Category Archives: Apologetics

The Real First Thanksgiving – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Great Cross marks the spot where the Spanish first landed in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.  The statue of  Father Francisco Lopez marks the spot where the first THANKSGIVING mass was celebrated.

We always think that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 with the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. In this Thanksgiving the local Indians came to the Pilgrims and brought them native food. There is no doubt that this really happened, but was it really the first Thanksgiving in the Americas? History says no. The first Thanksgiving occurred about 56 years before that in 1565. This one, like the Pilgrim Thanksgiving also involved European settlers and American Indians.
On September 8th, 1565 (the day the Church celebrates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The first person to come on land was Father Francisco Lopez, the chaplain of the expedition. He came on land holding a cross. The leader of the exposition, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then came on land while Father Francisco was holding the cross. The leader then kneeled down in front of the cross and kissed it. The rest of the exposition came on land and did some preliminary set up and then gathered to celebrate mass in thanksgiving for the safe passage they had been given. Catholic’s know the mass as the celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist in Greek means Thanksgiving.
Immediately following the mass, Father Francisco, now the first pastor of the first settlement in the Americas, declared that they would celebrate a fraternal meal by inviting the Timucua Indians to dine with the settlers. The landing site of the Spanish was right next to a large Timucua village. The two peoples celebrated a Thanksgiving feast together. This was certainly the first Thanksgiving meal celebrated in the Americas.
Our traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of roasted turkey, potatoes and vegetables that were probably used at the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. The Indians provided these foods to be shared with the settlers. The Spanish Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida was quite different. Historical records show that it consisted of food brought by the Spanish settlers. This food was salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine. It also, most likely, consisted of some foods gathered by the Spanish settlers when they stopped in the Caribbean Islands. The Timucua Indians probably provided corn, fresh fish, berries, or beans.
The two Thanksgiving dinners had much in common. They both included the European Settlers and the Native Americans. They both were done in Thanksgiving to God for all that He had done. They both included food that was shared by all. They both had a sense of Thanksgiving to God as well as a sense of fraternal gathering. The main difference is that the Catholic Thanksgiving began with a Thanksgiving meal that goes all the way back to the Apostles and the early Church and has been celebrated every day since then by the Church.
The Pilgrims came to the America to escape from governmental persecution of their Puritan religion. The Spanish came to America with direction from their government and with a twofold mission; first to bring the message of Jesus’ salvation, and second to gain new lands for Spain. It is interesting that the first thing done is to have the Chaplain of the exposition bring a cross on to the new land and then, almost immediately after, to celebrate the Eucharist. The fraternal dinner with the Native Americans was to follow the mass. This is very much like the early Church which first had the celebration of the Eucharist followed by the Agape fraternal meal. Even today, in many families, we go first to mass on Sunday and then have a family Sunday dinner. The real first Thanksgiving gets the order right: first give thanks to God and then celebrate our fraternal love with each other. This is something we should do every day, not just once per year.

RCIA – A Journey of New Life – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Many Catholics have heard the initials RCIA used within their church but often do not fully understand what this program is. It is important for all Catholics to know about this program since all Catholics have a place within the program. I would like to take some time to briefly talk about what the program is and then give some reflections on it. I came in to the Church through the RCIA program about 44 years ago and today, as a Deacon, I run our parish RCIA program. I see it as a source of real life to me and to so many others. RCIA simply stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The program is the way that adult members learn about Jesus and His Church and then come in to it.
One of the principal ways that all Catholics are involved in RCIA is through their witness. Hopefully the life we lead and the faith we share make others interested in our Lord Jesus and in His Church. When we touch others through our own lived out faith it makes them want to learn more about the faith. RCIA is a way that they can do that. We often have people that were never baptized and never lived out the Christian faith. We also have people who have been baptized and have lived out the faith in a Protestant Church. Some of our RCIA people were baptized Catholic but never received Confirmation and Holy Communion. Some have received all the sacraments and have left the Church but have now returned. RCIA is for all of them.
It is impossible to put a time limit on the RCIA process. How much time we need is based upon the needs of each member in the group. For some, several years may be involved. For others it may be less than one year. We divide the RCIA program in to four distinct groups. Let us take a look at these four groups:
1 – INQUIRER: This is often known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. Here we preach the basic Christian message and explain the role of the Church in living out the Christian life. We use this time to try to teach and inspire. We also use this time to discern whether the person is ready to make the formal step of becoming a full Catechumen.
2 – CATECHUMEN: When the RCIA team discerns that the inquirer is ready to make a faith commitment, we have a ceremony in front of the Church community at a Sunday mass where the inquirers make a decision to become a full Catechumen. The inquirer declares their intentions to the community and the community welcomes them. The process of further teaching continues by the RCIA team and the Church community continues to pray for them.
3 – ELECT: On the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens attend a special diocesan celebration where the Catechumens publically express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in the Book of the Elect. Instructions continue during the days of Lent. There is usually additional prayer and spiritual direction given to the Elect leading them up to the Easter Vigil service. At the Easter Vigil the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist are given to the Elect in front of the Church community. The Elect are now fully initiated in to the Catholic Church. However, their training continues.
4 – NEOPHYTES: The newly initiated Catholics continue their training with RCIA during the Easter season. This is known as a time of MYSTAGOGY. It continues to the Feast of Pentecost. The neophytes share their experiences of the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Catholic faith.
As I mentioned earlier, some people come in to the program already baptized and with different levels of faith experience. Some need Confirmation and Holy Eucharist; some need just confession and a profession of faith. Depending upon the circumstances, these people can also receive these at the Easter Vigil or at a later date. Pentecost is often used.
The RCIA program tries to deal with each individual’s needs. Some people may need more time than others and some may need to straighten out difficulties like previous marriages. The good RCIA leader and team learn to deal with the various needs of the person apart from the training within the program. It is a program that calls people to follow Jesus within His Church community. The Church community has to realize that they too are part of this process. They help the Inquirer, the Catechumen, the Elect and the Neophyte through prayer and example. I have seen that the community itself grows in a positive direction due to their contact with the RCIA people. It is truly a program that brings life, not only to the individual, but also to the community.
When I did my RCIA process, it was quite different from ours today. I (my wife came also), and another candidate, met weekly with our parish pastor and he taught us. It was good for me, and I became very close to the pastor through it. Today we have a team of several individuals and during our sessions we take turn doing the instructions and we emphasize group discussions. We also spend time reflecting on the Sunday reading. One thing that we added is to discuss where we have seen the Lord working in our lives during this last week. This has proved quite fruitful. RCIA must help its people come in to a relationship with Jesus, as well as His Church.
As a person who has taught in the RCIA program for many years, I can tell you that the program continues to help me grow in my own faith. It is very heartwarming to see people grow in their faith and in their love for Jesus and His Church. Please make sure that you pray for all those who are part of the RCIA program. It is a real blessing to the Church.

 

What Every Protestant Can’t Not Know – by Matt Nelson (Reasonable Catholic blog)


I have never met an insincere Protestant.
And if I have, either I don’t recall it or I was fooled. But as far as I can tell, every Protestant I’ve ever mingled with has truly believed with all sincerity that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded by Christ; not one has believed that the Catholic Church is indeed what she claims to be – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Christian Church.
I believe every Protestant has chosen to “protest” because he believes that his non-Catholic tradition is true, and that the Catholic tradition isn’t. Out of reverence for the truth (as he believes it to be) he cannot go where he does not believe true religion is being taught. If he does not believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, he’s not going to be Catholic; and that’s fair and commonsensical.
But what if we could show our Protestant brothers and sisters that there are good reasons to believe that Catholicism is true? What if we could demonstrate that Catholicism is the truest and most complete form of biblical Christianity? If we could do that, who knows what good would come of it. Then, perhaps, the world would be less scandalized by Christian disunity and bickering; perhaps Christians could be more united on the moral and ethical fronts of society; perhaps more lives and souls would be saved; perhaps God’s will would be done.
I am certain that if Protestants saw the Catholic Church as she really is, most would enter the Catholic Church at any cost; not as a “change of denomination” but as a perfection – a completion – of the faith they’ve held previously as a non-Catholic Christian.
If the Catholic Church really is “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” and the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” then what Christian would not want to be in it (see Eph 2:20; 1 Tim 3:15). Indeed, if Christ really did establish a Church on earth as the Scriptures clearly reveal – one that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” – then where is it? This is the question that every Christian must ask; and if he seriously desires to be in it, he must not stop asking “where is it?” until he is certain he has found it.
G.K. Chesterton, a convert to Catholicism, remarked that a convert’s first step towards conversion is when he decides to be fair to the Catholic Church. Once the convert-in-the-making (who often doesn’t know he’s going to be a convert) decides to be fair to the Church, he soon becomes fond of her:
“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.” (from Catholic Church and Conversion)
Catholicism makes sense; she is beautiful and wise. And everybody loves beauty and wisdom. Thus everybody loves the Church once she is seen for what she truly is.
How, then, can we draw our dear Protestant friends into relationship with “the whole Christ” (see CCC 795)? How can we show them that Catholicism is true? There are many ways (some of which are not intellectual in nature). But here is a way that I believe has proven itself to have great power and potential for conviction:
What exactly is it that every Protestant can’t not know? That the earliest Christian Church was Catholic, through and through.
The fact of the matter is that most Protestants just don’t know these things. I dare assume most barely think about (if at all) the historical details of the 16th century Reformation, not to mention the historical details of the, say, second century Church. The early Church is off most Protestants’ radar. But it shouldn’t be.
Discovering the writings of the early Church Fathers has been, for many converts from Protestantism, the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Adding fuel to the wavering Protestant’s fire – in addition to the discovery of those “elusive” biblical texts that support Catholic doctrine – are often the early Church writings as they emerge from obscurity. And there are a lot of them.
Marcus Grodi is a former Evangelical pastor, and now the founder and president of The Coming Home Network International, an organization that helps new converts make the transition (especially former non-Catholic clergy). He writes:
“Certainly an amazing majority of converts mention how reading the Early Church Fathers, either for the first time or for the first time with awareness, convinced them that the early Church was amazingly Catholic and certainly not Protestant!” (from “The Early Church Fathers I Never Saw”)
Now where’s the evidence? Are there really good sources that show the early Church was Catholic; and Catholic in the sense that we mean today? Let’s take a look.
‘Catholic’ can be said to mean “according to the whole” or “universal”. That’s what it has always meant in a Christian context. There is one Church founded by Christ, and everyone is invited to be part of it. It is the one, universal Church.
The earliest recorded use of this term is found the early second century from St. Ignatius of Antioch:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” [Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8]
St. Ignatius does not explain what “Catholic” means here. He just uses it without qualification, suggesting that it was already a familiar term in the wider Church community.
And what about the ranks in the Church conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon. It’s clear that these designations existed from St. Paul’s epistles (see especially 1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus and Acts). But what about the early Church writings?
Consider this passage from St. Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians in A.D. 110:
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters [priests] in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ…” [6.1]
There was a succession of the apostles; and this succession – called apostolic succession – has continued to present day. Every bishop in the Catholic Church today has been ordained in a direct line from the original twelve apostles of Christ (see Acts 1:20) .
St. Clement of Rome, one of the Church’s first popes and a disciple of Peter the apostle, writes around A.D. 80:
“Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
An early record of the line of successive popes (and bishops of Rome), beginning with St. Peter, is provided by St. Irenaeus at the tail end of the second century (see Against Heresies 3.3.3). From the beginning, it was understood that the bishop of Rome was the “chief” bishop – the one who held “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt 16:18-20).
Here is a later excerpt from the early Church (there are earlier examples that confirm the bishop of Rome’s primacy within the college of bishops). St. Cyprian of Carthage writes in A.D. 251:
“Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair….If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4).
Now when you read the New Testament, here’s what you’ll find regarding St. Peter:
1. Every time the apostles are listed, Peter is the first to be mentioned (Matt 10:2; Luke Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:3).
2. Peter is called the chief apostle (see Matt 10:2)
3. Peter is always listed before James and John, when Jesus’ inner three is listed (Mt 17:1; Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Lk 8:51; 9:28).
4. On several occasions Peter is the only name mentioned when referring to the group of disciples. St. Paul does this (1 Cor 9:5; 1 Cor 15:5). St. Luke does this (Acts 2:37), as does St. Mark (Mk 16:7).
5. Peter’s name (in the forms of Peter, Kepha and Cephas) is mentioned in the New Testament more than all of the other apostles’ names put together.
This is why the Church has remained so rock-solid through the ages. That the people of God would heed His prayer that “they may be one”, Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, built His house upon the rock (see Matt 7:25; 16:18). Peter (from “Petros” meaning rock) was given the strength to uphold the integrity of the Church (see Luke 22:32). The apostles and their successors are established guardians of the deposit of faith – fallible men with a special gift from God to help them do the job (1 Tm 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) – lead by a chief guardian who represents God as His prime minister until He returns once and for all (see Isaiah 22).
God’s Word, which the bishops protect, has been handed down both in written and oral forms to the Church (see 1 Thess 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25). The Bible was never considered the sole authority in the early Church. The Bible (1 Tim 3:16), along with Tradition (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2) and the teaching authority of the Church (Matt 16:18; 18:18) served as a tripod – as they do today – holding the Church steady in faith and morals.
Now what about the Mass, Sacraments, and in particular, the Eucharist? Can these key components of the Catholic faith also be found in the writings of the early Christians?
Catholics believe we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8) through faith (Rom 3:26) working in love (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 13) and believe, along with the unanimous testimony of the early Church Fathers, that the Sacrament of Baptism is the way that initial regeneration by “saving grace” comes to the Christian. This is why babies aren’t excluded. Salvation is free; though bought at a price.
From baptism onwards, “salvation is worked out in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).
Our first pope writes in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism…now saves you.” This was the belief from the beginning: that baptism cleanses the baptized of all sin – a free gift of sanctifying grace by means of water – and as a result the baptized were born again into new life (see John 3:5).
Tertullian writes:
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . .” (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203])
But Christians are likely to commit wrongdoings again due to the wounds of previous sin. Jesus said to the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:21-23) so that we might experience forgiveness “in the presence of Christ” through the priests and bishops (2 Cor 2:10). This is why we have confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Basil the Great writes:
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374])
The Eucharist – which comes to us in the Holy Mass when bread and wine is mysteriously changes in substance but not in physical appearance to Christ’s body and blood at the blessing of the priest – was at the center of Christian worship even in the earliest stages of Christianity.
Why? Because the Eucharist is Christ (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; John 6:32–71 and all the Last Supper accounts).
St Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of John the apostle, writes at the turn of the second century:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ… They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
St. Justin Martyr wrote:
“We call this food Eucharist…..For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Finally, what about Mary and the saints in the early Church?
St. Ambrose, the mentor of St. Augustine, in the 4th century writes this regarding Mary who is “blessed among women”:
“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?” (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]).
And Ephraim the Syrian writes in the fourth century:
“You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
Final Thoughts
This post doesn’t even begin to touch all of the writings of the early Church available to us today. I’ve only provided a small sample of excerpts; but I recommend that you go and read the writings for yourself. Many of them aren’t long (although another many of them are!). If you and I hope to help our Protestant brothers and sisters see the Catholic Church as she really is, the testimony of the early Church will be indispensable in helping them arrive at that affirmation.
The goal is to lead our separated brethren to “the whole Christ”, which resides ultimately in the Eucharistic Church (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).
Indeed one of the greatest affirmations I’ve experienced personally in my decision to be Catholic (in addition to discovering the rich biblical basis for Catholic beliefs) has been my discovery of the writings of the early Church. “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”, wrote the great convert from Anglicanism, Blessed John Henry Newman. Indeed.
I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because I have every reason to believe the Catholic Church of today is the same Church founded by Christ in the first century. Along with St. Augustine and the rest of the early church Fathers:
“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

***All the early church quotations in this article were obtained from Catholic.com

Check out Matt Nelson’s blog at Reasonable Catholic
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Recommended Reading:
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
The Mass Of The Early Christians by Mike Aquilina (anything by Dr. Aquilina, really)
The Apostasy That Wasn’t by Rod Bennett

 

The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; a Lament – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

This year, on October 31st we will have the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I keep seeing signs saying that we will be celebrating this anniversary. To me, I can’t celebrate this. It reminds me of when an old friend of mine decided to have a party celebrating the one year anniversary of his divorce from his wife. I could not fathom celebrating the fact that these two people who had loved each other and had forged a beautiful life together with four children decided that they could not work out their differences but decided to split apart. I had seen the damage that this divorce did to each of them as well as to their children. How could I celebrate this? I feel the same way about the Protestant Reformation. How can I celebrate the fact that the Church that Jesus had called to be ONE had divided? Jesus prays in John 17: “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” That prayer for unity suffered a massive blow beginning on October 31st, 1517. I lament that.
You need to understand that even though I am proud to be Catholic and consider it to be the ONE Church founded by Jesus; I do have a great love for my Protestant brothers and sisters. I grew up as a Protestant (Methodist) before I converted to the Catholic faith. I give thanks to God for all that He showed me as a Methodist. I was given a Trinitarian baptism (not all Protestant Churches do this) and was taught to love God and to love the scriptures as a Methodist. Even today I pray and share faith experiences with my Protestant brothers and sisters. The Vatican II document, Decree On Ecumenism keeps referring to our Protestant brothers and sisters as “separated brethren”. We need to see that there is still a connection between us. However, the sense of unity is gone. I have seen estimates varying between 33,000 and 51,000 as to the number of “Christian” denominations. It seems that whenever one pastor disagrees with another as to the correct interpretation of scripture or how to live out that interpretation, they start a new church. This is so very sad and so far away from what Jesus and the scriptures call us to. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We certainly do not have that in Christianity today. I am thankful that the Catholic Church lives out that Unity throughout the four corners of the world.
When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, he had very legitimate gripes against what the Church was doing. Most of this was due to the fact that the Church was building Saint Peter’s in Rome and it was a costly undertaking. The Church started to sell indulgences and Martin Luther’s gripes were mostly about this and the power of the Pope and the existence of Purgatory. Martin Luther even removed seven books from the Bible that had been accepted from the beginning, and by every Church council, because they taught about the doctrine of Purgatory and praying for the deceased. These books are still missing from most Protestant Bibles. Luther also wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation because they did not go along with his thoughts on grace and works. Fortunately these still remain in the Protestant Bible.
It doesn’t appear that Martin Luther really wanted to break the Church apart. However, that is exactly what happened. The Catholic Church responded with its own reforms to deal with the abuses, but it came too late. Others joined Martin Luther in professing other ideas about how scriptures were to be interpreted and these “reformers” started several different religions. Unfortunately, not only was unity lost, but many of these churches gave up the sacraments, sacramentals, Saints, Mary, Apostolic succession of Holy Orders and a central Magisterium that the Catholic Church kept. These new religions ignored what the Church had been doing from the very beginning. It is interesting that today many Protestants (especially many ordained ministers) are coming home to the Catholic Church as a result of their study of Church history and the early Church fathers. The numbers doing this are staggering (see the Coming Home Network at http://www.chnetwork.org).
Instead of Celebrating this 500th Anniversary, I lament it. I feel bad that so many people today are really in love with God and have committed their lives to Him, but don’t have the Sacraments to help them and don’t have Mary to be with them. Even Martin Luther was upset at the reformers who lost these things.
Here are some quotes of Martin Luther about the Blessed Virgin Mary (taken from Church Pop https://churchpop.com/2017/03/07/5-surprising-quotes-from-martin-luther-on-the-blessed-virgin-mary/) :
1) Mary has no equal among creation
“She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child….
“Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God…. None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.”
2) Mary was without sin
“God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.”
3) Mary was a perpetual virgin
“Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb… This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. […] Christ… was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him.”
4) On the veneration of Mary
“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”
5) Mary is the mother of all Christians
“Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees… If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.”
6) You can never honor Mary enough
“[Mary is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ… She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures.”
And Martin Luther said the following about the Eucharist (taken from Bread From Heaven : https://bfhu.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/martin-luther-on-the-real-presence/)
Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”

I pray that someday all Christians may be one and experience the fullness of the Sacraments, the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the unifying force of the Magisterium. May we continue the prayer of Jesus, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” May we truly be ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH (Nicene Creed, 325 ad). Until then, I will lament our disunity.

Note: the Catholic Church is the only institution in History that has lasted 2,000 plus years. I know that Satan would love to destroy the Church, but so far he has only wounded it (several times). I trust in the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

 

 

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – Interesting Facts About Our Uninterrupted History – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Looking in to the Tomb of St. Peter underneath the main Altar at St. Peter’s in Rome.

 

A friend of mine posted this on Face Book.  There is no author noted.  I found it interesting enough to share with you on my blog site.  I have actually visited several of the places mentioned here and have found the visits to be a very moving experience.  Our Church is so filled with an uninterrupted history, right back to the time of Jesus and the apostles.  We are truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  God is good!

Historical Evidences of the True Church

The Catholic Church gave us the Gregorian calendar which we all use today.
The Catholic Church gave us the date for Easter.
The Catholic Church gave us the date for Christmas which means Christ-Mass.
The Catholic Church compiled the Bible.

The remains of all of the Apostles are in Catholic Churches, and so are all of the Gospel writers. Note! Some relics are divided between Catholic Churches.

St. Peter is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Paul is in St. Paul’s Church in Rome.
St. Matthew is in the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Messina, Sicily.
St. James the Greater is in St. James Church in Compostela Spain.
St. James the Less (the Just) is in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome.
St. Bartholomew is in St. Bartholomew-in-the-island Church in Rome.
St. Andrew is in the Cathedral of Amalfi in Italy.
St. Philip is in the Church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome, Basilica of the Holy Apostles.
St. Simon is in the Vatican, under the Altar of the Crucifixion.
St. Jude is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Thomas is in the Cathedral of Saint Thomas in Mylapore, India.
St. Matthias is in St. Matthews Abbey in Trier Germany, and in St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.
St. John is in the ruins of the Basilica of St. John in Ephesus Turkey.


“You are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Corner Stone.”
Ephesians 2:20.


Even though he was not an Apostle, he did write the Gospel of Mark.
St. Mark is in St. Mark’s Church in Venice, Italy.


Even though he was not an Apostle, he did write the Gospel of Luke.
St. Luke is in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua, Italy.
The first Christian Martyr. Acts 7:60


St. Stephen is in Rome in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.


The first person to arrive at the tomb of the Risen Christ. John 20:1
St. Mary Magdalene is in the Basilica of St. Maximin in Villalata, France.


He produced the first Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, the Latin Vulgate. St. Jerome is in St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

We know from the many authentic Relics that the Catholic Church has in its possession. Among them are:

The Relic of the True Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. John 19:17-18
The “INRI” inscription from the True Cross, called “Titulus Crucis”. John 19-19
The Nails which held Jesus to the cross. John 20:25
The Lance Point of Saint Longinus which pierced the side of Jesus. John 19:34
The Crown of Thorns and the individual thorns from it. John 19:2
The Table used at the Last Supper is in St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Matthew 26:20
The Scala Santa, the steps which Jesus Christ ascended on His way to meet Pontius Pilate.
The Chains of Saint Peter, in the Church of St. Peter in Chains in Rome.

..thanks to the one who did the research

 

Advent Saints – St. Ambrose by Deacon Marty McIndoe

stambrosebasilica

The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan.  This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.

               By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man.  He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor.   He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace.  He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism.   In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be.  There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides.  Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides.  It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop.  The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized.  Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it.  Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people.  They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop.  Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.

               Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision.  The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop.  Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician.  Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan.  He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor.  Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.

               Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire.  The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom.  Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate.  Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”

               Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians.  Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death.  Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church.  Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church).  They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs.  The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire.  Ambrose kept control of his Church.  It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him.  He showed true forgiveness.

               Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine.  It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith.  Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously.  Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.

There are many quotes from St. Ambrose.  I share a few of them here.

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.        

Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.

If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year. 

By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.

It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. 

True repentance is to cease from sin. 

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown. 

He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it. 

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.  

God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. 

 

 

 

              

Advent Saints – St. Nicholas by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints.  There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint.  He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children.   He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City.   His popularity goes from east to west around the world.  So who was this man, Saint Nicholas?  He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey.  He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man.  It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him.  However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was.  We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian.  His uncle was the local bishop.   Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young.  They left him a significant estate.  Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor.  After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned.  After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.

Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius.  Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy.  Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face.  The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status.  The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas.   Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra.  In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.

There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him.  The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”  St. Nicholas of Myra

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”    St. Nicholas of Myra

“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.”   Fr Andrew Phillips

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”   Francis P. Church

“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

christ-the-king-statue1

Christ The King statue in Świebodzin, Poland.  This is the largest statue of Jesus in the world (yes, even larger than Rio de Janeiro).  It is 33 meters (over 108 feet) tall.  One meter for each year of Jesus life.  Note the gold crown.

               The last Sunday of the Church liturgical Calendar is celebrated as the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Although Christians have celebrated Jesus as the King of Kings since the very beginnings and the Jews have celebrated the Messiah as the coming King long before Jesus, this Feast is relatively new.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast in 1925 in his encyclical QUAS PRIMAS and it was first celebrated in 1926.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast as a result of changes that were occurring throughout the world.  There was a rise of both Communism and non-Christian dictatorships that tried to keep their people from worshiping God and following the Church.  There was a large growth of secularism that had people questioning the role of God and the Church in their lives.  People were simply denying Christ and doubting His authority and existence, as well as doubting the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority. 

               The truth of the matter is, this seems to be occurring again today.  People are putting Jesus aside and are not going to Church.  Even our own government has tried to take away the Church’s authority over its people.  God has been taken out of our government, and schools and courts.  That is why this Feast is so timely even today.  Our recent Presidential elections have shown a great divide in our country and some people seem lost.   The problem is, our hope should not be fully in who is leading our country.  Our hope should be in the Lord.  I saw a sign before the elections that really brings this home.  It said:

nomatterwhoispresidentjesusisking

 

               Today’s Feast day celebrates that very thought, and much more.  Let us look at what Pope Pius XI hoped to accomplish in celebrating this feast:

1 – That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas 32).

2 – That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas 31).

3 – That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feas, as we reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas 33)

               The first two of these are a constant battle.  We need to make sure that the State recognizes our rights to freely worship God as we are called to do.  The second is also difficult.  We must elect leaders who can give respect to Jesus.  The third, and last, is where we ourselves need to work the hardest.  We MUST see Jesus as King of everything that we are.  He must reign in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies.  Today individualism has been so embraced that for many, the only authority is the individual self.  They reject the idea of Jesus as ruler.  Many see the title of King or Lord as archaic and borrowed from oppressive systems of government.  Certainly some Kings have been oppressive, but Jesus surely is not that kind of King.  He himself said in Mark 10: 42-45, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied in John 18: 36-37, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

               Jesus certainly knew the oppressive nature of some Kings and in contrast to them he showed His role as King as one of humble service and commanded all His followers to do the same.  He tied His Kingdom to His own suffering and death.  He will come again as King to judge the nations.  However He showed us that His Kingdom is one of love and mercy and peace and forgiveness.  Jesus turned around the concept of Kingship.  We know that when we make Him King of all that we are and all that we do, we will experience that Kingdom.

               Let us all strive to make Jesus our King.  Here is a prayer that may help us in doing that:

Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us humbly prostrate before you.
We are yours, and yours we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with you,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to your Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known you;
many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you.
Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to your Sacred Heart.
Be King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you;
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof,
and call them back
to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith,
so that soon there may be
but one flock and one Shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance
of freedom and immunity from harm;
give tranquility of order to all nations;
make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation;
to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Also known as “Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor”

 

 

Why We Venerate Relics by Matt Nelson

relics

The veneration of the mortal remains of loved ones is nothing new. Nor can it be said to be distinctly Catholic; for it is a distinctly human practice that spans all ages, cultures, and religious inclinations.

Veneration simply means “to give great respect.” Thus, at its most basic understanding, to venerate the relics of loved ones is to give great respect to those things that one’s loved ones have left behind; including their bodies.

Every time an agnostic visits the grave (and thus the bones) of his deceased relative, for example, or an Evangelical Christian clings to the shirt of her dearly beloved grandmother, the veneration of relics—though not necessarily as an act of religious piety—takes place. The veneration of the material remains of loved ones seems to be a universal impulse of the human person; and the Catholic Church takes this natural human impulse and—as she does so often—elevates the custom to a supernatural level and dignity.

Christian relics are the material remains—and not always the bodily remains—of the saints or even Christ himself. They are typically organized into three classes. Third class relics are material items that have been touched to the saints, or to their bodies or personal possessions. Second class relics were personal possessions of the saints. First class relics are the actual body or fragments of the body of the holy ones.

The seven sacraments of the Church are visible signs that reveal and effect invisible realities. They are also the seven primary ways through which God communicates grace; that is, the free gift of his life and the power to be holy. But of course God is not bound by the sacraments for he is the omnipotent creator and curator of them. He can give grace in other ways if he so wishes. Relics are sacramentals (as are, for example, crucifixes and statues of the saints). By virtue of them being sacramentals, they are not sacraments. Rather they exist to prepare us to receive the sacraments (see CCC 1677). Thus sacramentals are not be looked at; they are to be looked along.

At the fullness of time God did the unthinkable and took on flesh; and he sanctified matter by becoming man. Ancient testimonies, both Christian and non-Christian, tell us that the carpenter from Nazareth was a walking wonder worker; and it was often through matter—whether through mud, loaves, fish, water, or human touch—that the Maker of all matter worked those supernatural deeds. The Christ had a soft spot for matter; and apparently he still does.

Now just as God works directly through his sons and daughters on earth, he also works through other things that have been made.

As I have said, the veneration of relics is not a distinctly religious thing; nor is it a distinctly Catholic thing; nor is it a distinctly Christian thing. Neither are the working of miracles through relics a distinctly Christian thing. In the Old Testament the coat of Elijah (after he had ascended to heaven) is tossed into a raging river only to part the waters and allow safe crossing (see 2 Kings 2). A few chapters later the bones of the prophet Elisha contact another man’s mortal remains at the bottom of a pit—and the man returns to life (2 Kings 13:20-21).

In the New Testament the examples of God working miracles through lowly material things are multiplied. St. Peter’s shadow (a privation rather than a positive thing, and yet still a fitting vessel of grace) in Luke’s Acts Of The Apostles serves as a blanket of healing—and the hopeful and faith-filled sick line the streets that they might touch God’s grace through the shadow of Peter (see Ch. 5:12-15).

When the handkerchiefs and aprons of St. Paul are touched to the sick and demon-stricken, healing flows from the hand of God through these (presumably used) handkerchiefs of the apostle (Acts 19:11-12). And of course, there is the example of our Lord’s cloak—that even at the touch of the hem (and not directly his body) a woman is cured of her hemorrhage by the power of God (Matt 9:20-22). ““If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well,” believed the woman; and she was right.

Religious relics are not magic items that hold power in and of themselves; they are vessels. The power of God is not contained in the saints’ relics—be they bones, books, or badly damaged running shoes—but rather, the power of God works along the relics, just as our veneration (and adoration) runs along them in the other direction. Relics are vehicles empowered by the grace of God.

For the Protestant and skeptic, the greatest difficulty in this matter of relics lies in the use of human remains for religious rites. Although the beautifully tear-jerking Martyrdom of Polycarp of the mid-second century does, in fact, mention the prayerful possession of the deceased St. Polycarp’s bones for the purpose of Christian veneration, it is true that the New Testament does not mention the veneration of bones, hair, and the like.

But the key to understanding this ancient aspect of Christian practice—and the way to make something so disagreeable agreeable—is to look to the center of the Gospel. At the center of the Gospel lies the resurrection of Christ; and the resurrection of Christ is only the beginning of a great rising that will take center stage at the end of time when all men and women are reunited with their long-corrupted bodies. Although our resurrected bodies will be radiantly beautiful, incorruptible, and unrestricted by the laws of physics, as St. Thomas suggested after prayerfully drawing from the Scriptures, our bodies will still be our bodies. Our resurrected bodies will be new; but they will not be different. They will not be different in the sense that they will still be our own, but more fully alive; fully alive, in fact.

The resurrection is the key to understanding the Christian practice of venerating relics; for we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth when God will finally reconcile all things—material and immaterial—to Himself. And because the resurrection of the body is our real and promised destiny there remains an interminable, though mysterious, link between our corruptible bodies in this life and the souls that, only for a time, are separated from our body at death.

Relics are, in the end, perhaps just one more way for God to remind us that He is not finished with us; we are a work in progress even after death. One’s bodily death is final in the sense that what dies no longer lives; but it is not the Grande Finale where all humans will be reunited with their bodies once for all.

Yes, God raised Adam from the dust; and like Adam, to dust we will also return. But that’s not where our story ends. If our bodies are really and truly to be “temples of the Holy Spirit”, as St. Paul tells us, how fitting is it that God would make our bodies incorruptible; and work through bodily relics to remind us of that final state of bodily reality.

We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting; we just all-too-often forget that we believe it. After all that has been said, it might be imagined that God’s willingness to work through the relics of the saints is one more way for God to remind those of us who forget the dignity and destiny of our now-imperfect and corrupting bodies: “I’m not finished with you yet.”

 

For more on relics visit my friend Fr. Carlos Martins’ website, TreasuresOfTheChurch.com.

 visit Matt Nelson at his website:  reasonablecatholic.com

 

Saint Jerome, Our Bible Hero by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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Inside the Cave in Bethlehem , next to where Jesus was born, where Saint Jerome lived and translated the Bible.

Saint Jerome was a very learned man who loved the scriptures.  He is the one who said, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.  We celebrate his memorial on September 30th every year.  Let us take a look at this very interesting man.

St. Jerome, was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in the year 342, in the small town of Stridonius at the head of the Adriatic Sea.  His father was a Christian and made sure that Jerome received the best education possible, both in classical studies and in religion.  His father eventually sent him to Rome to study under some of the best teachers available.  Jerome became fluent in Latin and Greek.  Initially he was overtaken with the hedonistic pleasures offered by the city, but in the year 360 he was baptized by Pope Liberius.  Saint Jerome said, “it was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, the tombs of the martyrs and Apostles, going down into those subterranean galleries whose walls on both sides preserve the relics of the dead.” Here he enjoyed deciphering the inscriptions that were found on the walls.

Jerome spent about three years in Rome and then set out to see other parts of the world.  He continued to be an avid reader and intellectual and lover of scripture.  There really were no uniform selections of the scriptures then.  During his travels Jerome made a whole hearted decision to dedicate himself to God.  Because of his intellect, and love of reading, he started assembling a library of Christian writings.  After several years of scholarly study, Jerome decided to head to Syria for solitude and prayer.  Even in this solitude and prayer, his hedonistic desires that were set off in Rome began to surface again.  He said, “In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the sun, so scorching that it frightens even the monks who live there, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome…. In this exile and prison to which through fear of Hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, with no other company but scorpions and wild beasts, I many times imagined myself watching the dancing of Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them. My face was pallid with fasting, yet my will felt the assaults of desire. In my cold body and my parched flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was still able to live. Alone with the enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, though I grieve that I am not now what I then was.”

To help with his growth away from passion and towards Jesus, Jerome began to study Hebrew.  He said, “When my soul was on fire with wicked thoughts, as a last resort, I became a pupil to a monk who had been a Jew, in order to learn the Hebrew alphabet.  What labor it cost me, what difficulties I went through, how often I despaired and abandoned it.  I thank our Lord that I now gather such sweet fruit from the bitter sowing of those studies.”  This new knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to later translate the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jerome moved to Bethlehem where he opened a free school and also a hospice for pilgrims.  Now Jerome had some years of peaceful activity. He describes Bethlehem as a place of peace where travelers come from all over the world.  He said, “They come in throngs and set us examples of every virtue. The languages differ but the religion is the same; as many different choirs chant the psalms as there are nations…. Here bread and herbs, planted with our own hands, and milk, all country fare, furnish us plain and healthy food. In summer the trees give us shade. In autumn the air is cool and the falling leaves restful. In spring our psalmody is sweeter for the singing of the birds. We have plenty of wood when winter snow and cold are upon us. Let Rome keep its crowds, let its arenas run with blood, its circuses go mad, its theaters wallow in sensuality….”

While in Bethlehem, living in a cave right next to where Jesus was born, Jerome began translating the Hebrew Scriptures in to Latin.  He also had to learn a new language, Chaldaic, because parts of the Old Testament were written in that.  He strived to have the most authentic translation that was possible.  He also worked with many Church leaders and scholars to put together the full text of the Bible as we have it today.  It should be noted that in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent, affirmed St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible as the most authentic and authoritative Latin text of the Church.  Besides his translation of the Bible, St. Jerome produced many biblical commentaries.  He was a great preacher and fought many heresies that were springing up.  St. Jerome’s love for scripture has given all of us a gift that we must give thanks to God for.  He did so much to bring the Word of God to Life, so that people could read and understand it.  May he always help us to love and devour God’s Word.
 

 

Is The Bible Alone The ‘Word Of God’? by Matt Nelson

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When it comes to Christian doctrine the word “alone” is a very heavy word; for it comes with the burden of proving an absolute statement. Words matter—especially divinely revealed words; and correct interpretation of those words matter most of all.

We have to be especially careful with biblical phrases or passages that we hear and pray often. These can become so cliché that we fail to think about what they really mean and glaze over them without thinking about them. Remember: we are to love God with all our mind (Lk 10:27) and therefore we should never stop allowing the written Word of God to penetrate deeper into our intellect, the site of understanding. As Frank Sheed often reminded his readers, every new thing we learn about God is a new thing to love about God.

Furthermore, grasping the true teaching of Christ and the apostles aids us in our own growth in holiness and assists us in becoming the most effective evangelists we can be. St. Paul writes:

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16, KJV)

So is the Bible the Word of God? Yes.

Is the Bible alone the Word of God? Not according to the Bible.

For one, Jesus himself is the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). But the Scriptures also reveal God’s Word to be something both spoken and written, something passed on by word of mouth and by letter (see 2 Thess 2:15).

All Christians can agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; for the Scriptures are theopneustos (God-breathed) according to Paul (2 Tim 3:16). But as I’ve mentioned above, God’s Word does not come to us merely by the Bible alone.

Sometimes the divine word travels directly from God’s mouth to man’s ear, such as it did to Abram in the Book of Genesis:

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1)

These words are in the Scriptures now but at the time they were not; instead God’s holy Word was spoken directly to Abram in a vision.

The risen Christ appears to St. Paul and speaks to him after his conversion; but there is no direct transcript of this encounter between Paul and the Lord in the Scriptures. Surely, however, the words spoken by Christ directly to Paul can be considered “God-breathed.” Consider also when God speaks to Jesus—his beloved Son in whom he is well-pleased—at his baptism in the Jordan (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11).

Here’s what I’m getting at: God’s inerrant Word comes to man in different ways than merely in writing. That the Bible is the sole rule of faith was never the view of the early Christians for, just like St. Paul and the apostles, the early Church writers held that tradition was to be revered and upheld for the sake of orthodoxy (or correct belief).

St. Ireneaus, and a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle, affirmed tradition on many occasions—especially when addressing the heresies of his time. He writes:

“With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.” (Against Heresies, 3:3:1–2)

Now let’s get this straight: when Jesus gets after the Pharisees for their “traditions of men” he is not condemning all traditions; he is condemning religious traditions that directly contradict the Word of God and the Christian way of love.

Apostolic tradition is a whole different ball game.

Protestants might be tempted to respond by saying, “Fine! But what Ireneaus means by “apostolic tradition” is the Scriptures.” But that’s a groundless assertion. No early Church writer ever affirmed this notion of sola scriptura. No passage in the Bible affirms that only the Bible is to be considered apostolic tradition (in fact, the Bible directly contradicts this as you’ll see). And finally, most of the early Christians had no access to the Gospels and epistles of the apostles (or copies of them), and the New Testament Scriptures were not even formally determined to be inspired until the fourth century. The gospel of Jesus Christ was primarily communicated to the earliest Christians by preaching!

Often Catholics are criticized by Protestants because they put sacred tradition on the same footing as sacred Scripture. Catholics assert that Scripture and tradition “flow from the same divine wellspring.” But this insight into the status of tradition has its roots in the Bible. In fact, tradition is something that comes to man from God in both written and oral form—the Bible itself is a tradition, for its contents are not declared in Scripture but rather have been discerned by the Church itself with the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an interesting (and often overlooked fact) that both Catholics and Protestants put their trust in the discernment of the Catholic Church in this matter of the “inspired” contents of the Bible.

St. Paul explicitly refers to oral and written tradition in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

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

And in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul refers to the word of God as something passed on by word of mouth (and not just by letter):

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess 2:13)

And HERE Paul refers to the oral tradition passed on as the Word of God. Similarly in 1 Peter, apostolic preaching is referred to as inspired by God:

“‘[T]he word of the Lord abides for ever.’

That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Pet 1:25)

Again, the point is that God’s inerrant Word (his divine and errorless revelation) comes to man in several ways and this is evident in the Bible, especially through the writings of St. Paul.

The Word of God is always perfect and without error; but it is not always in writing.

God can speak his Word directly to man interiorly. He can speak through visions or miraculous encounters. God speaks to man through the Scriptures. And God speaks to man through the sacred oral tradition of the Church (the foremost example being the “tradition of the New Testament books.”

G.K Chesterton saw the practicality of tradition, both in religious belief and in society. He wrote famously:

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”

In other words, the voices of those who have died before us matter; and especially the voices of the apostles. Christians thus have a duty to interpret the Scriptures in unison with the tradition of the apostles, for they have looked him in the eyes and heard him speak; they have watched God move among man. It was the apostles, and them alone, that could say:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1 Jn 1:1)

Check out Matt’s website at: http://www.reasonablecatholic.com

 

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

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The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 1 of 3

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Ruins of a Roman Temple in Ephesus that was turned in to an Early Christian Church.  See the crosses etched in to the outside wall.  Ephesus was a thriving Christian city in the first days of the Church.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

Many “Bible Alone” Christians will say that the Church of the Bible looks nothing like the Catholic Church. If that were true, then we would expect to find evidence of the first few hundred years of Christianity to support this claim. However, what we do find is evidence to show that the Early Church was indeed Catholic in every way! Many Protestants claim that the Church of the first three centuries was a “pure” Church and base that on a modern reading of Acts 2:42, ignoring that writings of the earliest Christians. They will also claim that it was only after the legalization of Christianity by Roman Emperor Constantine (313 AD) did the Church become “Catholic” and corrupt. However, the doctrines of Post-Constantine Catholicism are the same doctrines that were held by Christians for the preceding three centuries. In fact, the evidence below clearly shows that the beliefs of the Early Church are the same as those of the Catholic Church today in the 3rd millennium.

Again, The Early Church Fathers are so important because: 1) their testimonies prove that the Early Church was Catholic; 2) the councils of Trent and Vatican I declared that no-one may interpret Scripture in a manner contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; 3) all the Fathers were convinced that the original texts of the Bible were absolutely immune from all error. IF, Catholic doctrine had changed “many times” from that of the earliest writings, then the record should reflect this. However, the record shows that the writings of the Early Church Fathers are consistent with the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. Nothing has changed! This is why the councils of Trent and Vatican I attest that the writings of the Early Church are to be regarded as authoritative in respect to the interpretation of scripture. Any interpretation of scripture cannot be in conflict of the testament of the unanimous teachings of Early Church on doctrine. Again, let me clarify…doctrines are those teachings from scripture that deal with items of Faith and Morals, not practices, customs and disciplines which so many anti-Catholics try to say are doctrines. Example, Baptism by sprinkling vs immersion, this is a practice.

The early Church was the Catholic Church. It taught infallibly, gave us the New Testament and was made up of three ranks of clergy, bishop, priest and deacon. The idea of “Scripture Alone” didn’t exist nor could it have as the printing press would not be invented for more than a thousand years. The earliest Christians didn’t even have a New Testament yet. It was a NEW Church. They had to rely upon verbal teaching that was passed down from the Apostles as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Before there was a Bible, there was a Church…

To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul also told Timothy, “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). In other words, he was telling Timothy that it was necessary to keep the traditions and teachings alive. Yes, he was writing letters, but every place a church had been established did not instantly get a copy of those letters. It would take many, many years before they all would be compiled into what we now know as the New Testament. No written Bibles as we know them today existed. This is important to understand.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired. Keep in mind, non-inspired does not imply not important or not authoritative, it just means that they did not see that those writings to be on level with the inspired writings of the Apostles.

The Bible as we know it today didn’t come into being until the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That is when the Catholic Church defined which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. There were many letters and writings that were floating around and they saw a need to settle which were to be considered as inspired, which were important but not inspired, and which were even heretical. The council fathers studied many documents, including, of course, the writings of the Apostles themselves, but it was not until these councils that the Church officially settled the issue of what should be included in the Canon of Scripture.

What did the Early Church look like?

That being said, what did the early Church really look like? Let’s look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers to see the Church that they knew. I bet all the Catholic Christians reading this will recognize their Church, and I’m guessing that most Protestants will not see theirs. But, let’s find out.

In the year A.D 80, we see Saint Clement of Rome, the fourth in line of succession from Peter, who was also a disciple of Peter and Paul, sending a letter to Corinth. Exhorting them to get it together or they would have severe repercussions. Those Corinthians had been causing the Church fits since Saint Paul. Now why was a bishop in Rome telling the Church in Corinth what to do? Because he had authority to do so and that authority was recognized. He is recognized as the fourth Bishop of Rome, the fourth Pope!

Clement of Rome

If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with earnest entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of His elect, which have been counted up in the whole world, through His beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom He has called us from darkness to light, and from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His name.(Letter to the Corinthians 28a [A.D. 80]). –> Read online in its entirety here

LOOK FOR PART 2 ON MONDAY

 

The Mass Is Profoundly Biblical by Karlo Broussard

Israel 481A photo I took inside the cave of St. Jerome.  This is located beneath the Church of the Nativity.  Beginning in 386, St. Jerome spent 30 years putting together the first full Bible, the Vulgate.  He lived in this cave to be as close to where Jesus was born as possible while working on the Sacred Scriptures.  His version was used up until the 20th Century.

 

Are Catholics Bible Christians? A Catholic who ponders this question may think, “Well, I know that Protestants call themselves Bible Christians, and Catholics don’t really use that terminology; so I guess I would have to answer ‘No.’” However, Catholics should respond to such a question with an immediate “Yes.”

As Catholics, we are 100 percent Bible Christians—that is to say, the Catholic Church believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God and, as such, according to the Second Vatican Council, the Bible “stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (Dei Verbum 21). Therefore, Catholics are indeed Bible Christians—and there is perhaps no other aspect of the Catholic faith that exemplifies this more than the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Familiarity with God’s word leads one to conclude that the Catholic Mass is not a foreign experience from the Bible. In fact, its structure, its words and gestures, and even its built-in theology are embedded in the pages of sacred Scripture. An examination of this “Bible blueprint” leads to the discovery that Catholic worship is truly a biblical style of worship.

The introductory rite

The Christian can recognize the biblical nature of Catholic worship in the first prayer of the Mass, the sign of the cross. The language of the prayer comes directly from Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands his apostles to go out into all nations and baptize them “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The gesture, a cross over the body, is implicitly found in the book of Ezekiel when the prophet receives the following instruction: “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it” (Ezek. 9:4). The mark given was meant to label those among the faithful remnant of God’s people who abhorred the abominations to the Lord and spare them from God’s wrath and judgment.

The significance for the gesture of the cross is that the word for mark in Hebrew is simply the Hebrew letter, taw, which is shaped like an X or plus sign. The Greek version is the letter tau, which is T-shaped, like the Franciscan cross. So the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross not only reminds the Christian of the cross of Christ, which won the gift of salvation, but in light of the biblical tradition it also serves to be a visible expression of fidelity to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and separation from the evil ways of the world.

Another part of the introductory rite that parallels the biblical blueprint is the greeting. The priest says, “The Lord be with you,” and the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” The first thing to note is the biblical origin of the language. It comes from 2 Timothy 4:22: “The Lord be with your spirit.” Like the sign of the cross, the theological significance of the phrase “the Lord be with you” lies in the Old Testament. Throughout salvation history such language is never used for ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. It always signifies a unique vocation and mission that will impact the whole history of Israel and ensure God’s protection and help in carrying out that mission.

For example, when an angel calls Gideon to defend God’s people from a foreign invasion, the angel says, “The Lord is with you” (Judg. 6:12). The angel Gabriel greets Mary with the same phrase (Luke 1:28). When applied to our liturgical experience, this greeting signifies that the laity has access to the power of God to carry out its unique vocation in the Father’s plan of salvation: to be “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Similarly, when the congregation responds, “And with your spirit,” it acknowledges that the priest too has a unique vocation within the Father’s plan of salvation: to make the cross of Christ present on the altar.

The Confiteor, which is the prayer that begins “I confess to almighty God,” is also rooted in biblical tradition. An examination of the biblical texts in the Old Testament reveals that the act of verbal confession was an essential part of public worship for ancient Israel. When the Israelites renewed their covenant with Yahweh through the priest Ezra after returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile, they “stood and confessed their sins” (Neh. 9:2). Leviticus 5:5 states that the penitent must verbally confess his sins as a part of the ritual for the guilt offering.

A final prayer of the introductory rite that can be seen as constructed from the biblical blueprint is the Gloria. The very first line is a direct quote from the Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These are the same words the angel addresses the shepherds with to announce the birth of the Messiah (see Luke 2:14, Douay Rheims Version). The titles that the prayer ascribes to God are also found in the Sacred Page, such as “almighty” (cf. Ps. 68:14, 91:1) and “heavenly king” (cf. Ps. 98:6, 99:4; Is. 43:15). In reference to Jesus, the language of “only begotten Son” comes from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [Greek, monogene] Son” (NAB). The title “Lamb of God” comes from John 1:29; “Holy One” is found in Revelation 3:7 and 16:5; and “the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:5 and Philippians 2:11.

The Liturgy of the Word

The next part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Word, many of whose parts are embedded in Scripture. First of all, the very act of proclaiming the Word of God within the context of liturgy goes back to the book of Exodus. In the liturgical ceremony for the ratification of the Sinaitic covenant Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people…” (Ex. 24:7). The Israelites then responded in faith by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7).

This corresponds to the liturgical practice of responding to the biblical readings with the words, “Thanks be to God.” It is a form of the New Israel’s response of faith to the New Covenant. Therefore, the liturgy, as the natural habitat for the proclamation of the God’s word, is an essential element of the blueprint for the worship that Israel, both old and new, must offer to God.

A few of the prayers and gestures surrounding the gospel reading also have biblical precedence. One such prayer is the alleluia (Hebrew, “God be praised”) and finds its roots in the Jewish Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118), which are prayed in the Jewish Passover liturgy to give praise to Yahweh for deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus.

The alleluia is also found in John’s heavenly vision of the wedding supper of the Lamb at which the angels praise God for his work of salvation through Jesus and announce the coming of the Lamb for his wedding feast (cf. Rev. 19:1-9). Therefore, the Catholic prayer of alleluia prior to the Gospel reading signals the celebration of a new Passover and a participation in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb.

While praying the alleluia, one will notice that the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. This calls to mind Nehemiah 8:5, where the whole assembly stands when Ezra, the priest, begins to read from the book of the covenant as they renew the covenant with Yahweh after returning to Jerusalem from exile. Just as the assembly of Israel stood for the reading of the old Law of Moses, Christians stand for the reading of the new Law of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

Another detail worthy of mention is the priest’s private prayer before the altar as he approaches the ambo: “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your Gospel.” This request calls to mind the cleansing of Isaiah’s lips in Isaiah 6:6-7, which takes place prior to his prophetical proclamation of the word of the Lord to Israel. The priest, like Isaiah, requests the cleansing of his lips before proclaiming the word of the Lord to the New Israel, the Church.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

As the Mass moves into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one continues to recognize a construct of prayers, gestures, and practices that allude to the Bible. For example, the bread and wine calls to mind the sacrifice of thanksgiving offered by the priest-king Melchizedek in Genesis 14:14-16. It is against this Old Testament backdrop that Jesus, whom the author of Hebrews identifies as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10), offers bread and wine at the Last Supper.

Therefore, the offering of bread and wine in the Catholic Mass signifies that the sacrifice soon to take place is one like Melchizedek, namely a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Greek, eucharistia), and is offered by a priest of the order of Melchizedek, i.e., the priest who acts in persona Christi.

Another Bible passage that may come to mind during the offertory prayers is Daniel 3:39-40 (NAB), where Azariah prays while standing in the midst of the fiery furnace, “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly.”

This passage serves as a possible background for the prayer for acceptance of sacrifice, which reads, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you.”

Along with the prayers of offertory, the priestly act of washing hands models the biblical tradition. According to Leviticus 30:18-21, Moses instructs the Levitical priests to wash their hands in the bronze basin located next to the altar of sacrifice outside the tabernacle before entering to perform their priestly duties. The Catholic priest washes his hands because he is about to enter the heavenly tabernacle that is made present in time and space when he confects the Eucharist.

An additional ritual worthy of highlight is the priestly offering of incense. For any Jew, this calls to mind the altar of incense located in the Holy Place of the wilderness tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple at which the Levitical priest would minister. Furthermore, St. John describes in the Book of Revelation presbyters, i.e., priests, offering golden bowls of incense in the heavenly sanctuary (cf. Rev. 5:8). Therefore, the offering of incense in the Catholic Mass is one of common practice among the people of God throughout salvation history and signifies that the Catholic faithful mystically participate in the worship of the heavenly Temple.

The next major prayer that contains elements directly derived from the Bible is the Sanctus. The threefold acclamation of God’s holiness—holy, holy, holy—is found in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah describes his vision of the heavenly throne room and how within it he sees and hears the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:3). Similarly, St. John sees the same thing when he is given access to the heavenly throne room of the Lamb. He writes in Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures . . . day and night . . . never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Perhaps this makes sense out of the preface before the prayer of the Sanctus:

“And so, with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the hosts and powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim.”

The Sanctus is thus a sign to the Catholic faithful that they are sacramentally entering into the heavenly sanctuary to join their voices with the heavenly beings.

The words of institution

Next in the lineup are the words of institution, which unfortunately cannot be given a full exegesis due to the limited scope of this article. However, a few points cannot go without mentioning.

First, the words “This is my body . . . this is my blood” find their origin in the Last Supper narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-25).

Secondly, the phrase “the blood of the new and eternal covenant” is a combination of Luke’s account, in which he records Jesus to say “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) and Matthew’s version, in which Jesus is recorded saying, “For this is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28).

It is Matthew’s Gospel that most explicitly makes the connection to the Old Testament tradition. If a Jew heard the words “the blood of the covenant,” he would immediately call to mind the ratification ceremony of the Sinaitic covenant in Exodus 24, where Moses says, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Ex. 24:8). Therefore, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper signify that it is the ratification ceremony for the New Covenant. It is this New Covenant ceremony that Catholics mystically share in and are present at in the celebration of the Eucharist.

A final prayer that is necessary to establish as part of the Bible blueprint is the anamnesis of Eucharistic Prayer IV, which reads, in part, “we offer you his body and blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world.” This offering of Jesus in sacrifice rings a sound of horror to the Protestant ear, considering that Hebrews 7:27 states, “He [Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily; . . . he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Is the Catholic Church re-crucifying Jesus and consequently among those that the letter of Hebrews speaks of in 6:6: “they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” The key to answering this question lies in the Catholic doctrine that the Eucharist makes present the one and same sacrifice of Christ in the here and now behind the signs of bread and wine (cf. CCC 1366-1367). Therefore, the sacrifice of the Mass is not a re-crucifixion of Jesus.

But the question remains: Is this theological construct biblical? The answer is yes! The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as “a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Heb. 8:2). In other words, Jesus’ priestly ministry continues forever in the heavenly realm (cf. Heb. 7:25). Now, because “every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (Heb. 8:3a) “it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer” (Heb. 8:3b).

What does Christ offer to the Father in the heavenly sanctuary as high priest? The offering cannot be anything less than his sacrifice on the cross, since that was his definitive priestly act. Therefore, the Bible blueprint reveals the one and same sacrifice of Christ on the cross being made present in the heavenly sanctuary in an unbloody manner. Such a conclusion is also supported by the fact that St. John describes Jesus appearing in the heavenly sanctuary as a slain lamb (cf. Rev. 5:6).

Thus the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is forever made present before the Father and is not restricted to time and space. Consequently, that same sacrifice can be made substantially present in the here and now in an unbloody manner every time the faithful liturgically remember the sacrifice of Christ in the anamnesis.

So, in conclusion, embedded in the sacred pages of God’s divine word is a blueprint with which God’s holy people, the Church, can construct a form of worship that is truly pleasing to the Lord. The Mass and the Bible are inseparable, and together they orient the Catholic faithful toward the destiny to which all humans are called: heaven.

Karlo Broussard

Apologetics Speaker

Karlo Broussard, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, left a promising musical career to devote himself full-time to the work of Catholic apologetics. For more than a decade he has traveled the country teaching apologetics, biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Karlo has published articles on a variety of subjects in Catholic Answers Magazine, is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live, and is an active blogger at \http://www.catholic.com

Karlo holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also worked for several years in an apprenticeship with nationally known author and theologian Fr. Robert J. Spitzer at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Karlo is one of the most dynamic and gifted Catholic speakers on the circuit today, communicating with precision of thought, a genuine love for God, and an enthusiasm that inspires.

Karlo resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo’s online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

 

St. Ephrem of Syria, Deacon, Doctor of the Church, HARP OF THE SPIRIT – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Ephrem_icon

June 9th we celebrate the feast of St. Ephrem.  He was born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia (now Turkey/Syrian border) in the year 306.  He was a prolific writer and helped fight the Arianism heresy that was so prevalent at his time.  He wrote over 400 hymns (we still have the lyrics) and is credited with making music a very large part of the liturgy.   Many of his songs were instructional as well as inspirational.   He was a great teacher and after moving to Edessa, helped to make the School of Edessa the heart of the Syrian speaking world.  He was a biblical scholar who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures.   He fought hard to make the teachings of the Bible and the Council of Nicea stand within the Church.

St. Ephrem was a very simple and humble man.  He spent a good deal of time living in a cave.  He accepted ordination as a deacon but refused to be ordained a priest.  When pressure was put on him to be named Bishop, he feigned mental illness.  His writings really show his holiness.  At the bottom of this post, I have included several quotes of his.  Besides writing scripture commentaries and hymns, he wrote poems.  It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.  St. Ephrem died of the plague on June 9, 373.  He had been caring for plague victims.  In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Ephrem to be a Doctor of the Church.  He is the only Syrian to hold that distinction.

I really believe that we can learn about Ephrem from his writings.  His quotes are quite inspirational and can help us today.  The first quotes are on various topics.  I ended with a quote that he wrote for his own funeral.  God bless.

QUOTES:

The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.

Remember me, ye heirs of God, ye brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day.

You (Jesus) alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?

Let books be your dining table, And you shall be full of delights.  Let them be your mattress, And you shall sleep restful nights.

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.

The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Scripture brought me to the Gate of Paradise, and the mind stood in wonder as it entered.

When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures, pray to God thus: “Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.” Always pray to God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in their own reason, have turned away into deception.

You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord Himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love Him.

Who is far from love is a bad state, and to be pitied. He passes his days in a delirious dream, far from God, deprived of light, and he lives in darkness … Whoever does not have the love of Christ is an enemy of Christ. He walks in darkness and is easily led into any sin.

It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of anger.

Blessed the one who has become a good spiritual net and caught many for the good Lord, such a one will greatly praised by the Lord.

Blessed the one who, exalted by love, has become a city founded upon a mountain, from which the enemy, when he saw it, withdrew in fear, trembling at its security in the Lord.
 

Funeral Quote:
Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

 

 

Athanasius Against the World by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Nicea5The Ancient Church of Hagia Sophia in Nicaea where the Council was held in 325.

May 2 marks the feast day of St. Athanasius who was often called Athanasius Against the World.  He was also called Athanasius the Great and Athanasius the Confessor and Athanasius the Apostolic.  Athanasius was born around the year 293 in Alexandria, Egypt.  It appears that he came from a very devout Christian family who were able to provide him with a very good education.  He was the twentieth bishop of Alexandria and served as bishop for 45 years.  However, 17 of those years were done in exile.  He is a doctor of the Church.  He was a great champion of the Faith, especially against the heresy of Arianism.

Athanasius grew up in a time when the church was in significant turmoil.  The Roman government had just stopped their terrible persecution of Christians, but there was significant disagreement in the Church about some of the beliefs that we now take for granted.  One of the heresies that flourished then was Arianism.  This heresy says that Jesus is not divine; he is not of one substance with God.  In Arianism there is no Trinity.

In the year 319, Athanasius was ordained a deacon.  In 325 he served Alexander, his Bishop as his assistant.  Alexander had helped train Athanasius and they worked well together.  The two of them had to deal with the Arianism heresy that had sprung up in their home city of Alexandria and was starting to spread to other areas of the Church.  In 325, the Emperor Constantine the Great, and Pope Sylvester convened the First Council of Nicaea to deal with this heresy and so that civil peace might prevail in the empire and the Church.   This was a large council that had as many as 2000 participants, 250 of them being Bishops.  The others were mostly priests and deacons.  The main purpose of the Council was to deal with the heresy of Arianism, but many other items were discussed and ruled upon such as rules for ordinations, the election of Bishops, how to deal with those who left the faith and then returned, and general rules for clergy.

There is no doubt that Arianism was the “hot” topic.  Even St. Nicholas of Myra, who our present day Santa Claus is based on, became so upset that he punched Arius, the priest who was saying that Jesus was not divine.  Because of this First Ecumenical Council, we have the Nicene Creed which affirms that Jesus is of one substance with the father.  Take a moment to look at and study the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Saint Athanasius fought hard to stand for this truth.  Three years after the Council, Bishop Alexander died and Saint Athanasius was made the twentieth Bishop of Alexandria.  Unfortunately, Arianism still plagued the Church and Athanasius continued the fight.  He also came at odds with succeeding Roman Emperors and fought against other heresies.  During his 45 years as Bishop, he was in exile for 17 years. After many years of virtue, and suffering, Athanasius died a peaceful death in 373.  Here are two of his quotes that I particularly like:

“The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus is happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished.”
― Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation

“There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man. He banished death from us and made us anew; and, invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is, He became visible through His works and revealed Himself as the Word of the Father, the Ruler and King of the whole creation.”
― Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation

Conversion to the Bread of Life by Deacon Marty

Israel 286

The Jewish Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus gave his sermon on eating His Body and Drinking His Blood (John 6:52-59) in today’s Gospel.

I was sitting in mass this morning listening to the fascinating account of Paul’s conversion (Act 9: 1-20) and I thought of my own conversion story that happened about 44 years ago.  I then proclaimed the Gospel where Jesus tells us that we MUST eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:52-59) to have LIFE within us.  As I read that Gospel, thoughts of my own conversion became so very vivid.  I would like to share some of those thoughts with you now.  This is certainly a brief testimony; there are so many other details to it.   Those are for another time.

I was raised as a Methodist and we celebrated “Communion Sunday” one time per month.  We all received cut up squares of white bread and drank small, shot sized, glasses of grape juice.  We were taught that we did this because Jesus wanted us to remember what He did at the last supper.  I really didn’t think much about this, but liked “Communion Sunday” because the sermon was always shorter.  I did drift away from that church, and from God, during my college years.  I married a Catholic girl and would occasionally attend mass with her, but without much thought about the mass, I thought more about going out to breakfast afterwards.  Many things happened that caused me to be in somewhat of a “funk”, and through a series of interesting events (miracles) my wife and I were invited to go to a Life in the Spirit Seminar.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what made me say yes to going.  Today I know that it was God’s Spirit that led me there.  We attended the Seminar and things began changing, for the good, in my life and in my relationship to my wife.  On the fifth week of the Seminar, we were prayed over for the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”.  My life hasn’t been the same since.  Everything seemed to take on new meaning.  I was especially moved by the Bible and began reading it and praying with it at every possible chance.  This new found relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit brought new life to the scriptures for me.  I was especially drawn to the Gospel of John.  So many times in that Gospel, Jesus talks about being the Bread of Life.  I read the Gospel mentioned above and thought that it was VERY clear that Jesus wanted us to do more than just remember the Last Supper.  He very clearly told us that we must eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood.  I found the same thoughts in other Gospels and in Paul’s letters.  The only church that I knew that taught this was the Catholic Church.  I am a person who has to research everything, so I began getting out Church documents such as Vatican II documents.  As a person who also loves history, I also began reading early Church history and began to devour information on the early Church fathers.  It was very clear to me that the Catholic Church in its beginnings and today followed Jesus in teaching what He taught.  It was also very clear that what the Church taught today was essentially identical to what it lived out in its very beginning, from the time of the Apostles in to the later centuries.  There was no doubt that Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper and wanted us to continue that, through the Church that He had established.  I had found the source for my being able to do what Jesus taught, to eat His Body and drink His Blood.  I went to my local pastor and He brought me in to an RCIA program and then brought me in to His Church.  I am a daily communicant, and I fully believe that each day I eat His Body and drink His blood and have LIFE because of Jesus.  God is so good.

Do Catholics Believe Jesus had no Earthly Brothers and Sisters? by David Rummelhoff

Did_jesus_have_brothers

Let’s begin by asking, does anyone believe that Jesus had biological siblings — brothers or sisters born of the same biological mother? Yes. (And that’s probably no revelation to you.) The follow-up question is, why does anyone believe that Jesus had biological siblings? The most prominent answer to that question will be, “Well, the Bible says Jesus had siblings.” And if that’s why you believe that Jesus had biological siblings, born of the womb of Mary, then I understand where you’re coming from. I believed the same thing for a long time.

The task then is to read the Scriptures that lead people to believe that Christ had biological siblings, and to examine them closely enough to determine whether or not that is the most tenable or probable case. And where do we begin? Perhaps the best place would be Matthew 13:55-56 (which has a close parallel in Mark 6:3). In this passage, the people of Nazareth are responding to Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue:

Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Again, that seems straight-forward enough, so nobody is jumping to any conclusions here by thinking these are biological siblings. That said, we must note that in the language of the New Testament, the terms here are not absolutely indicative of siblings. The Greek term, which is adelphoi, is also indicative of other familial relations. Fine, but that’s merely a possibility, that doesn’t demonstrate that these four men named are other than Mary’s children. So, let’s see if the NT can clarify for us who these men are in relation to Jesus and Mary.

Jump to Matthew 27:55-56 :

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Here we find another mention of “James and Joseph”, and here their mother is named Mary. However, it is fairly clear that this Mary who was looking on from a distance is not the Mary who bore Jesus. Why? Well, the central character is Jesus, and quite frankly, being the mother of Jesus is a far more important and distinguishing piece of information than being the mother of anyone else. And that this is a different Mary than Jesus’ mother is reinforced a few verses later (v.61) when Matthew writes:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

“The other Mary”? Yes. Once again, the Mary who was paired with Mary Magdalene just a moment ago is now called “the other Mary”. It’s not easy to justify the idea that Matthew would refer to the mother of Jesus Christ as “the other Mary”, which is probably why there’s almost no Scripture scholar on earth who believes this other Mary is the mother of our Lord.

Maybe you’re not totally convinced; I get it. So, let’s look at another account of the crucifixion to see how another Gospel writer recorded the presence of these people. John 19:25 :

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Alright, John has given us three Marys. One he identifies by her being the mother of Jesus. Another is the famed Mary Magdalene, and the last is, we’re fairly certain, the “other Mary”, the wife of Clopas and the sister of Jesus’ mother. So, Jesus’ mother is named Mary, and his mother’s “sister” is named Mary. Of course, that Jesus’ maternal grandparents gave two daughters the same name is extremely improbable. So, this is probably another one of those instances where that Greek term adelphoi is used to indicate a non-sibling relation. In other words, it’s quite likely that Clopas’ wife is the cousin of Jesus’ mother.

  1. So, that gives us good reason to conclude that the first two “brothers”, James and Joseph, named in Matthew 13 are of some other familial relation to Jesus. In fact, the evidence strongly indicates that they are Jesus’ second cousins. And if the first two adelphoi named are only second cousins of Jesus, it is certainly improbable that the men and sisters mentioned after are of closer relation, certainly not the children of Mary and Joseph.

Does this “prove” that Jesus had no siblings? No, but it tells us that it’s highly improbable. When the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth thought of Jesus’ family members, the first people they named are second cousins

Visit David’s website at www.sperolaus.com

 

David Rummelhoff is a stay-at-home dad whose three little girls have him on a short leash since he finished his MA in theology. He pretends to have time to read and write, but he really spends his days incessantly preparing food for children with insatiable appetites and dangerous minds. He is the founder of Peter’s Mark.

A reading from the first apology of Justin Martyr in defense of the Christians, c. 100-165

No one may share in the Eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ’s commands.

For we do not receive this food as ordinary bread and as ordinary drink; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior became flesh through the word of God, and assumed flesh and blood for our salvation, so too we are taught that the food
over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said, the food which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh.

The apostles in their memoirs, which are called gospels, recorded that Jesus left them these instructions: he took bread, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said: “Do this in memorial of me.  This is my body”.  In the same way he took the cup, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said; “This is my blood”, and shared it among them and no one else.  From that time on we have always continued to remind one another of this.  Those of us who are well provided help out any who are in need, and we meet together continually.  Over all our offerings we give thanks to the Creator of all through his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

On Sundays there is an assembly of all who live in towns or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read for as long as time allows.

Then the reading is brought to an end, and the president delivers an address in which he admonishes and encourages us to imitate in our own lives the beautiful lessons we have heard read.

Then we all stand up together and pray.  When we have finished the prayer, as I have said, bread and wine and water are brought up; the president offers prayers and thanksgiving as best he can, and the people say “Amen” as an
expression of their agreement.  Then follows the distribution of the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving has been recited; all present receive some of it, and the deacons carry some to those who are absent.

Those who are well provided for, if they wish to do so, contribute what each thinks fit; this is collected and left with the president, so that he can help the orphans and the widows and the sick, and all who are in need for any other
reason, such as prisoners and visitors from abroad; in short he provides for all who are in want.

So on Sunday we all come together.  This is the first day, on which God transformed darkness and matter and made the world; the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.  For on the day before Saturday he was crucified, and on the day after Saturday, that is the Sunday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the truths which we have put before you for your consideration.

 

Justin Martyr – Christian apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis (northern west bank of Israel), about A.D. 100, converted to Christianity about A.D. 130, taught and defended the Christian religion in Asia Minor and at Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about the year 165. Two “Apologies” bearing his name and his “Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon” have come down to us. Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed in his honor and set his feast for 14 April.

Faith versus Reason – Fight by Devin Rose

Protestants often fall back to “faith” when challenged with Catholic arguments.

“Well, I just believe that it is true,” they will say.

Whether it is their belief in the shorter selection of books they’ve chosen to be in their Bibles, or in their interpretation of Scripture, they rely on faith and not reason, which they see as another corrupted human faculty.

But truth is one, and truth is found through faith, and through reason.

The Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason complement each other and work together, like two wings on a bird giving it flight.

From Bumper Sticker Catholicism’s Faith and Reason chapter:

1. Faith is not unquestioning belief in something that has no evidence to support it. That is fideism. The dogmas of the Catholic Faith, it is true, cannot be proven by reason alone, or they would not be truths that God needed to reveal, but every dogma has historical and biblical evidence supporting it, which give motives of credibility to believe it is true.

2. God gave us a great gift in His Church by making it both beautifully faithful as well as eminently reasonable. If either piece were missing, it would be immeasurably more difficult to discover her. But God in His wisdom has shown us that just as grace builds upon nature, so faith builds upon reason and does not eradicate it or make it unnecessary.

3. Because Protestants reject the Catholic belief that Christ founded a visible Church and has protected His Church from error in her teachings, they are forced to fill in the holes, inconsistencies, and discontinuities in their beliefs with ‘faith,’ yet doing so is really (unintentionally) being fideistic and not the true use of faith.

Faith and reason don’t have to fight. They were meant to be a matched pair, like two horses harnessed together, pulling a carriage in perfect harmony.

To read about how faith and reason played a key role in my conversion, check out this guest post I wrote for Called to Communion, which garnered over 100 comments and lots of good debate with Protestants.

Devin Rose is a Catholic apologist and a computer programmer.   His book, The Protestant’s Dilemma tells of his journey from Atheist to Baptist to Catholic.

http://devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com