY ; What does it mean?
NFP is health enhancing. Through NFP charting, a woman becomes aware of her normal fertility – menstrual cycle. Some kinds of cycle irregularities can alert her to possible underlying problems and she can seek early health-care assistance.
- How EFFECTIVE is NFP?
Numerous studies including one by the World Health Organisation have shown that NFP can be used at the 98% level of effectiveness for AVOIDING pregnancy. That’s equal to the birth control pill and better than all the barrier methods.
- Can NFP help ACHIEVE pregnancy?
Yes, with NFP you will become aware of the most fertile days in your overall fertile time, and you will learn how to maximize your mutual fertility.
In addition, your charted cycles may reveal certain patterns that can contribute to infertility and which sometimes can be corrected simply by better nutrition. Many couples of marginal fertility are helped by NFP training to achieve much wanted pregnancies and the charts of those who may need medical help can assist the knowledgeable physician.
- Can breastfeeding space babies?
Yes, but only when a mother practices a very natural form of baby care characterized by mother-baby closeness. This is called “ecological breast-feeding” to distinguish it from “cultural breast-feeding” which does not space babies.
In addition, ecological breast-feeding helps you to keep your baby healthy and contributes greatly to the emotional enrichment of both mother and baby.
- Is NFP morally acceptable?
Yes, all the major religions including the Catholic Church accept the use of natural family planning when couples have a sufficiently serious reason for spacing babies or family limitation.
On the other hand, the teachings of the Catholic Church, some Orthodox churches, some part of the Judaism and an increasing number of Protestants are opposed to sterilization and the use of contraceptive or abortifacient drugs and devices. It should be noted that intrauterine devices and birth control drugs (both the pill and implants) can cause very early abortions.
- Is Natural Family Planning “Natural”?
In other words, is it natural for a married couple to practice sexual self-control?. Yes. No one denies that at times this is difficult, but such difficulties do not make periodic continence “unnatural”. “Natural” means living up to the demands of our human mature “created in the image and likeness of God”. All of the Ten Commandments are sometimes difficult to follow, but all of them spell out the challenge of being true to our own nature.
- How does NFP affect a marriage?
Sexual self-control can help build the marital relationship and therefore most couples report that NFP has a positive effect on their marriages. They find that periodic abstinence helps keep their sexual relationship fresh, improves their communication, and gives them a deeper respect for each other.
In addition, the practice of NFP helps to develop the same strength of character that is necessary for marital fidelity and lifelong marriage. NFP couples have an extremely low divorce rate. This makes sense because couples who respect the natural moral law, God’s order of creation, can expect to enjoy its benefits.
- So NFP builds better marriages?
Yes, but not automatically. Couples rarely begin to practice Natural Family Planning out of a desire to improve their marital relationship. However, if they are going to practice NFP harmoniously, they soon find that they have to communicate more fully and creatively with each other. Couples do not ignore each other at times when they choose to avoid sexual relations, rather they develop non-genital ways of expressing their love and affection, which is the art of marital courtship.
Related To NFP
Stages of Love – And How It Relates To The Eucharist (Summary)
As shared by Fr. Terence Pereira
Love Between Man & Woman
1. Attraction – The various forms of attraction. Note that physical attraction changes from a physical aspect to a non-physical aspect with time. This leads us to see something more valuable in one another.
2. Communication Exchange – Tel numbers etc. Experiences, Stories, secrets etc. Note that lovers don’t usually listen to the words but to the whole story. They feel very comfortable with one another.
3. Exchange Of Gifts – Heartfelt, other person centred gifts.
4. Commitment – to one another, marriage.
5. Fusion – Two become one.
1. Attraction – What attracts you to the person of Jesus Christ? Is it the same attraction every Sunday? There is another aspect of attraction isn’t it? You may start with one level of attraction but as you continue on in the Eucharistic Celebration every Sunday this attraction should grow to be a different attraction; or after every three to four Sundays you have yet another different attraction. Now why does the attraction change? Or rather should it change? As your life changes, your life situation changes, your life experiences changes, through these change you will see Jesus in a different light because during the week he has said something to you or done something to you or for you. A lot of people do not experience the fullness of the Eucharistic Celebration because of this first part. Because either they do not have the attraction, lost the attraction or the celebration has become routine.
2. Communication Exchange – Refers to the Liturgy of the Word. The stories of God’s Love for us, from the Old Testament to the New. If you do have the attraction as mentioned above then you might not hear the Word or if you do then not in its entirety or experience how the Word is reaching out to us. You are not dwelling on the story which is the Word of God.
3. Exchange of Gifts** – During the offertory, what are the gifts you are exchanging with Jesus? At the offertory are you just watching the offertory couple? If you are just watching the couple then there is no exchange of gifts. With the bread and wine we are bringing our gifts. So what gifts will you bringing to Jesus? The gifts of Abel or the gifts of Cain? If you offer up your sorrows, woes, sacrifices, pain, are these your gifts to Jesus? When you give a gift to your loved one, do you not spend time in choosing the right gift? A gift that he/she would like? Do we not take much effort in preparing the gift? We should spend just as much time and effort in deciding what gifts we want to bring to Jesus through the offertory couple. If there is no exchange of gifts here at this stage then it is hard to go to the next level. You must prepare your gifts** ahead of the Celebration.
4. Commitment – Would you marry a man or woman who will often tell you that he/she loves you but does not spend enough time with you let alone quality time? Are you one that tells Jesus “I love you, I love you, I love you Jesus.” But do not spend time with Him? Is your love from the heart? Or the love from the heart which beats strong in the beginning but flat lines over time? If we follow all the above stages with great love and preparation only then will it lead us to the last stage below.
5. Fusion – When we receive Jesus at this stage we become one with him. You will hear him speaking to you and you will feel him giving to you in total communion. You experience total oneness with him.
Look closely now at theses stage of Love, it happens at every Eucharistic Celebration. Our challenge, our task is to constantly be aware. The Celebration of the Eucharist, the partaking in the Eucharist cannot make sense if there is no personal prayer. Personal prayer taken in the context of the Eucharist is you making a commitment to love Jesus and your neighbour. You are in union with him and with the community.
You must therefore have this Love encounter all of the time.
**” At this Celebration of the Eucharist Jesus, I am going to offer to you ________example. My time in reading God’s Word instead of watching TV” or to be _______ example- gentle and kind.
The gifts you offer must contain elements of Peace, Joy and Justice (These are Kingdom gifts which are focussed on living in the presence of God our Father)
*** Justice is an expression of Love.
An adventure in His Love
The Heart of an Apostle
If you want to make converts, begin by converting your own heart.
By Patrick Madrid
The wind howled and the snow began to fall more heavily as nightfall gathered itself around the young priest. Though he had been riding since early afternoon, there were several miles yet to go before he would reach his destination. He kept to the path as best he could, but the drifting snow made it difficult for the horse to go much faster than a walk.
The temperature had dropped well below freezing, and after having ridden in the frigid open air for several hours, he was having trouble gripping the reins. He held them as best he could, hoping the thin wool gloves a Catholic couple had given him the previous winter would keep at bay the aching numbness in his hands long enough for him to revive them before the fire later that night. Shivering within his cloak, his teeth chattering, the priest continued reciting his evening prayers and plodded on into the night, his head bowed slightly against the wind.
His name was Francis de Sales, a Catholic priest not yet thirty years old who had volunteered for an arduous pastoral assignment in the Chablais region of southeastern France,1 an area that had in recent decades become a mission field. He was on his way to a modest farmhouse in an outlying town a few miles away, the home of a Catholic family who had offered him hospitality whenever he was in the area. He knew he would be greeted with a hot meal and a fire in the hearth where he could warm himself and let his clothes dry out.
From that “safe house,” he planned to spend the next week ministering to the few Catholics living in that town, preaching, celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, baptizing and, if the non-Catholics in the area would listen, giving public talks on the Catholic faith. Most of the inhabitants of the region were not Catholic, so he knew he would face challenges and obstacles to his ministry.
This was nothing new to him. Riding alone through this cold night in January of 1596 was like many other such nights for the tired priest. He often traveled by night and in harsh weather to carry out his priestly ministry. Getting soaked and chilled, even chased, had become a way of life for him.
He smiled at the grim memory of another winter night he spent in the limbs of a tree, safely out of reach above the snapping jaws and threatening growls of a pack of dogs that had been set on him by a farmer who was displeased to see a Catholic priest venturing into the area. The dogs eventually wandered away in search of more accessible prey, but, fearful that they might return, Francis used his belt to lash himself to a sturdy branch so he could avoid the danger of falling out of the tree once he had fallen asleep. It was one of many such “adventures” he had endured cheerfully and out of love for Christ as he carried out his spiritual search and rescue mission.
A Man on a Mission
Though Francis de Sales had been assigned by his bishop to a region that had been deeply Catholic for centuries, his presence there was not welcomed by most of the local inhabitants. Some sixty years earlier, the gloomy, powerful Protestant scholar, John Calvin, had taken up residence in Geneva, less than thirty miles from where the priest was riding. With the help of the armed might of the Protestant Duke of Savoy’s troops, Calvin’s iron grip rapidly closed itself around the population of the Chablais district, crushing the Catholic Church’s influence there, and converting most of the local population to Protestantism. The area thus gradually became encased in a hardened, Calvinist anti-Catholicism.
In recent years, however, under the protection and patronage of Charles Emmanuel, the new Catholic Duke of Savoy, the Catholic Church had been allowed to reestablish itself. But uprooting the now-entrenched hatred of Catholicism was, as one can imagine, an extraordinarily difficult, if not seemingly impossible, task. And that was exactly why young Francis de Sales volunteered for it.
His work would involve not only the pastoral care of souls, but also a full-blown effort to re-evangelize the populace—and that, he knew, would be a formidable challenge. He faced vociferous opposition from the many Calvinist ministers in the region. They constantly thundered from their pulpits against the “evils” of Catholicism.
The priest’s ministry in the towns and hamlets surrounding Geneva had been especially challenging. Few people would gather for, much less listen to, the open-air sermons he often preached in the town square. His Masses were poorly attended. It seemed that, aside from a few recent converts and those hardy Catholics who had managed to weather the decades-long Calvinist winter and remain true to the Church, no one was willing to listen to his arguments in favor of Catholicism. They had been too thoroughly indoctrinated against the Church.
Other priests had come and tried to gain a foothold for the Church there. Most had left soon afterward, deflated by their inability to get through to the people. But not this priest. Francis was persistent and patient. He felt a deep inner certitude that the mission of evangelization could be accomplished, but it would require resourcefulness as well as tenacity. He knew that in due time, if he remained faithful to his apostolate, God would provide the graces necessary for the True Faith to flourish once again within the hearts of these good people.
With God There Are No “Impossible Dreams”
Francis had been sent out in search of not just one lost sheep, but tens of thousands of them, the ones who had strayed or were led out of the fold and had been grazing on the arid prairies of Calvinist Protestantism. His mission was to lead them back to the green pastures of the fullness of Truth. To do that effectively, he had to remain faithful to his personal prayer life.
The life of a missionary, enduring bad weather, illness, hunger, rejection, persecution, and other hardships, will be filled with joy and grow fruitful only with a solid prayer life. This aspect of reaching out to others and inviting them home to the Church is often ignored. But as Francis knew, nothing meaningful can be accomplished in this arena without prayerful reliance on God and his grace. As Christ told us: “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God” (Lk 18:27 NAB).
The situation Francis de Sales faced when he arrived looked, by human standards, to be an impossible one. But he knew better.
Marks of a True Apostle
Because he was faithful in his prayer life, a fountainhead of God’s grace welled up within him and flowed outward, reaching untold numbers of people. Conversions occurred, not as a result of clever preaching, but because he was a man of deep prayer and trust in the power and mercy of God. He was a true apostle of Christ who was not daunted by the seemingly impregnable resistance to the Church he saw in the people he had come to evangelize. He knew God’s grace could melt even the hardest hearts. What God needed was someone to take the message to the people (see Rom 10:14-18).
Above all, this priest was a model of charity and unassuming virtue. Even when he felt exasperated or angry with the negative reactions many people gave him, he was kind and helpful to all he encountered in spite of the indifference, anti-Catholic scorn, and even outright physical threats he sometimes encountered. As he would relate in later years, it was his reliance on God and commitment to daily prayer and the sacraments that enabled him to carry out this difficult apostolic work. His fidelity to the “little things” in his daily life, especially his consistency in prayer (even when — especially when — he didn’t feel like praying), was his loving response to Christ’s words: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Lk 16:10 NAB).
In addition to having the heart of an apostle (literally, “one who is sent”), he also had the heart of a shepherd (one who cares for the flock). He had the tender heart of the Good Shepherd Himself (see Jn 10:1-16), and so he went in search of those sheep who had wandered away. He went in search of them with the love of Christ and, ultimately, that loving patience is what conquered error, dispelled confusion and mistrust, and brought reconciliation and peace to a troubled people. In response to God’s age-old question “Whom will I send?” he answered, “Here I am. Send me!” (Is 6:8).
Francis didn’t go out of desire to win arguments, nor was he interested in accumulating converts as if they were trophies, monuments to his efforts at apologetics and evangelization. He certainly didn’t hate or disrespect the Protestants whom he had been sent to evangelize. Rather, he had a deep love for them as fellow Christians, and he recognized them for what they were: men and women who were loved by Christ with the same intensity and passion that Christ loves everyone — but men and women who had drifted away from the fullness of the True Faith.
These weren’t bad people, he reminded himself often. And in spite of the antipathy many of them felt for the Catholic Church, Francis de Sales saw them as his brothers and sisters. He loved them with the love of Christ — not in a superior or haughty way, but with the humble love of a man who goes in search of a lost brother. And, by the grace of God, that selfless love for others eventually yielded a vast crop of good fruit.
Try New Methods
Francis realized that his preaching and good example, as important as they are in the life of any priest, weren’t sufficient to persuade the intransigent non-Catholics he had worked so hard to win over to the Church. Circumstances required ingenuity. So Francis developed a methodology for sharing the Faith in a way that proved extremely effective.
He knew that the good Protestant folk of the Chablais region had for decades been taught by government and religious authorities to reject and even fear the Catholic religion. So strong was the negative “peer pressure” exerted on those who were curious enough about the message of this new Catholic priest to make them want to attend his conferences that many stayed away simply because they didn’t want to be reproached by their neighbors. Recognizing this problem, Francis changed his strategy.
Each week, he composed a brief apologetics essay on some aspect of the issues that separated Catholics and Protestants: the Eucharist, the authority of the Church, the infallibility of the pope, Mary, the sacraments, and other subjects. He wrote simple but very convincing biblical explanations for these Catholic teachings, and he took great care to respond (always charitably) to the standard objections and challenges raised by the Protestant ministers who opposed him wherever he went. He had each essay printed up in bulk quantities and he personally distributed them.
Being an astute judge of human nature, Francis disseminated his writings in a way that was “as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove” (see Mt 10:16). Early each morning before the townspeople had awakened, Francis made his way quietly down the streets, slipping his tracts under the door of each home, Catholic and Protestant. He knew that if the people could just read for themselves the biblical and historical case for the Catholic Church he presented in his writings — in the privacy of their own homes and free from the negative peer pressure of their neighbors — they would be much more likely to consider the Catholic message. And that’s precisely what happened.
For four years, Francis de Sales offered this remarkable combination of personal sanctity, preaching, apologetics essays, and outreach to those around him with his unselfish charity and genuine Christ-like love for them. At last, God began to work a miracle of grace. Conversions appeared. At first they were scattered and intermittent, but within months the trickle had turned into a steady stream.
Within a few years more, the stream had reached flood tide proportions. Not surprisingly, Francis was made bishop of Geneva to guide this rapidly growing flock. By the time he died in 1622, nearly sixty thousand former Protestants in and around Geneva (Calvin’s stronghold) had converted to the Catholic Church and re-embraced the Faith of their fathers. Indeed, many prominent Calvinist theologians and ministers were among those who converted to the Catholic faith as a result of the gentle apostolic zeal of this holy priest.
It’s not hard to guess how this happy story ends. After his death, Francis de Sales was widely regarded as a saint. That belief was confirmed when the Church canonized him in 1665.
What Can We Learn From St. Francis de Sales?
You may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, Francis de Sales was an impressive man. But I’m not like him. He had an obvious gift for explaining the Catholic faith and bringing people into the Church. I don’t. He was a priest, he was trained for that sort of thing, and he lived hundreds of years ago when things weren’t nearly so complicated as they are now. And besides, he was a saint — and I’m definitely not.”
That reaction is understandable, but it’s incorrect. True, the courageous example of St. Francis de Sales can seem so beyond our own abilities and circumstances that we are tempted to dismiss it as unattainable. But to do that would be a big mistake.
Even though you will probably never be called by God to brave physical hardship or danger in sharing the Faith with others, the Lord is calling you to live as an apostle, to be ready, willing, and able to help Him help those around you. Christ wants all people to come to Him and His Church (see 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9). He works through us to make that happen: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ . . . and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2 Cor 5:18-20 NAB). 2
God wants to work through you, regardless of your circumstances — in your office, your home, your social circles, your parish — to search for and rescue those who have drifted or are starting to drift away from the Faith. You can reach people in your own daily life who have been put there by God’s mysterious providence. Though your own personal temperament, abilities, and circumstances are unique and differ from those of others, God wants to make you His coworker in the vast drama of salvation. He has a vital role for you.
The great things God did through the apostolate of St. Francis de Sales are not out of your own reach. Whether you’re a housewife, a dentist, a student, retired, a factory worker, a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker, you can effectively bring people into (or back into) a close relationship with Christ and His Church.3
As the old saying goes, we Catholics today are “sitting on the shoulders of giants” — that is, we have the advantage of two thousand years’ worth of good examples to follow, plus effective techniques in evangelization that have been developed by the saints down through the centuries. From that vantage point, drawing on the wisdom accumulated during the Church’s long missionary journey, we can learn the secrets of the great saints and how they were able successfully to search for and rescue the lost sheep they encountered. You must learn to apply that wisdom in your own life. Just call out to Him: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”
Ask for God’s Help
And here is the first of the secrets the saints can teach us: If you ask God for His help as you seek to bring your friends and family members, coworkers and even total strangers, closer to Christ and His Church, He will give it to you. He promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7 NAB; see also verses 8-11). 4
Do you know someone who is far from Christ? Away from the sacraments? Estranged from the Church? Ask Christ for the graces you need to be an apostle to that person — He will give them to you. Seek out those who are wandering far from the Lord — you will find them. Knock gently at the door of that person’s heart — it will be opened to you so that God’s grace can pour in and transform him.
All success, of course, comes from God’s grace. As the Lord said, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5 NAB). But He also stands ready to provide you with all the graces necessary to be a true apostle, regardless of your state in life, so that — with the help of the Holy Spirit — you can go out in search of those who have wandered away from the Catholic faith and have success in bringing them home again. You will be able to say with confidence and joyful humility, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
That’s precisely the attitude St. Francis de Sales had. He knew he could never make any headway among the Calvinists (a deeply religious, Bible-believing people), unless he relied on Christ for his strength and guidance. Despite his brilliant intellect, his gift for writing, and his many other talents, St. Francis de Sales’ success as a “search and rescue” evangelist was, ultimately, not a result of those things.
Let me repeat that point for maximum impact: His being a clever, well-spoken, master theologian was not responsible for his success in making converts. Someone with few intellectual gifts and minimal social grace could also have accomplished such a mission of converting souls to Christ, and in the course of the history of the Catholic Church, many such people have done so.5
The Key to Making Converts
So what was it about St. Francis de Sales (and all the other effective apologists and evangelists) that provided the key to their ability to make converts? That key to success is within your own reach. It lies in the quiet recesses of your own heart. It’s the grace and virtue of supernatural charity — love.
Above all else, Francis de Sales had the heart of an apostle. True, he was intellectually gifted, he had an amiable and mild disposition that helped him make friends easily, and he was an effective writer and public speaker. But none of those advantages would have amounted to anything substantial in his mission had he not possessed a burning love for Christ and for his neighbor, a love that radiated and warmed those around him. This wellspring of charity (purely a gift of God’s grace) animated all his actions and made effective his efforts to spread the kingdom of Christ.
You might think that making converts is reserved for only the great saints, but you would be wrong. You might imagine that the powerful graces of conversion that God showered on people through the efforts and prayers of St. Francis de Sales are unattainable for someone like yourself. But if you think that, you’re mistaken.
God can accomplish great good through you. All He needs is for you to say yes to His invitation.