Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from [a]any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and EVIL. Genesis 3:1-5
The rest is history, more accurately put, the future.
One man’s one sin. And so it goes, sin entered the world, and with it, its chief purveyor – Satan. We had paradise, we were in Heaven, that was God’s plan. The Garden of Eden was Paradise, and the Tree of Life was the mind of God. But it wasn’t enough for our original parents to just be WITH God, but they also wanted to get in His head. God said no, Adam and Eve agreed, then comes Satan, and they give in to their earthly desires.
So out they went, because God cannot be around sin, for sin is the antithesis of God. It’s like when you try to bring the same poles of two magnets together – impossible. Before Adam’s sin, God and man were like the opposite ends of two magnets, completely drawn together. But afterwards, Adam and Eve could not remain in God’s presence and I’d bet He wasn’t happy about that. In his own way, I’m sure he was devastated. These were his children. He wasn’t angry, He didn’t throw them out. It was their sin that forever stripped them of the greatest gift God can give; being with Him in Heaven. We had it and we lost it and now we were separated from him.
Be In the World not Of the World
Wow, not much has changed since the beginning, now has it? Christ gave us rules, we said okay, the devil tempts us, and we give in. You know what the sum total of us “giving in” is? EVIL. As the world sins, and the nature of the sins become more abominable, the strength of evil grows. It feeds on itself like a snowball rolling downhill, and for the past several decades, evil has been on a feeding frenzy. The incredible degradation of our society has been swift and, at least for me, hard to watch.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a strong sense of right from wrong. This was more than a moral compass, it was the presence of Christ within me. I had a very strong attraction to wanting to be holy, to be Catholic. But more than that, I wanted the world to be holy. Well, it’s with such a heavy heart that at fifty years old, I can claim neither. It seems that evil, Satan’s greatest strength, his plague, has infected me with sin so much more than I ever wanted. And to this very moment, my desire to be a holy man, in a holy world, and to be Catholic, remains strong. But evil seems to win more than I do.
I have done my very best to call upon my understanding of His plan through reading and listening to Scripture at Mass. Although I know Christ is in my life, it’s been harder to understand how, to understand why certain circumstances are thrown your way. It’s all relative though, they say God burdens you with only as much as you can handle. The $64,000 question to most of us is “why do we have to be burdened in the first place?” All we have to do is look back to the Garden for the answer.
I abhor this world and all its Godlessness, I hate that I am more “of” it than I want to be, then I ever wanted to be. And just like the devil accomplished in the Garden, driving Adam and Eve away from God, and out of paradise, he wants to do with me………and you. Right now, I’m in a boxing match with Satan. It’s the middle of a round and I’m getting punched like Duane Bobick against Muhammad Ali. With each belt, I get weaker, but like Rocky Balboa, I won’t go down. Why? Because Christ is in my corner, waiting for me. Evil may win the battle, but I will not allow it to win the war.
Satan, god of this World?
As Christians, we’ve heard it mentioned in Scripture that the Earth is Satan’s dominion, as if he rules the world. Nope. EVIL, Satan’s “influence“, rules this world. God has dominion over the Devil. Satan is just a cockroach relative to our Lord, a bug he can step on at any time. But as it was true in the Garden, it’s true today. Satan’s influence is incredibly strong. It cost Adam and Eve the Garden, but it won’t us. Because by His ultimate sacrifice of death on a cross, Christ destroyed the absolute power of sin on our souls. He removed the cherubim and the flaming sword from the gates of Paradise and we now have a path back in. By no means though did he remove the influence of evil in the world. What He did do is give us the strength, through His grace and His body, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist, to come out for the next round against the Devil and fight back, hopefully to beat his ass into submission.
So what’s this Supreme Genius stuff all about? Well, one of my brothers’ and my favorite musicians is Stevie Wonder; a true musical prodigy. I heard one of his songs the other day that inspired me to write this post. I know this song, but hadn’t heard it in many years. Only a supreme genius could marry these words with this music.
Evil, why have you engulfed so many hearts, Evil
Evil, why have you destroyed so many minds
Leaving room for darkness, where lost dreams can hide
Evil, why do you infest our purest thoughts, with hatred
Evil, why have you stolen so much love
Leaving everyone’s emotions lost and wandering free
Evil, why have you taken over God’s children’s eyes, Evil
Evil, before they could really grow to see
That your way, is not the way to make life what it should be
Evil, why have you destroyed You’ve destroyed so much of this doggone world, Evil
Evil, oh, why have you bro-broken so many homes
Leaving sweet love, all alone an outcast of the world
While reading an article my brother sent me from USA today online, I was again stunned by the shear ignorance that pervades the planet regarding the Catholic Church. And it is such cluelessness, real or simply learned, that is at the heart of anti-Catholicism, as alive today as it was 2,000 years ago. Sad to say that most Catholics are ignorant of their own Church’s doctrine, her history, the Papacy, and much more. There are reasons non Catholics are naïve to the Truth, but for Catholics to be unlearned??? Makes no sense. Worse yet, today’s Catholics are ill equipped to defend the Church against the lies and distortions constantly thrown at her by separated Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and the like, all out of ignorance. As a proud, loyal, and devoted Catholic who will defend the Church every chance I get, it is sometimes hard to deal with those who seek to tear Her down. I must admit, I don’t act very Catholic when I read or hear people denigrate the Catholic faith. So I must remind myself that every single person, Christian or non Christian, who attacks the Church is simply unaware of the Truth, and it is my responsibility to bring my non Catholic brothers and sisters to the Truth, and even some Catholics too.
The United Nations? Promulgators of Morality? Seriously?
The article I mention above was focused on a United Nations committee that leveled certain accusations at the Holy See. Wait, let me restate that; made certain DEMANDS of Rome regarding matters of the Church’s faith and morals. The United Nations?? An organization that in its 70 year existence has spent 69 years and 11 months being completely inept, and that might be generous? A college of completely spineless politicians that somehow believe they have real political influence regarding geopolitical issues when they have none? This aquarium of squids is going to dictate to a 2,000 year old organization founded by the creator of the universe???? Phew, that felt good. What’s at the heart of these insane demands? Ignorance.
Here is an excerpt of the USA Today article that I referenced;
“In a devastating report, the U.N. committee also severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should review its policies to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.”
When I read this, I laughed so loud and hard that I almost passed out. This is pure comedy. Let me explain. First, a devastating report…….definition of devastating; “to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness.” There is no power in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE that could reduce the Catholic Church to chaos, disorder or helplessness, much less the United Nations who couldn’t reduce a 6 month old to tears. Second, criticized the Holy See for its attitudes….. These are not attitudes, they are mandates from Christ Himself, these are Church doctrine, these are Truth! Third, Rome should review its policies……… these are not policies, they weren’t promulgated by man, but by God. The U.N. should worry more about policies that might have stopped Kofi Annan from money laundering than the full deposit of Truth held only in one place; the Catholic Church.
There is so much misinformation about the Catholic Church swirling around that it would be impossible to address it all here. So what I’m going to do is make my next several posts about specific areas where people are particularly ignorant of the Truth. Look at it as an effort to help them see through the lies and distortions, and come to know the real presence of Christ and the Full Deposit of Faith that exists only in the Church. I’ll end with this. Regarding the Catholic Church changing its doctrine on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, there’s one and only one answer; it will NEVER happen.
The definition of never for those at the United Nations…….”not ever, at no time, not at any time, not in any degree, not under any condition”.
A History of Inconcievable Reverance (by today’s standards)
Judeo-Catholic history is fraught with examples of absolute reverance when believers were in God’s presence, up until say 40 or so years ago when Vatican II sought to “modernize” the Church. It is utterly inconcievable to today’s Catholics what was expected of our forefathers – the Jews – and Catholic of old regarding the responsibility to be reverent in the presence of God. It was an inseperable part of practicing their religion. As a matter of fact, it is the foundational element of the faiths.
“Moses, remove you sandals, for you are on holy ground”
To Jews, the Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God’s presence with the Israelites. If someone approached the Ark, they would effectively be in God’s presence. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation’s sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God’s holiness: sinful people couldn’t be in his presence, not even the high priest.
From Black Veils and Suits to High Heals and T-Shirts
When I lived in Brooklyn and my family attended Mass at St. Mark, first everyone dressed appropriately. And you entered a large gothic-styled building adorned with marble, gold, high ceilings, stained glass, the smell of incense and more. But of course! Christ is in the tabernacle, all our treasure is “His”, so the Church returned it to him in a way befitting of a king.
At Mass, ladies were very careful to not put their womanhood on display, sometimes wearing veils as a sign of respect (deserved no doubt). Men wore suits or at least Sunday clothes. When you entered the Church, you were to make the sign of the cross with a dip of Holy Water, genuflect before entering the pew, kneel and pray to prepare for the momentous event that was minutes from occurring, and you were to participate in the Mass, not just stand there like a cigar store Indian. But most of all, you were to shut up and leave all of normal daily life outside, for one hour.
What About Now?
For the most part where I live in Florida, we enter buildings that have been constructed in a post-Vatican II motif. Some with the risen Christ hanging behind the altar, no stained glass, no depictions of martyred Saints, no incense, bright as the sun, etc.. Some looking like an art museum with the altar in the middle, and the Tabernacle to the side inside a glass tank and Stations of the Cross that look like something out of a Salvador Dali Museum. And the attendees? Women in tight jeans, sundresses showing their large – sometimes fake – breasts. Others in skin tight skirts with stilettos. Men in shorts and t-shirts, with flip flops. What the hell is going on????????
And then there is the constant chattering like people are at the first showing of the Phantom of the Opera, kids running around, people reading the bulletin, the Narthex full of parishioners having conversations about anything but preparing for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. What’s THE most disappointing part of all this? The Pastors allow it. The Church itself allows it. Why? Because as one liberal Pastor at my Church once said to me, “It’s not my place to tell people how to dress or act, I am to Shepard them and be thankful they are here.” You have got to be kidding me?
Does Anyone Realize Who’s In There?
When you enter a Catholic Church and specifically the Nave, you are IN the presence of God. He IS in the Tabernacle: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. In fairness to all of us, this is hard to fathom. However, Catholics believe (or should) this real presence to be the case. So if we do believe, we should act accordingly, act to the letter of what is expected. That is, total and unequivocal reverence. Why don’t most of us? Because the Pastors are afraid to alienate the sheep, so as to ensure their return. What? Huh? From time immemorial, the Church practiced insanely stringent reverence when in the presence of God. This is what He commands. Who are we to take it lightly? In our everyday lives we do things to show respect that are not in the same universe as Christ’s real presence. In unison, we pull over to the side of the road for emergency vehicles. When we enter and remain at a library, we all stay totally quiet out of respect for people reading and concentrating. In this era of political correctness, there are dozens of examples where we are to act accordingly, even if it’s man-made bullcrap.
Mass is not social event; it’s an obligation mandated by God the Father and promulgated by the Church Fathers. It is an honor to witness the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the REAL presence of Christ. We should enter in utter realization that as sinner we don’t even belong there, but Christ still invites us. And we should leave totally humbled and feeling blessed.
We’re not evangelicals jumping up and down while a rock band blasts out music in a building that might as well be a VFW hall. We’re Catholics! We are part of Christ’s Church on Earth, Christ himself. Wake up and smell the incense and bow down to the almighty like Moses did so long ago.
Thirty-Three Thousand Different Spins
I was chatting on Facebook recently with an old friend. We were discussing current pop culture and she mentioned an all-too-familiar Christian saying, “Well, what would Jesus say?” I responded with some Catholic-centric answer. She said, “I must disagree; that’s not consistent with Biblical teaching!”. I countered by reminding her that only the Catholic Church holds the full deposit of faith, which includes Sacred Tradition, so disagreeing with only half the facts (just Scripture) doesn’t hold much weight. If anything gives me instant red-ass it’s when a non-Catholic begins to lecture me about Christianity. Especially when insisting that Scripture is the only source of faith and morals.
I am not claiming to be a Biblical Scholar, so my irritation was not borne of her challenging my knowledge of Scripture. My annoyance came from being rebuked by someone who attends one of the thirty-three thousand Christian denominations that now exist. Thirty-two thousand nine hundred ninety-nine created by man, not Christ. There’s only one True Church, the one Christ established, the one St. Ignatius of Antioch declared “the universal Church” – the Catholic Church. Thus, when someone with anti-Catholic vinegar in their tone smugly tells me that they “must disagree”, I take offense. First, because I’m Catholic, and second because I don’t want to be lectured by someone who may attend church at a seven-eleven with the counter clerk giving the sermon.
And so one has to wonder while sitting in a street corner church literally created, opened if you will, by a man claiming to be a pastor (or a bishop), “How can I be sure I’m getting the whole story here? The Truth? An accurate interpretation of Scripture? And how is this different from the man (or woman) who opened the New Reformed Church of the Nazerene around the corner?” It’s an easy answer – you can’t! The only place where you can hear an authentic homily is in a Catholic Church, delivered by a cleric who is part of an unbroken string of men who have been ordained through a laying on of hands by a direct descendant of the Apostles – a Catholic Bishop. And who ordained the Apostles? Catholic or not, we all know the answer to that question.
What’s Your Authority?
This is the preeminent question for all separated Christians. “Who gave you the authority to interpret Scripture?” By authority, I don’t mean personal or academic credentials. I mean the authority to rightly interpret the Bible. They will always fall back on the authority of Scripture itself. “Scripture says this” or “Scripture proves that.”. Here’s the thing, they must prove from the Bible that the Bible is the only rule of faith. It can’t be done.
One of the fundamental precepts of the Protestant Reformation is called Sola Scriptura, “the Bible only”. That Scripture holds the full deposit of faith and is the comprehensive dogma for all Christians. Two things make this canard completely transparent. One, Sola Scriptura was invented by man, not Christ or the Catholic Church (Christ on Earth). Second, it flies in the face of a thousand plus years of Christian doctrine which taught that the fullness of the Faith is found in Scripture AND Sacred Tradition, rightly guarded and interpreted by the Magisterium (the college of Bishops).
What’s Your Proof?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 is the most commonly used proof by Evangelicals and Fundamentalists for Sola Scriptura. In the King James Version, the verse reads this way: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Many separated Christians claim that 2 Timothy 3:16–17 claims Scripture is sufficient as a rule of faith. But an examination of the verse in context shows that it doesn’t claim that at all; it only claims Scripture is “profitable” (Greek: ophelimos) that is, helpful. Many things can be profitable for moving one toward a goal, without being sufficient in getting one to the goal. Notice that the passage nowhere even hints that Scripture is “sufficient”—which is, of course, exactly what Protestants think the passage means.
There’s a lot more that can be written here to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is the only true authoritative body on Earth provided the opportunity by Christ to interpret Scripture. This doesn’t mean others can’t “read” from the Bible, but any explanation that follows will always be inherently flawed. So if you ever want to know “What would Jesus say?”, jump in your car on a Sunday, drive to the nearest Catholic Church, sit in the pew and wait for the homily. Then you’ll know.
Dedicated to all those I seek forgiveness from………….
It’s The Only Reason We Have Hope
When Adam and Eve first sinned, they lost their innocence and holiness. Actually, everyone who came after lost their innocence and holiness thanks to these two. That’s because Adam and Eve are our first parents. So imperfection is in our beings’ DNA – our souls; it’s called Original Sin, thankfully washed away at Baptism. Sin has been propagated by man ever since, and thus the need for something unnecessary before the sin was born; forgiveness.
When we ask for Jesus’ forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we of course are absolved. But more importantly, we gain grace which brings us that much closer to becoming innocent and holy again – our original state of being. Forgiveness became the antidote, the cure, for sin. The genesis of our good fortune to be forgiven lies in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice; his crucifixion. For only through His suffering was death effectively conquered. Jesus’ victory over sin restored our hope for attaining eternal life. His death, resurrection, and institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the only reason we all have hope to be with Him in eternity one fine day.
We Are Commanded to Forgive
Since Christ – God – forgave us our sins and provided the vehicle to purify ourselves every-time we are truly penitent (Reconciliation), He commands that we forgive our brothers and sisters as well. It’s all over Scripture and certainly Sacred Tradition. Beginning with words directly from Jesus’ mouth when he taught us how to pray; “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” Here are some more examples;
Matthew 6:14-15. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Mark 11:25. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
And let us not forget Christ’s incredible example of forgiveness while hanging on the Cross. As he glanced down at the Jews, His chosen people, and at the Romans (still his children), screaming in agony, embarrassment, and humiliation, all brought on by these two peoples he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Unreal.
Christian or Not, the Power of Forgiveness is Intuitive
The sections above is factual to me, but not to all, because not everyone is Catholic or even Christian. However, forgiving someone of their transgressions is our duty as human beings and helps the transgressor forgive themselves. This is intuitive. As people, we share a want to promote the common good (well maybe not all of us). We take care of our babies, we help the infirmed, we love our animals, and much, much more. We do this naturally, not necessarily because we have a religious belief system.
There are different ways a person can ask for forgiveness. The most common ways is to say; “I apologize.” Of course, the apology must be heart-felt to hold any weight with the receiver and really mean anything. In turn, if the apology is genuine, it is our obligation to accept it. To not accept a genuine apology, basically not forgiving someone of their recognized wrongdoing, is completely selfish and forces that person to continue to deal with their guilt. Ultimately, not forgiving someone is a form of control that leaves a lasting impression on the other person’s life.
Some people are lucky enough to be able to say to themselves, “I’m genuinely sorry and if they don’t accept that, that’s their problem.” This attitude is supported in Scripture. For example, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” Certain of us have a hard time developing this attitude because we may be predisposed to feeling guilty, need reinforcement that we’re not bad people or whatever. I unfortunately fit into this category.
The moral to the story is that we will all be hurt by other’s words and actions and many times in our lives. Whether you’re Christian, Agnostic, Atheist or whatever, when someone comes to you with their heart in their hand and asks for your forgiveness, for God’s, your and their sake – give it to them.
Words of Wisdom About Forgiveness
To forgive another is a very difficult task and because of this fact, many people choose not to forgive. Unforgiveness is death to the soul and this death is reflected in the lives of those who are unforgiving. When we are unforgiving we store up hatred and revenge and this is what makes us unhappy, depressed, filled with anxiety, full of self-hatred, loneliness, hatred and unkindness towards others, the inability to love, and finally, we are unpleasant to be around. Once we forgive we will find that this weight is lifted from us. We are able to love–we are free!
(Q): How do we forgive if we are unable to forget the wrong that was committed against us?
(A): It is nearly impossible to speak the words “I forgive” and expect all the hurt and pain to vanish. The hurt and pain will remain until you are healed. One must be very careful not to let the hurt and pain stir up feelings of unforgiveness. Instead, one should be on constant guard to pray to God every time the hurt resurfaces and beg God to heal the memory and pain. Do not become discouraged with yourself when you want to forgive but feel as if you cannot. Just the fact that you want to forgive is pleasing to God. The rest will come in time with God’s help and by our constant prayers asking for the grace to forgive. Healing a memory is much like healing a wound-it takes time. In Mt. 18:21, Jesus proclaims we should forgive “seventy times seven.” Then in Mt. 18:23-34 Jesus states that God’s kingdom is a matter of forgiveness and those who do not forgive are handed over to torturers. Jesus then teaches the apostles how to pray. He told them to pray that they be forgiven as they forgive (Mt 6:12). Jesus repeats: “If you forgive the faults of others, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours. If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you.” (Mt 6:14-15) It is clear to see that Jesus insists on forgiveness.
(Q): Why do we refuse to forgive?
(A): Some people do not forgive because in their mind they believe they are getting even with the individual(s) who hurt them. By not forgiving, they feel that they are in control and now have the power to punish those who have hurt them. What they do not realize is that the unforgiving person suffers far more than the “enemy” does. If Jesus were not to forgive those who crucified him, would they have suffered from his unforgiveness? Of course not! Jesus’ response to those who hurt him was: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
- Find out below if you have forgiven those who have hurt you:
- Are you able to pray for the person(s) who hurt you?
- Do you still feel revenge toward the person(s) who hurt you?
- Can you see the person(s) who hurt you in Heaven with you?
- Do you forgive yourself?
- Will you let God forgive you?
It First Happened a Long Time Ago
I wonder, when Christ uttered these words establishing the foundation of his Church; “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it”, if the remaining Apostles announced, “Habemus Papam!”. Probably not and certainly not in Latin.
Around 33 A.D., following Christ’s ascension into Heaven, Peter took his rightful place as the first among the Apostles and the de facto leader of Christ’s Bride; the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until years later, when Peter’s evangelising took him west, that he became the first Bishop of Rome. Although there were, and are, other popes (word translates as Papa) recognized by other Catholic rites such as the Church of Alexandria (Eastern Rite), the Bishop of Rome’s primacy is recognized by all Catholic rites east and west.
In 2007, representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church jointly stated that both East and West accept the fact of the Bishop of Rome’s primacy at the universal level, but that differences of understanding exist about how the primacy is to be exercised and about its scriptural and theological foundations.
The Successor of Peter
Habemus Papam! is the announcement given in Latin by the Cardinal Protodeacon, the senior Cardinal Deacon, upon the election of a new Pope. The announcement is given from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. There have been 265 Popes; Successors of Peter. Every Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, not the successor of the previous Pope. Francis I is the 265th Successor of Peter.
As Catholics, we believe that the absolute authority given to St. Peter did not end with his life but was handed on to his successors. Make no mistake about it, there is only one Peter, the rock that Christ built his Church upon, to whom he gave the keys to the kingdom. All the men that followed have simply kept his Chair warm.
What’s in a Name?
Popes in the first centuries retained their birth names after their accession to the papacy. Beginning in the the sixth century and becoming customary by the 10th century, new Popes began to adopt a new name upon their accession to the Chair of Peter. Since 1555, every pope has taken a papal name.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is the first new Papal name since John Paul I, the 263rd Pontiff. Prior to John Paul I, it was the 121st successor of Peter, Lando, who chose a new name as Pope in the 10th century. So why would Cardinal Bergoglio break this centuries old tradition? Well maybe because he’s the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and first outside of Europe in over a thousand years. No, none of those. In his own words….
“Some people didn’t know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself ‘Francis’. I will tell you the story. At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little ‘dangerous’, he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: ‘Do not forget the poor.’ And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart:: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”
No matter what name he chooses, what country he is from, whether he is a diocesan or order priest, one thing is for sure. The Pope is the successor of Peter, the rock, upon whom Christ has built His Church. And as our Lord promised, the gates of hell shall not overpower it.
What is the Meaning of Life?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” On these two commandments depend the whole law…….. How many times have we all struggled to understand the immense amount of messaging, commandments, rules, etc., contained in Scripture? Not only is there a huge volume, but it seems that the messages can be contradictory and/or really hard to comprehend. That’s why I love this passage from Matthew (22:36-40). It takes all the complexity found in the Bible – the entire content – and boils it down to two foundational elements. Love God and all people. These are the sole reasons we are here.
Loving Isn’t Always Easy
Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars, any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain…….. A line in a pretty famous song from the 1970’s, and ain’t it the truth. All of us have scars and wounds from those we love hurting us or even from unrequited love. But love we must, no matter what. And loving as Christ commands means serving, serving others. Being completely selfless, not self serving. So only seek to serve. This is what we’re called to do – serve. Don’t be afraid to be subordinate to those you come in contact with, serve them. Wow, this is hard because when you do nothing but serve, you’re going to get your feelings hurt by other’s who aren’t mindful of your love and unselfishness. This is the only way out of the incredibly self serving culture we live in. “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
The Ultimate Example
We are all naturally attracted to leaders, and what makes a person an effective leader? They lead by example, not with their mouths. Christ faced his own children everyday, represented in the form of the ultra-hypocritical Jewish leadership, only to see them give lip-service. Walking around espousing their piety, but not serving the Jewish people one iota. They did not love, so they could not serve. Want to talk about the ultimate example of selflessness and love? GOD, in the form of Christ, was born in a cave in the least of cities in Judah, laid in a trough out of which animals ate.
In his public life, he never asked for anything from anyone but food and shelter. He spent three years teaching about the Kingdom, healing people of all sorts of afflictions, being rejected by his own and with a bounty on his head from the Pharisees. All the time just serving, serving his children, and loving them And in the ultimate example of love, he allows those he loves like no other – his children – to betray him, spit on him, pluck his beard, beat him, laugh at him, then murder him. All for us, all so that we can be with him in Heaven.
But wait a second, should it not be us to go through the hammers of hell just for the chance to be in Paradise with Christ? Doesn’t the rationale for his passion and death seem completely backwards? HE died for US???????? Yes, he died for us, in the ultimate example of love. “For no greater love exists then when one lay down his life for his friends”. Now, what’s the punchline? After all this, after everything he did for us in his public ministry and after the utter pain and humiliation of being crucified, what are some of Christ’s last words? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Unreal.
Don’t You Know Christ is Risen?
A majority of separated Christians, especially Evangelicals, take exception to Catholics keeping Jesus on the Cross. I would point my Protestant friends to 1st Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 23. Paul says, “…but we preach Christ crucified…” Why does Paul preach Christ crucified? Doesn’t he know Jesus has been raised from the dead? Of course he does! But, he knows that it is through the power of the crucified Christ on the cross that the bonds of sin and death are broken. As Paul says in verse 24, Christ crucified is the “power of God”. 1 Cor 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Again, didn’t Paul know that Jesus had risen from the dead? Of course, he did.
Paul preaches Christ crucified because an empty cross has no power. The cross that bears the beaten, battered, and bloodied body of Jesus Christ, however, that cross is the power of God. This is why, the Church keeps Jesus on the cross, because we, too, preach Christ crucified. The Crucifix reminds us not only of God’s power, but also His love for us – giving His only begotten Son up for suffering and death.
Also, here in this life we do not share so much in the glory of the Resurrection, as we do in the suffering of Jesus on the cross; after all, we must take up our cross daily if we are to follow Jesus, as it says in Lk 9:23. And, we must die with Christ in order to live with Him as Romans 6:8 tells us. Where did Christ die? On the cross. The Crucifix serves to remind us of these things.
An Empty Cross Means Nothing
Christ’s supreme act was to die on the cross as atonement for our sins. His resurrection was proof that what he did on the cross worked — he conquered death — and it demonstrated beyond any doubt that he was who he claimed to be: God. The crucifixion was the act that changed history. The resurrection demonstrated of the efficacy of that act.
By his death on the cross, Christ conquered sin and death, redeemed the world, opened the way of salvation for all who would receive it, and reconciled his people with the Father (cf. Eph 2:13-18; Col 1:19-20). That is why the crucifix is such a potent reminder for us of what he did on our behalf that dark afternoon on Calvary.“ Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Mt 16:24; cf. Mt 10:38). True, resurrection and glory await all those who follow Christ faithfully, but we will only arrive there by traveling the way of the cross.
An Example of Love Beyond Any Other
In my journey as a Catholic, I have always looked to the Cross as a reminder of just how much Christ loved me. “No greater love has man than to lay down his life for his friends”. Whenever I question whether Christ is there for me, if he cares, if I am being a good example as a Catholic, I look to the Crucified Christ. I know He’s risen, the Church understands this. But unlike our separated Christian brothers and sisters, we do not subscribe to the notion that once you’re born again, all is good, let’s just celebrate! No, we must be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice, not just by a man, but by God Himself! Jesus the Son did not have to die to prove anything. By dieing the most humiliating, excruciatingly painful, embarrassing death possible, Christ demonstrated not only His love for us, but that love is ultimately demonstrated by service to our fellow man, being selfless, not selfish. Let the Crucified Christ being the supreme example of Christ’s love for us and his command to pick up our cross and follow Him.
Christ is the Ultimate Example of Love
When I sit back and think about how I’ve acted or treated people in certain situations, I often ask myself WWCD (what would Christ do?) or more accurately WWCHD (what would Christ have done?). Most of the time the answer is “not what you did Tom!”. The reason is simple; I don’t know how to approach everyone and everything with love and with patience. After all, I am only human and patience is not my virtue. There is one person, who just happens to be God – Christ Jesus – who never once was unloving, impatient or judgemental with anyone he came in contact with. Not once. Imagine that. Even the Pharisees, who were hellbent on convicting him of blasphemy so they could have him put to death, were not subject to His scorn or intolerance. And they were Jews, His chosen people and His children! You’d think He would have been so hurt, so disappointed and so angry that he would have lashed out, lost his cool, hated them. Never.
Often, when I sit at Mass and stare at the Crucifix, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Here is this man, my Lord and my God, who not only subjected Himself to being human, but willfully endured the most painful and humiliating execution known at the time; death on a cross. And He did this out of love for me, because He wanted to spend eternity in Heaven with me! He didn’t even know me? But then I remember; “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12 7. After the Jews had succeeded in convicting Him (falsely) and convinced the Romans to crucify Him, he was nailed to a tree. As He hung there in excruciating pain, tired, thirsty, separated from His Father, all alone, the first words He uttered were these; “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Until the bitter end, he would not hate, he would not hold a grudge, His fidelity to us remained. WWCHD????? He would have Loved!
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus Christ.
We are Born from Love and Must Live to Love
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father” John 14:9. This references to God the Father from his Son, the human Jesus Christ, tells us everything about the Father. First, that God the Father is not a big, muscle-bound, white-bearded man sitting on a marble throne ready to crush us when we sin. But second, and most importantly, is that God the Father is “revealed” in and by the Son. By saying revealed by the Son means that Christ and the Father are in total union with each other (the mystery of the Trinity along with the Holy Spirit). So Christ’s message, the way He treated people, the way He acted, His lack of anger, His humility, His patience, His mercy, and ultimately His love, demonstrates what the Father is like.
God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.1 John 4 8
God is love. It’s is never referenced in Scripture or Sacred Tradition that God the Father is a “person in the flesh”. Only religious paintings depict that. I believe that God the Father is the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe. As hard as it is to fathom, God is just love, a Being of perfect love; nothing more, nothing less – Love. When it is written, “let us make man in our image”, it can’t mean human likeness, because only Christ (God) was human which happened through His biological conception via the Holy Spirit. I believe “our image” means a physical being with the capacity to love, love deeply, love fully. Unfortunately, that damn apple took that away. Although our capacity to love remains, it is in no way the same as before we were cast out of paradise. Why? Sin.
God the Father is an entity of some sort, not the personification of love, but the essence of love. Here are some synonyms of essence for clarification purposes; heart, spirit, alpha and omega, center, core, embodiment, epitome, incarnation, manifestation. Since God ordains our life and creates our soul and God is love, then we are born from love, then we must live to love. To love completely, to love openly, to love deeply, to love patiently, to love without the fear that it may be unrequited. This is what it means to love, just as Christ loves us, just as the Father loves us. And given God will endure forever, so will love.
“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17 17
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves………has fulfilled the law.” Paul to the Romans.
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4 8
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4 16
“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Colassions 3 14
This post dedicated to my brother Bobby who helped me deepen my Catholic Faith; love ya dude.
The Mass is to be Completely Respected by All Participants
I’ve been attending Mass, well, since almost the day I was born. Growing up in Brooklyn and attending a Gothic style church just after Vatican II, I remember the palpable feeling of holiness within St. Marks. At Mass; before, during, and after, there was almost complete silence (except for the occasional cry of a child) because this was a Catholic church, a place of prayer, reflection and reverence, with God in the Tabernacle. Parishioners dressed with reverence, entered the Narthex with reverence, entered the Nave with reverence, spoke with reverence, prayed with reverence, approached the altar with reverence, received Communion with reverence, and left the church with reverence. We were to venerate the Holy Eucharist and completely respect the Sanctuary. The real presence of Christ in the Tabernacle, as unbelievable as it may sound to atheists, agnostics, separated Christians and some Catholics, is a fact to the Church. This grand mystery is hard to fathom, but through Apostolic Succession, Sacred Tradition and Scripture, we know this to be true.
When we moved to Florida (early ’70s), even though our church was not as grand as St. Marks, its holiness was protected by the examples of the priests and the edict of the Pastor. But as the years have gone by, with Vatican II implemented in a liberal fashion and with Americans becoming increasingly liberal – more or less, including Catholics, irreverence at Mass is rampant and alarming. A Catholic church is simply not a place where you act any way you want. You carry yourself with absolute reverence “in God’s actual presence”.
Reverence of God’s Presence Well Documented
An example of the tradition of unconditional adoration of God can be found in Exodus when Moses approached the Burning Bush. God was actually present and told Moses to take off his sandals and not come any closer because “he was standing on holy ground”. Another example is the Temple in Jerusalem. The most sacred part of the Temple was the Sanctuary. The first hall was called the Holy Place. No one was allowed to enter it, except priests twice a day. Beyond the Holy Place was a smaller room called the Holy of Holies. This room originally contained the Ark of the Covenant: a large box covered in gold that held the bones of Joseph (Jacob’s son) and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. God was believed to be invisibly present in the Ark, as if it were “sitting on his throne”. The Holy of Holies could only be entered once a year by the High Priest, on Yom Kippur.
The Jews venerated something, the Temple, with incredible humility and respect. Jesus called it “His Father’s House”. Jews could not imagine defiling the Sanctuary in any way, shape or form, because it was God’s place. So why do Catholics so easily disrespect the Sanctuary, where God is present in the consecrated hosts, during the Sacrifice of the Mass? The answer is obvious; the lack of reverence at Mass is emblematic of liberalism’s effect on our society, including Catholics and the Clergy. The sad fact is that most Catholic Pastors are more interested in “shepherding the flock” no matter how wild the flock is, as long as the flock fill the baskets, instead of protecting the sanctity of the church and the Tabernacle.
Reestablishing the Veneration of the Mass
The Catholic Church must reestablish the absolute expectation that those who enter the Nave and participate in Mass do so with complete reverence. Sadly, what we get now in most churches is noise, distractions, insipid preaching, and maybe even “entertainment.” But we don’t get the Mass as the Church wants us to get it. Instead, we get:
- Popular music rather than sacred music—syrupy folk songs or even drums and electric guitars instead of chant and hymns that normal people can actually sing.
- Adult women and young girls who look like they are preparing for a night of club hopping, openly displaying the “junk in their trunks”, cleavage, tramp-stamps and t-backs versus covering up as a sign of humility and virtue.
- An atmosphere so lacking in reverence that private prayer before or after Mass is difficult because of all the chattering (by people who enter movie theaters in perfect silence).
- Extraordinary ministers who are so numerous that one begins to wonder if the word extraordinary has had its meaning reversed by some governmental commission.
- Priests who bow at the altar of political correctness by substituting “people”, “persons” “brothers and sisters” in place of the written Word in Scripture that refers to the masculine “man”, “brothers”, etc.
- Catholics so devoid of doctrinal knowledge that they don’t touch the Holy Water font on entering the Nave, don’t know how to genuflect – or don’t at all – don’t know how to properly recieve our Lord in the Eucharist and don’t even make the sign of the cross when called to do so.
Sadly, the list of liturgical and sacramental abuses goes on and on. The “sense of sacred” and the mystery of the Mass have been tragically lost in many Catholic parishes these days—precisely because the liturgy isn’t being celebrated correctly. As a result, millions of Catholics—and especially our Catholic children—are growing up without a proper understanding of the holy sacrifice and what it could and should mean in their daily lives.
There’s an old Latin saying—“Lex orandi, lex credendi”—which, loosely translated, means “the way you pray affects the way you believe.” So if the Mass is celebrated in a casual, lackadaisical, worldly, “people-pleasing” way, it stands to reason that there will be a weaker understanding of what the Mass really is—and thus a weakening of people’s faith, particularly their belief in the Real Presence.
Thank God for Pope Benedict VXI
Pope Benedict is on a mission to restore the “sacred” to the sacred liturgy—and thus restore the faith of the people. In his brand-new apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Love”), the Pope lays out his plan to revive the proper celebration of the Eucharist, which, as he points out, is “at the root of every form of holiness” and “the source and summit of the Church’s life.”
Along those lines, the Pope lists everything he wants to see fixed, changed, and improved upon in how the Mass is celebrated in parishes around the world. Specifically, he deals with:
- Why Catholic politicians and leaders must publicly express their faith—especially those beliefs that are not negotiable, including defense of life from conception to natural death, family built around one man and one woman, freedom to educate one’s children, and the promotion of the common good. Moreover, why bishops must strongly reaffirm these values!
- Why Catholics should more frequently go to confession in order to receive Holy Communion worthily.
- Why priestly celibacy is so important as a pure imitation of Christ.
- Why divorced and remarried Catholics are not allowed to partake of the Eucharist (that is unless the marriage is properly annulled by the Church), but how they can participate in other ways at Mas.
- The proper way to bring the faithful to participate in the liturgy.
- Why vestments, furnishings, art, and liturgical texts—even church architecture—are so important to a proper celebration of the Eucharist.
- Why the music at Mass should never undermine the meaning of the liturgy—and why Gregorian chant should be preferred.
- Why homilies need to be improved and made more catechetical—avoiding the generic and abstract homilies that seem to be so popular today.
- Why the presentation of the gifts and the sign of peace need to be done reverently.
- Why non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist.
- Why Latin should be used more frequently in the Mass—especially in the music.
- Why outward signs of reverence for the Eucharist are so important—particularly the gestures of genuflecting and kneeling.
- Why the location of the tabernacle is so important—and where it really should be.
- Why the Sunday obligation must be reaffirmed.
- How the Eucharist can combat today’s secularization and the marginalization of the Christian faith.
- Why priests should celebrate Mass regularly—even if the faithful aren’t present.
All this—and much more—is coming to a church near you! Its “Sacramentum Caritatis” starring Pope Benedict XVI and all Catholics in tow. Nuns, dust off your habits, Priests grow a spine, Catholic men “man up” and lead, and Catholic women leave the Jersylicious wardrobe at home. The Church is turning to the right and Thank God.
Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church: “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic” is of course derived from the Catholic Profession of Faith, also called the Nicene Creed. The Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., with the Four Marks added in 381 A.D. at the First Council of Constantinople. The ideas behind the Four Marks have been in the Church since early times (pre 325 A.D.). Allusions to the Marks can be found in the writings of 2nd century early Church Father and bishop, Ignatius of Antioch who coined the term “Catholic” Church – meaning Universal – early in that century. The very earliest stage of Christianity is called the Apostolic Age whereby the Apostles of Christ were physically spreading the Gospel and converting Jews and Gentiles to the Church. Thus, the connection of Christ’s works and Word from the Apostles to the early Church Fathers, like Ignatius, to the time when the Church codified its beliefs (the Nicene Creed) in response to certain heresies and misconceptions, is direct and unquestionable historically. This is why it is so perplexing to so many Catholics that our separated Christian brothers and sisters don’t recognize the preeminence of the Church.
I was born Catholic, raised by two devoted Catholics, my grandparents went to Mass everyday, I have several clergy in my extended family and went to Catholic school through 12th grade. What’s the point? Well, by the time I began to think for myself in college, I knew nothing else but Catholic Christianity. While in college, as most kids at that time do, I started to challenge my beliefs, my Christianity, Catholic doctrine and “what it was all about”. I questioned whether I learned my faith via upbringing versus obtaining faith through prayer and a genuine understanding of Catholicism. I started to think more rationally and logically about everything, again, I was in college. It was an extremely frightening period because up to that point, in my mind, the Christian God and Jesus always existed. I had always felt like I had Jesus there as the ultimate comfort when I was troubled. However, now, for the first time, I doubted whether all I had learned to believe was true.
Sometime in late 1985 or early 1986, I was home from college and of course I went to Church not wanting to upset my parents. While sitting at Mass and listening to the priest’s homily, I gazed at the mosaic of the risen Christ on the wall. All of a sudden I thought to myself; “I really don’t genuinely believe all this”. I left Mass and ran home to my parents for help. I was freaking out. I confided in them about what just happened and all I was pondering in my mind at school. That not only was I doubting the supremacy of the Catholic Church, but the relevance of Christianity in total. As always, they calmed my fears with confident and reassuring words about Christ and the Catholic faith. What did they say? “Tom, Christ was a real person, a human being who was also God and actually walked the earth! He left us a Church and the Sacraments, and those continue unbroken until today. There’s only one God and one Church”. An immediate calmness came over me and I knew I had come back home to the Church. It made sense to me now, but not as a child needing comfort or a crutch, but as a thoughtful adult who had really all along had Christ in my heart and believed in the supremacy of the Church.
What my parents did was speak to history, to the facts about Christianity and the Catholic Church. They spoke to my growing want and need to believe in absolute truths versus blind faith and revisionist history that came from separated Christians who either opposed the Church or were simply ignorant of Her. Little did I realize it was Christ speaking through them, appealing to my mind, connecting it to what was already written on my heart all along; that He was real and that the Church He established was where the absolute and fullness of the Truth was found; the Catholic Church. I thought about what I had learned about my faith over all those years and realized I was learning the Truth, the historical facts, which made believing much easier (I am named after St. Thomas, after all). The fact is that Christ provided an enormous amount of evidence that He was God, from His innumerable miracles to the ultimate evidence; His resurrection from the dead. And history shows without a shadow of a doubt, even if you don’t believe Christ was divine, that Jesus established one Church.
There is but one God, one Adam, one father-in-faith; Abraham, one chosen people; the Israelites, one Savior; Jesus – the one Son of God, one Vicar of Christ; Peter (the Papacy) and one Church; the Catholic Church. As God the Father is the one and only God, the one and only ultimate authority, and His Son the one and only incarnation of the Father’s Word, the Catholic Church is the one and only fiduciary of that Word. There has to be an ultimate authority on earth to protect the Word. This is why the Protestant Reformation has grown into over 30,000 denominations. Because every person that calls themselves a pastor believes their version or interpretation of Scripture is the “right and accurate one”. Really, for all Christians, it should be intuitively obvious that this makes no sense and thus understand the preeminence of the Catholic Church. “There is one body and one spirit,” Paul wrote, “just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church’s common Eucharistic bread: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that “there would be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
The Catholic Church is Holy. The word holy means set apart for a special purpose by and for God and that it had the all-holy God Himself as author. The term does not infer that all Catholics have ceased to be sinners and have themselves become all-holy. Nor does it mean that the “institution of the Church” cannot sin. We’ve seen all too often throughout history the institutional Church’s imperfection. The priest homosexual scandal of the past couple decades being the most recent example. The Church from the beginning, on Her human side, has been composed of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15)”. The Church was founded for no other reason than to continue Christ’s redemptive and sanctifying work with sinners in the world.
One of the things implicit in the appellation “holy” as applied to the Church, then, is that the Church from the beginning has been endowed with the sacramental means to help make holy the sinners who are found in Her ranks. The Church has been given the Sacraments along with the absolute and complete responsibility to protect and interpret the Word (the Magisterium) precisely in order to be able to help make sinners holy. It was in this sense that Paul was able to write, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her, that He might sanctify Her, having cleansed Her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that She might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
The term Catholic, derived from the Greek word katholikos, which means “universal” or “general”, was first used to describe the Church in the early 2nd century by St. Ignatius of Antioch. The term katholikos is equivalent to katholou means “according to the whole.” Thus the full name Catholic Church means “universal” or “whole” church. Based on the promises of Christ in the Gospels, the Church believes that it is continually guided by the Holy Spirit and so protected infallibly from falling into doctrinal error. The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium.
Sacred Scripture, codified by the Catholic Church at the Synod of Hippo in 393 A.D. consists of 73 books; 46 found in the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament — known as the Septuagint and 27 New Testament writings first found in the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible (Old and New Testament, named for the residence in the Vatican Library where it has been stored since at least the 15th century. It is written on 759 leaves of vellum in uncial letters, and has been dated palaeographically to the 4th century). Sacred Tradition consists of those teachings handed down since the time of the Apostles. After all, Christ Himself did not have a scribe – almost unheard of for a prophet of His time, and given the Canon was not officially created until 393 A.D., it’s intuitively obvious that all the teachings that existed “officially” before the Bible were Sacred Tradition. Scripture and Sacred Tradition are collectively known as the “deposit of faith” (depositum fidei). These are in turn interpreted by the Magisterium, the Church’s supreme teaching authority, which is exercised by the Pope and the College of Bishops in union with the Pope who is the bishop of Rome.
Finally, the Church that was created by Christ on Peter – the Rock, was necessarily apostolic. Christ founded the Church upon the apostles and in no other way: “Did I not choose you, the twelve?” he asked them (John 6:70). The apostles, of all people, understood perfectly well that they did not set themselves up in their own little community, as we sometimes today see gospel churches set up in store fronts or in the suburbs. The New Testament teaches, “One does not take the honor upon himself” (Heb. 5:4).
Nothing is clearer, then, that the Catholic Church started out as “apostolic.” The question is whether the apostles had the power and authority to pass on to others what they had received from Christ. They very definitely did have this power and authority; the New Testament evidence is clear about that. The subsequent historical evidence is equally clear that they did pass it on to successors – the bishops. There are many references in the New Testament itself to the appointment of bishops by the Apostles, as well as to the appointment of further bishops by them (Titus 1:5-9). When we ask where this apostolic Church which the New Testament tells us Christ founded is to be found, we have to reformulate the question to ask: What Church, if any, descends in an unbroken line from Jesus to the apostles to the bishop through to this very moment? The Catholic Church.
Christ said nothing more solemnly and categorically than the words He speaks in the New Testament in which he declares that the Apostles and their successors would speak for Him in the serious business of gathering in and sanctifying His people and leading them toward the salvation he offers. Mark 3:13-15, “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.” and Matthew 28:16-20,” But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”
Jesus intended that the fullness of his grace should come to his people in a Church that, from the beginning, was what the Creed still calls it today: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
The Ultimate Sacrifice was the Ultimate Demonstration of Love
When I was a young child in Brooklyn, my parents and I watched the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told. The affect the Passion and Crucifixion scenes had on me, as I understand now, was life changing. I remember weeping, sobbing to my parents; “Why did they do this to Jesus?” I was devastated that the world had treated this wonderful person; my God, so savagely. The visual of Him dragging the Cross and then hanging there – bloody and in so much physical and emotional pain – just crushed me. I knew right then and there two things; how much I loved Him and how much He loved me.
Christ made the ultimate sacrifice when He endured the most humiliating and painful death possible at the time. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals, the dregs of society. Roman citizens could not be sentenced to this type of execution. Christ chose Crucifixion to document for the ages His fidelity to His Father’s will and the lengths He would go to prove His for love of us. Jesus’ self-imposed execution was a fundamental demonstration of love for His children. Not simply because he suffered an agonizing and shameful death, but because he willingly did so AND because he didn’t have to – He was God!
“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10: 17-18
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
It is this incredible display of love, willed and ordained by the Father and carried out by the Son, that freed mankind from sin and opened the gates of Heaven again. Christ’s death allowed for His Resurrection, the victory over death once and for all. This is why the crucified Jesus is so central to the Catholic Church; Christ’s legacy on earth. This is why Christ hangs on the Cross in our churches, around our necks and in our homes. Because we want this reminder of Christ’s love for us, we want to understand why we’re called to suffer with Christ; to “carry our Cross”. Because we want to have the greatest example possible of what someone will do for love, for love of his neighbor. It is not that we want to subordinate Easter Sunday to Good Friday; the Resurrection to the Crucifixion. Catholics want to live both the suffering and victory of Christ, simply because we have been called to do so by Him in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Let us never forget, and be constantly mindful of, our Lord’s completely unselfish giving of Himself on the Cross for us; his friends.
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16
Christ Had to Die for Us to be Saved
Many of my separated Christian brothers and sisters do not pay enough attention to the event of Christ’s death; the Crucifixion. Of course they recognize it, understand what Jesus went through, and are grateful for it. But in their absolute focus on the Resurrection as the central event in Christian history, they really don’t live a complete Christian life, at least in my opinion. First, they believe that if we are “reborn” that we are “once saved always saved”. And so second, that living a Christian life that entails too much focus on suffering and the Crucified Christ is unnecessary. Why, because Christ already suffered for us all; that event is over. He is risen and once reborn we are to live in complete confidence of our salvation. What room does this leave for suffering?
This is a big difference between living a genuine Catholic life or not. Many separated Christians do not want to live the suffering piece. This is why they seem much more joyous in their prayers and in speaking of their Christianity. Why their services are more gregarious, louder and more expressive and the Catholic Mass and Sacraments are more subdued and reverent. Because we are showing proper respect for the living Christ in the Tabernacle, while always being mindful of the price he paid for our sins and access once again to Paradise.
Christ’s Resurrection is Proof of His Divinity and Solidifies His Faithfulness to His Children
Could you imagine what Jesus’ disciples felt like, especially the Apostles, when this man who they believed was God meekly – and without much self-defense, allowed Himself to be murdered? Again, by way of crucifixion. Can you imagine their disappointment and sorrow? What was He doing? He was God, wasn’t He? Can you fathom their let down when most thought that Christ was about to lead them in battle against the Roman occupiers? That He was to be King of the Jews? Jews must have been extremely confident they could liberate themselves with Jesus in the lead. After all, He made the blind see, the lame walk and the dead live. But it was not to be. It seems that most of Christ’s disciples let His talk of being raised on the third day go in one ear and out the other.
Jesus promised His disciples, and most certainly spoke to His Apostles in detail, that He was going to die and rise from the dead in glory. Christ has never not kept a promise to His children, and His promise to return to His disciples was no different. Jesus said He would and He did. Christ’s fidelity to His Word and His Children demonstrates something really incredible. That although we may lose faith in Him at times, He never loses faith in us – never has and never will. The Apostles, these men who were with Jesus every step of the way for three years, who witnessed all His miracles, His Transfiguration, etc. and were made aware that He had to die in order to rise in glory, even they lost faith in Jesus Word. When Christ appeared in the room where the Apostles were in fear of the Jews and said “Peace be with you”, His divinity was never to be in doubt again and He proved once and for all that He keeps His promises to us.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
The Nucleus of the Mass; the Eucharist, was Born on Holy Thursday
The Mass, like all Catholic Liturgies, was instituted by Christ Himself at the Last Supper. What Christ said and did on Holy Thursday, changing bread and wine into the real presence of His Body and Blood (transubstantiation), has been repeated for two thousand years and is the nucleus of the Catholic Mass. Literally, the Mass has been celebrated without any material gaps in time – if any – since the night Jesus Christ ate with his Apostles just hours before His death. At the Last Supper, Christ commanded that the Apostles “do this in memory of me”.
With Clarity and Certainty, Christ Told the Apostles; “This IS my body”
We Catholics are not Bible literalist, per se. Yes, we believe Scripture to be the actual word of God written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe in its absolute Truth in detail and in the whole, but do not subscribe to the practice of reading one sentence or section “out of the context” of Scripture in its entirety, along with Sacred Tradition, both guarded by the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church given to it by Christ Himself). However, there are many doctrines of the Church promulgated by Jesus Himself noted in Scripture that clearly and unequivocally speak of certain Church practices to be followed. One of these is unmistakably the celebration of the Eucharist; the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
Let’s explore these:
Matthew 26:26-28. “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
And in John 6:53. “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
Again in John 6:27. “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
The Entire Mass Can Be Traced to Holy Scripture
Needless to say, the entire Mass – which has been called the “Perfect Prayer” – is completely Biblically based. It has to be; it’s a celebration within Christ’s Church, the Catholic Church. Catholics penned the New Testament inspired by the Holy Spirit (first called Christians, then the Catholic [Universal] Church) and then codified Holy Scripture in A.D. 393 at the Synod of Hippo. What we tend to forget sometimes is that ALL Christians were Catholic (whether Orthodox, Roman, etc.) for nearly 1,500 years, and certainly all the Apostles and all the greatest minds and (early) Church fathers were Catholic. Every single man and woman that materially affected Christian doctrine in its very initial development and maturation for “hundreds of years” were Catholic; devout Catholics, many of them martyrs, many of them having personal and visual relationships with Jesus. How then could these Christians celebrate the Mass – daily – without this Perfect Prayer being absolutely and unmistakably supported by Holy Scripture? A book they helped write, interpret, guard the validity of, preach from, and eventually certify the contents of – all under the guide of the Holy Spirit? It is not possible. Or better said, it defies logical and rational thought.
The following delineates the Order of the Mass by reference to how each section or rite is directly tied to the Bible. I hope this helps the readers of this blog better understand that the Mass is a Christian celebration, completely supported by Scripture. The Mass in the Bible.
Here are just a few examples from the linked text above of the Biblical support of the Mass.
Priest: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. [baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)] People: Amen. [Let all the people say, Amen! (1 Chronicles 16:36)]
Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. [The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13)]
People: And also with you. [The Lord be with your spirit (2 Timothy 4:22)]
Priest and People: I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault…….. [Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)]……… In my thoughts and in my words,…….. [do not be haughty..wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:16)] and [The tongue… exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body (James 3:6)]…….in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do;…..[So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (James 4:17)]……and I ask Blessed Mary…….. [Yes, from this day forward all generations shall call me blessed (Luke 1:48)]……ever virgin……… [Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)]…….all the angels and saints…….. [And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God (Revelation 8:3-4)]…… and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God……[Brothers, pray for us [too]. (1 Thessalonians 5:25)]
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made…….[For everyman, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.(Ecclesiastes 3:13)] and [Blessed may you be, O LORD, God of Israel our Father, for all in heaven and on earth is yours (1 Chronicles 29:10-11)]……….It will become for us the bread of life……..[I am the bread of life (John 6:35)]
People: Blessed be God for ever. [Blessed be God! (Psalm 68:36)]
The Communion Rite
Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles; I leave you peace, my peace I give to you…….. [Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. (John 14:27)]……Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever………….[May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)]
People: Amen. [Let all the people say, Amen! (1 Chronicles 16:36)]
Priest: May the peace of the Lord be with you always. [Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”. (John 20:19)]
People: And also with you. [The Lord be with your spirit (2 Timothy 4:22)]
Free Will Makes Us Divinely Human
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, and so “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him.” God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.
The above paragraph is a summary of the basic teaching of the Catholic Church on free will. This purely human attribute is literaly embedded in our DNA and makes us like our Creator in that we intuitively know right from wrong and are intentionally called by God to choose right over wrong. Thanks to Eve and Adam’s initial use of free will paradise was lost, but not our ability and responsibility to chart our own destiny in this world; that remains intact. And especially in America is this gift from God to initiate and control our own actions, our own destinies, most precious and is meant to thrive unencumbered.
The fact that free will ties us directly to our Creator is precisely why all Catholics – and all Christians for that matter – should ardently oppose any kind of government or social intrusion on our ability to practice free will. No president, government, academic, or liberal political class has ever been ordained by God to create any ideas, theories or legislation that could cloud our ability – and duty – to use our free will, to of our own accord seek our Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection. Yet, they continue to try. Why? Because often times the people in these positions, especially those who espouse a liberal ideology, seek to impose “their will” on us because their intellectual elitism has taken the place of any submission to “God’s will”. And God’s will is that his children have the free will to choose for themselves in all circumstances in life.
The Want for Freedom Drew Pioneers and Immigrants to America
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! “
This call to freedom is from The New Colossus, a sonnet by Emma Lazarus written in 1883 and engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. For hundreds of years Europeans emigrated to America to escape tyranny, religious persecution, and to pursue the American Dream which has as its foundational element – freedom. The vast majority of these pioneers and immigrants were Christians who knew fully that they were created by God to be free, to be left in the hands of their own counsel. And the United States was, and should continue to be, the quintessential place where true freedom can be practiced.
Unlike what they faced in their homelands, these people craved the opportunity to take their God-given gifts and talents and to make the most of themselves. This is why for the lion’s share of America’s history, including before we became the United States, Americans were fiercely – and almost in totality – independent minded. The taste of freedom, the ability to be the master over his own acts, was something that an American thanked God for and was willing to die for. Because this freedom he enjoyed was a divine extension of God himself, and a natural extension of what his Creator bestowed upon him from the beginning; free will.
The Fabric of Freedom Begins to Shrink
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty (a.k.a Freedom) and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,……”
Beginning with FDR’s New Deal and expanded by LBJ’s Great Society, American citizens began to see and experience – in a pervasive manner – a significant afront to their freedom and their free will. The culprit? Liberals’ creation of the nanny state. FDR, an absolute and unabashed liberal, took full advantage of the Depression – the country on its knees – to provide the initial injection of big government aid into the veins of America and thus government control over the lives of those on “government assistance”. Lyndon Johnson completely embraced the expansion of a socialist agenda and effectively created the welfare state with the Great Society. Do the words government aid, government assistance and welfare state sound like they belong anywhere near the words free will, freedom or the American Dream? Not in my world. And the report card on FDR and LBJ’s statist poison on America? An F and America knows it, but is now hooked on entitlements, but that was the intention all along. You may believe my assertions here to be conspiratorial, those about the FDRs and LBJs intentionally bringing socialism to America; fine. Do some research outside liberal spin and revisionist history and then make up your own mind.
Liberal political and social ideology is antithetical to what America was founded and grounded upon; Christianity and the individual’s ability and responsibility to initiate and control his own actions. This is not to say that, as an incredibly prosperous and Christian nation, America is not – and was not – called to provide certain “safety nets” for those of us who require and deserve financial, medical or other assistance in times of need; we are. However, these safety nets should come first from individuals and private organizations that as a matter of their Christian belief and world view have decided – of their own free will – to follow Christ’s mandate to love thy neighbor, to care for the poor, and to understand “that which you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me”.
Safety nets should not be promulgated by governments (political parties) as a means to create monolithic voting blocks like say, the elderly, Black Americans, and illegal immigrants who are provided amnesty. Below what appear to be genuinely and completely benevolent actions by politicians in times of crisis is a “conveniently genuine” and intentional desire to capture American voting hearts so as to lock in a political classes’ majority rule for generations to come (see Democrats). More conspiracy you say? Research which political party mandated the advent of social programs in the 1930s, materially expanded those programs in the 1960s, and who ran Congress from the 1930s to the 1990s.
What American government can and should do, as representatives of a genuienly benevolent people, is use its centralized power and authority to distribute “some” tax revenues to those in need, especially the elderly, as mandated and controlled by the people, and not indefinitely. More simply put, government social programs should be borne of, and intended solely as, a means to help us get back on our feet in times of crisis, to get us back on the road to “self reliance”, not to keep us on our backs and obligated to say thank you forever to the government.
Barack Obama and Liberal Democrats Wasted No Time Exploiting a Crisis to Promote a Progressive Agenda
President Barack Obama and the Democrats, like FDR, sought to take a broad and deep economic downturn (and a cult of personality) when America was on its knees again, and “use them” to further the liberal modus operandi; lock in voters and establish a generational reliance on government. Here’s the problem. Although the U.S. is in a certain way hooked on the entitlement drugs that FDR and LBJ shot into its system, the idea and pursuit of the American Dream lives on. How else can you explain the reversal of fortunes for the President and Congress in just two years? How else can you explain the Tea Party? It’s because like free will, the pursuit of Liberty – freedom – is knit into America’s DNA, and we have only God to thank for that.
The question now is whether the GOP can take the will of the people that was loudly and resoundly shown on November 2, 2010 and “use it”. The GOP must use its new found power to turn the tide away from the nanny state that has progressively poisoned the country for the last seventy years and move us back toward a country of self reliance and self responsibility. Back towards a society where our freedom – based in “the divine entitlement of free will mandated by God” – controls our decision making and our ultimate destiny to decide for ourselves.
Free Enterprise is a Natural Extension of Free Will and Freedom, Allowing Americans to Achieve Earned Success
The allure of freedom that drew people for hundreds of years and from around the world to America was the notion that they could, with nothing more than sweat and determination, significantly improve their lives and the lives of their families. From the lands which they came, the large majority of immigrants were entrenched in political, economic and social systems that could not afford them this opportunity. Just the thought of land and home ownership was enough to make entire extended families uproot themselves from their homelands, board ships with just the clothes on their backs, and head to a land that they had only heard of – never seen. As if owning a piece of land wasn’t enough, this land would provide them – and more importantly their legacy – protection from tyranny, the ability to educate themselves, and the chance for a (much) better life than they could ever dream of having back home.
The vehicle that would provide immigrants the ability to materially improve their standing in life is the same one that allows their future generations to do the same; free enterprise. Capitalism gives all Americans the opportunity to take advantage of the free market system and chart their own destinies. Free enterprise rewards hard work, creativity, benevolence towards one another, all things we are called by our Creator to aspire to. But most of all, capitalism allows people to achieve “earned success” either as an entrepreneur or an employee in the private sector. Earned success is the outcome of a “job well done”, where an American has taken advantage of the free market system to successfully produce a product or service using their talents and ingenuity, sweat and determination. The money or wealth produced by that effort is simply a natural outcome of the system, but “is not” the determining factor of the feeling of “earned success”. The fact is that the $15 an hour manual laborer feels the same sense of earned success as does the $15 million professional athlete – maybe more, because the professional athlete may not “believe” his/her services are worth that much. From the dawn of this great nation until now, Americans love the feeling of a successful day’s work and then look forward to their paychecks when they come.
On the exact opposite side are entitlements that are borne of the redistributed wealth of those who are successful within the free enterprise system. People who are trapped within the entitlement class do not feel the same sense of “earned success”. All studies and polls show that Americans are the hardest working and happiest citizenry on Earth and that those who are either not allowed to or not able to achieve earned success are much less content. Another reality not supported by liberals of all stripes is that socialism – in all its various forms – does not work. Just look at Europe versus those countries, like the United States, whose economic and political foundations are grounded in the free market system. This is what is so frustrating to Conservatives when we’re faced with legislation like Obamacare or the expansion of the public sector. We know that statist and socialist frameworks “do not work” and from many perspectives. But still, progressives in this country continue to try and push our society to the left, towards expanding the nanny state and away from providing Americans what they deserve and what our ancestry left their homelands for, died for, and wanted nothing more for their legacy – earned success. On these points, I say to those who espouse a liberal ideology; “you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts!”
A Man of God and a Man of His Word
As the majority of Americans do (who are old enough to remember), as we experience the realities of the flawed and failed leadership of Barack Obama, his administration and the 111th Congress, we long for how we felt when President Ronald Reagan graced the Oval Office. Not because he was a Republican, but because we knew he was a man of his word and of His Word. Different than what America must currently endure, Ronald Reagan did not shy away from his feelings about Christianity, about Christ and about his absolute belief that America was Exceptional, and it was Exceptional because of Him – Christ.
Similar to Christ, however in a significantly smaller and less pervasive way (not to diminish President Reagan’s legacy, but to put it in perspective), Reagan left a lasting impact on America and the world. Twenty-two years after he left office, the fourtiethPresident of the United States is still a staple of political and cultural discussion at the highest levels of discourse. Most importantly, the greatest percentage of references are “positive”. Why? Because the man, his belief systems, his policies and his words personified; 1) what America is, 2) the truth about our history and heritage, 3) our proper standing as the preeminent leader of the free world, and, 4) American Exceptionalism. Ronald Reagan was a Conservative who believed to his bone marrow in America and unapologetically trumpeted its greatness. As importantly, President Reagan ardently railed against liberalism because he knew the inherent anti-Americanism that is at the core of this failed and dangerous ideology.
President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Christmas Address
As I try my best to do, I focus on ensuring every post to this blog is replete with facts. And if I do opine on something, I concentrate on providing enough facts in my posts to support my position. However, all I need to do this time is provide my readers with the below to corroborate my thoughts on two great men; Jesus Christ and Ronald Reagan. The following is an excerpt from President Reagan’s 1983 Christmas address. Yes, I said CHRISTMAS, not holidays. President Reagan was not disingenuous; he understood Truth and could care less about bowing at the altar of political correctness. He bowed at the manger of the Savior of the world; Jesus Christ – the absolute and unequivocal reason we celebrate the Christmas Holidays. We are Americans, discovered by, founded and grounded in Christianity. Don’t ever forget it. And remember what Christ said; “If you are ashamed of me in front of men, then I will be ashamed of you in front of my Father.” Ronald Reagan was not ashamed and nor should we be. Merry Christmas to all!
“Christmas is a time for giving, and as we reach out to family and friends, I hope we’ll also open our hearts to those who are lonely and in need, citizens less fortunate than ourselves, brave soldiers working to preserve peace from the tip of Alaska to the shores of Lebanon, to the DMZ in Korea, families maintaining a constant vigil for their missing in action, and millions forbidden the freedom to worship a God who so loved the world that He gave us the birth of the Christ Child so that we might learn to love each other. I know they would welcome your expressions of love and support.
Many stories have been written about Christmas. Charles Dickens’ “Carol” is probably the most famous. Well, I’d like to read some lines from a favorite of mine called, “One Solitary Life,” which describes for me the meaning of Christmas. It’s the story of a man born of Jewish parents who grew up in an obscure village working in a carpenter shop until he was 30 and then for 3 years as a preacher. And, as the story says, he never wrote a book, he never held an office, he never had a family, he never went to college, he never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property that he had on Earth. When he was dead he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone. And today he is the centerpiece of much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon Earth as powerfully as this one solitary life.
I have always believed that the message of Jesus is one of hope and joy. I know there are those who recognize Christmas Day as the birthday of a great and good man, a wise teacher who gave us principles to live by. And then there are others of us who believe that he was the Son of God, that he was divine. If we live our lives for truth, for love, and for God, we never need be afraid. God will be with us, and He will be part of something much larger, much more powerful and enduring than any force here on Earth.”
The Great Condom Controversy
The anti-Catholic American media as well as most other liberal global news outlets are absolutely hysterical to me. These (supposed) intellectual elites are so incredibly transparent and disingenuous. They hold themselves up as the de facto objectivevoices of reason and commentary on all issues of substance when they are really mostly all ideologues completely focused on imposing their liberal world view on those who consume the news. I can see them sitting around just waiting for a high profile Christian to say something controversial or better yet catching them in a compromising situation. This is like raw red meat to a pitbull.
So it goes with Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about condoms and AIDS in Africa. Literally everyday since the Pope’s words were made public, there has been front page or near front page news about how the Catholic Church is softening its stance on condom use and contraception. Nothing is further from the Truth, but anti-Catholic secular progressive journalists with their hypodermic pens filled with liberalism simply can’t wait for any opening to convolute genuine Catholic doctrine. It’s sad to say that many anti-Catholic protestants will do the same in their fervor to recruit on-the-fence Catholics and “save their souls” from eternal damnation. Rather than continuing to bloviate about the condom controversy which is being discussed all over the globe and in all political, social, intellectual and religious circles, most of whom are much better prepared to opine than I, please see this analysis from The Catholic World Report called; “Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances?”
Here is a small excerpt from the analysis that sums up the salient point here, that Pope Benedict’s comments did nothing – absolutely zero – to change even a molecule of Church teaching on condoms and contraception; sorry liberals and CINOs.
A Close Look at the Text Reveals No Change to Church Teaching
By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances? No. And there was absolutely no change in Church teaching either. Not only because an interview by the Pope does not constitute Church teaching, but because nothing that he said differs from previous Church teaching.
Understandably, there are not a significant amount of noted Catholic websites, apologists, scholars, etc. jumping at the chance to go on record with their thoughts about Benedict’s comments – at least not yet. You see, Conservative Catholics don’t have a hidden agenda here. We aren’t interested in reveling in a Papal faux pas – that can and does happen. We know the difference between a man’s thoughts and words, and Papal Infallibility and Church Doctrine which is guarded by the Magisterium. So we don’t rush to judgment or opinion like those who have an alternative agenda. But that’s been the Church’s M.O. for what now, 2,000 years?? The Catholic Church speaks in terms of centuries and worries not about “sound bites” or liberal analysis paralysis in the near term.
Papal Infallibility Versus Papal Opinion
The entirety of the following is taken from Catholic Answers, an authoritative source for all things Catholic. An understanding of Papal infallibility is essential to all Catholics, needless to say, as well as secular progressives and other misinformed people, that is if they are interested in truly understanding what they try to malign. All Catholics should want to better understand Peter’s successor and his real authority, and use that knowledge to fend off lies and distortions about the Pope and Catholicism from those who would seek to denigrate the Church.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibilityis one which is generally misunderstood by those outside the Church. In particular, Fundamentalists and other “Bible Christians” often confuse the charism of papal “infallibility” with “impeccability.” They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due.
Given these common misapprehensions regarding the basic tenets of papal infallibility, it is necessary to explain exactly what infallibility is not. Infallibility is not the absence of sin. Nor is it a charism that belongs only to the pope. Indeed, infallibility also belongs to the body of bishops as a whole, when, in doctrinal unity with the pope, they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. We have this from Jesus himself, who promised the apostles and their successors the bishops, the magisterium of the Church: “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16), and “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).
Vatican II’s Explanation
Vatican II explained the doctrine of infallibility as follows: “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith” (Lumen Gentium 25).
Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.”
The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 (“Feed my sheep . . . “), Luke 22:32 (“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”), and Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter . . . “).
Based on Christ’s Mandate
Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might.
As Christians began to more clearly understand the teaching authority of the Church and of the primacy of the pope, they developed a clearer understanding of the pope’s infallibility. This development of the faithful’s understanding has its clear beginnings in the early Church. For example, Cyprian of Carthage, writing about 256, put the question this way, “Would the heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?” (Letters 59 , 14). In the fifth century, Augustine succinctly captured the ancient attitude when he remarked, “Rome has spoken; the case is concluded” (Sermons 131, 10).
An infallible pronouncement—whether made by the pope alone or by an ecumenical council—usually is made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics. Pick up a catechism and look at the great number of doctrines, most of which have never been formally defined. But many points have been defined, and not just by the pope alone. There are, in fact, many major topics on which it would be impossible for a pope to make an infallible definition without duplicating one or more infallible pronouncements from ecumenical councils or the ordinary magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church.
At least the outline, if not the references, of the preceding paragraphs should be familiar to literate Catholics, to whom this subject should appear straightforward. It is a different story with “Bible Christians.” For them papal infallibility often seems a muddle because their idea of what it encompasses is often incorrect.
Some ask how popes can be infallible if some of them lived scandalously. This objection of course, illustrates the common confusion between infallibility and impeccability. There is no guarantee that popes won’t sin or give bad example. (The truly remarkable thing is the great degree of sanctity found in the papacy throughout history; the “bad popes” stand out precisely because they are so rare.)Other people wonder how infallibility could exist if some popes disagreed with others. This, too, shows an inaccurate understanding of infallibility, which applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals. A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible, only what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching.
Even Fundamentalists and Evangelicals who do not have these common misunderstandings often think infallibility means that popes are given some special grace that allows them to teach positively whatever truths need to be known, but that is not quite correct, either. Infallibility is not a substitute for theological study on the part of the pope. What infallibility does do is prevent a pope from solemnly and formally teaching as “truth” something that is, in fact, error. It does not help him know what is true, nor does it “inspire” him to teach what is true. He has to learn the truth the way we all do—through study—though, to be sure, he has certain advantages because of his position.
Peter Not Infallible?
As a biblical example of papal fallibility, Fundamentalists like to point to Peter’s conduct at Antioch, where he refused to eat with Gentile Christians in order not to offend certain Jews from Palestine (Gal. 2:11–16). For this Paul rebuked him. Did this demonstrate papal infallibility was non-existent? Not at all. Peter’s actions had to do with matters of discipline, not with issues of faith or morals. Furthermore, the problem was Peter’s actions, not his teaching. Paul acknowledged that Peter very well knew the correct teaching (Gal. 2:12–13). The problem was that he wasn’t living up to his own teaching. Thus, in this instance, Peter was not doing any teaching; much less was he solemnly defining a matter of faith or morals.
Fundamentalists must also acknowledge that Peter did have some kind of infallibility—they cannot deny that he wrote two infallible epistles of the New Testament while under protection against writing error. So, if his behavior at Antioch was not incompatible with this kind of infallibility, neither is bad behavior contrary to papal infallibility in general.
Turning to history, critics of the Church cite certain “errors of the popes.” Their argument is really reduced to three cases, those of Popes Liberius, Vigilius, and Honorius, the three cases to which all opponents of papal infallibility turn; because they are the only cases that do not collapse as soon as they are mentioned. There is no point in giving the details here—any good history of the Church will supply the facts—but it is enough to note that none of the cases meet the requirements outlined by the description of papal infallibility given at Vatican I (cf. Pastor Aeternus 4).
Their “Favorite Case”
According to Fundamentalist commentators, their best case lies with Pope Honorius. They say he specifically taught Monothelitism, a heresy that held that Christ had only one will (a divine one), not two wills (a divine one and a human one) as all orthodox Christians hold. But that’s not at all what Honorius did. Even a quick review of the records shows he simply decided not to make a decision at all. As Ronald Knox explained, “To the best of his human wisdom, he thought the controversy ought to be left unsettled, for the greater peace of the Church. In fact, he was an inopportunist. We, wise after the event, say that he was wrong. But nobody, I think, has ever claimed that the pope is infallible in not defining a doctrine.”
Knox wrote to Arnold Lunn (a future convert who would become a great apologist for the faith—their correspondence is found in the book Difficulties): “Has it ever occurred to you how few are the alleged ‘failures of infallibility’? I mean, if somebody propounded in your presence the thesis that all the kings of England have been impeccable, you would not find yourself murmuring, ‘Oh, well, people said rather unpleasant things about Jane Shore . . . and the best historians seem to think that Charles II spent too much of his time with Nell Gwynn.’ Here have these popes been, fulminating anathema after anathema for centuries—certain in all human probability to contradict themselves or one another over again. Instead of which you get this measly crop of two or three alleged failures!” While Knox’s observation does not establish the truth of papal infallibility, it does show that the historical argument against infallibility is weak.
The rejection of papal infallibility by “Bible Christians” stems from their view of the Church. They do not think Christ established a visible Church, which means they do not believe in a hierarchy of bishops headed by the pope. This is no place to give an elaborate demonstration of the establishment of a visible Church. But it is simple enough to point out that the New Testament shows the apostles setting up, after their Master’s instructions, a visible organization, and that every Christian writer in the early centuries—in fact, nearly all Christians until the Reformation—fully recognized that Christ set up an ongoing organization.
One example of this ancient belief comes to us from Ignatius of Antioch. In his second-century letter to the church in Smyrna, he wrote, “Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8, 1 [A.D. 110]). If Christ did set up such an organization, he must have provided for its continuation, for its easy identification (that is, it had to be visible so it could be found), and, since he would be gone from earth, for some method by which it could preserve his teachings intact.
All this was accomplished through the apostolic succession of bishops, and the preservation of the Christian message, in its fullness, was guaranteed through the gift of infallibility, of the Church as a whole, but mainly through its Christ-appointed leaders, the bishops (as a whole) and the pope (as an individual). It is the Holy Spirit who prevents the pope from officially teaching error, and this charism follows necessarily from the existence of the Church itself. If, as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church then it must be protected from fundamentally falling into error and thus away from Christ. It must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation.
Of course, infallibility does not include a guarantee that any particular pope won’t “neglect” to teach the truth, or that he will be sinless, or that mere disciplinary decisions will be intelligently made. It would be nice if he were omniscient or impeccable, but his not being so will fail to bring about the destruction of the Church. But he must be able to teach rightly, since instruction for the sake of salvation is a primary function of the Church. For men to be saved, they must know what is to be believed. They must have a perfectly steady rock to build upon and to trust as the source of solemn Christian teaching. And that’s why papal infallibility exists.
Since Christ said the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church (Matt. 16:18b), this means that his Church can never pass out of existence. But if the Church ever apostasized by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist; because it would cease to be Jesus’ Church. Thus the Church cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true. This same reality is reflected in the Apostle Paul’s statement that the Church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). If the Church is the foundation of religious truth in this world, then it is God’s own spokesman. As Christ told his disciples: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).