What are Saints? Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta?

I received a text from my little sister, Christina, this morning asking “What is Mother Teresa the Saint of?”. I answered pretty well, at least as well as might be possible in texts. But, since I have more space and am able to give something more definitive here, I thought I would take a stab at the answer here. Thank you, Christina, for the question! This is something that is near and Dear to Christians, past and present.

So, to start, the Catholic Church does not “Make” saints, God does. The Church takes the signs that God provides and discerns if a person is in Heaven by following those signs or miracles. Over the centuries, many have noticed that some Saints interceed on the behalf of many in professions or walks of life, or the Church holds up a certain person as a special patron of those walks of life. The Cure de Ars, for example, who spent many many hours in the Confessional and hundreds of thousands from all France and Europe came to him for his guidance and wisdom in the Confessional, is the Patron of the Parish Priest. Others, such as founders of Religious Orders, are the patrons of their Orders. I’m sure that St. Mother Teresa is the “Patroness” of the Sisters of Charity, which she founded.

What is a “Saint”? In this context, a Saint is someone who has died with the mark of faith and is in Heaven with with Christ. There are many more Saints than we know about, God has chosen to make known the relatively few that we know about by giving us signs, or miracles. We ask, pray, for the Saints to pray for us. In the Early Church, we have graffiti from graves of early martyrs that are asking for their prayers. These date all the way back to the Apostles’ graves. The graves of of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Polycarp, St. Cecilia, and the list goes on. The earliest Christians asked their Triumphant brothers and sisters to carry their petitions to the feet of Christ and the Father. Just as we do now, with our living friends and, even strangers (just look at any Facebook feed and you will see someone asking for prayers), the Christian faithful have asked their resurrected brothers and sisters to pray for them too.

From these prayers, God has seen fit to strengthen his people by showing them signs that the Resurrection is, indeed, real. By the miracles gained from the Saints’ intercessions, we see that Christ’s promise of “Today you will be with me in Paradise” is not just empty words, but a Promise!

Sainthood is not a “Reward” of the Church, there are many deserving men and women who are probably in Heaven, but their intercessions have not brought about the miracles necessary for recognition. That is God’s choice, not the Church’s. The Church merely follows the signs that God provides and raises them up for recognition. Gifts of saints that lived while we lived, show us in no uncertain terms, that Christ is alive and well and has Dominion over this world today, just as He always has! Saint Mother Teresa, and her contemporary, Pope Saint John Paul II, show us that the “modern world” has not overtaken God and made Him obsolete, but that men and women walk our streets today, struggle through life, and are on the path to Heaven as these two were.

We are not alone! We have two parts of the Church, the “Church Militant” (which is the Church here on Earth and struggling to get to Heaven) and the “Church Triumphant” (which is the Church that has triumphed and is with Christ). We are not separate, we are bound together by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We can, and should, ask for their prayers to help us to achieve the triumph they have achieved. We pray for Grace, we pray for signs, we pray for our friends and family that have gone before us (because we don’t know, but we still beg for mercy for their sins.).

So, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pray for us!

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The Church, Mother of Vocations

The Church, mother of vocations: theme of the Pope’s message for the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Vatican City, 7 December 2015 (VIS) – “The Church, mother of vocations” is the theme of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be held on 17 April 2016, the fourth Sunday of Easter. In the text, signed in Vatican City on 29 November, first Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father comments that every vocation in the Church originates with Jesus’ compassionate gaze, and he emphasised that the call of God is heard through community mediation. The vocational path

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is my great hope that, during the course of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, all the baptised may experience the joy of belonging to the Church and rediscover that the Christian vocation, just like every particular vocation, is born from within the People of God, and is a gift of divine mercy. The Church is the house of mercy, and it is the ‘soil’ where vocations take root, mature and bear fruit.

“For this reason, on the occasion of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I invite all of you to reflect upon the apostolic community, and to give thanks for the role of the community in each person’s vocational journey. In the Bull of Indiction for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I recalled the words of the venerable Bede, describing the call of Saint Matthew: ‘Miserando atque eligendo’. The Lord’s merciful action forgives our sins and opens us to the new life which takes shape in the call to discipleship and mission. Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus. Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple’s life.

Blessed Paul VI, in his exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, described various steps in the process of evangelisation. One of these steps is belonging to the Christian community, that community from which we first received the witness of faith and the clear proclamation of the Lord’s mercy. This incorporation into the Christian community brings with it all the richness of ecclesial life, particularly the sacraments. Indeed, the Church is not only a place in which we believe, but it is also an object of our faith; it is for this reason that we profess in the Creed: ‘I believe in the Church’.

The call of God comes to us by means of a mediation which is communal. God calls us to become a part of the Church and, after we have reached a certain maturity within it, He bestows on us a specific vocation. The vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers and sisters whom the Lord has given to us: it is a con-vocation. The ecclesial dynamism of the call is an antidote to indifference and to individualism. It establishes the communion in which indifference is vanquished by love, because it demands that we go beyond ourselves and place our lives at the service of God’s plan, embracing the historical circumstances of His holy people.

On this day dedicated to prayer for vocations, I urge all the faithful to assume their responsibility for the care and discernment of vocations. When the Apostles sought someone to take the place of Judas Iscariot, St. Peter brought together one hundred and twenty of the brethren; and in order to chose seven deacons, a group of disciples was gathered. St. Paul gave Titus specific criteria for the selection of presbyters. Still today, the Christian community is always present in the discernment of vocations, in their formation and in their perseverance.

Vocations are born within the Church. From the moment a vocation begins to become evident, it is necessary to have an adequate ‘sense’ of the Church. No one is called exclusively for a particular region, or for a group or for an ecclesial movement, but rather for the Church and for the world. ‘A sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy and faithful people for the good of all’. In responding to God’s call, young people see their own ecclesial horizon expand; they are able to consider various charisms and to undertake a more objective discernment. In this way, the community becomes the home and the family where vocations are born. Candidates gratefully contemplate this mediation of the community as an essential element for their future. They learn to know and to love their brothers and sisters who pursue paths different from their own; and these bonds strengthen in everyone the communion which they share.

Vocations grow within the Church. In the course of formation, candidates for various vocations need to grow in their knowledge of the ecclesial community, overcoming the limited perspectives that we all have at the beginning. To that end, it is helpful to undertake some apostolic experience together with other members of the community, for example: in the company of a good catechist, to communicate the Christian message; together with a religious community, to experience the evangelisation of the peripheries sharing in the life of the cloister, to discover the treasure of contemplation; in contact with missionaries, to know more closely the mission ad gentes; and in the company of diocesan priests, to deepen one’s experience of pastoral life in the parish and in the diocese. For those who are already in formation, the ecclesial community always remains the fundamental formational environment, towards which one should feel a sense of gratitude.

Vocations are sustained by the Church. After definitive commitment, our vocational journey within the Church does not come to an end, but it continues in our willingness to serve, our perseverance and our ongoing formation. The one who has consecrated his life to the Lord is willing to serve the Church wherever it has need. The mission of Paul and Barnabas is a good example of this readiness to serve the Church. Sent on mission by the Holy Spirit and by the community of Antioch, they returned to that same community and described what the Lord had worked through them. Missionaries are accompanied and sustained by the Christian community, which always remains a vital point of reference, just as a visible homeland offers security to all who are on pilgrimage towards eternal life.

Among those involved in pastoral activity, priests are especially important.In their ministry, they fulfil the words of Jesus, Who said: ‘I am the gate of the sheepfold … I am the good shepherd’. The pastoral care of vocations is a fundamental part of their ministry. Priests accompany those who are discerning a vocation, as well as those who have already dedicated their lives to the service of God and of the community.

All the faithful are called to appreciate the ecclesial dynamism of vocations, so that communities of faith can become, after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, like a mother’s womb which welcomes the gift of the Holy Spirit. The motherhood of the Church finds expression in constant prayer for vocations and in the work of educating and accompanying all those who perceive God’s call. This motherhood is also expressed through a careful selection of candidates for the ordained ministry and for the consecrated life. Finally, the Church is the mother of vocations in her continual support of those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others.

We ask the Lord to grant to all those who are on a vocational journey a deep sense of belonging to the Church; and that the Holy Spirit may strengthen among Pastors, and all of the faithful, a deeper sense of communion, discernment and spiritual fatherhood and motherhood.

Father of mercy, Who gave Your Son for our salvation and Who strengthens us always with the gifts of Your Spirit, grant us Christian communities which are alive, fervent and joyous, which are fonts of fraternal life, and which nurture in the young the desire to consecrate themselves to You and to the work of evangelisation. Sustain these communities in their commitment to offer appropriate vocational catechesis and ways of proceeding towards each one’s particular consecration. Grant the wisdom needed for vocational discernment, so that in all things the greatness of Your merciful love may shine forth. May Mary, Mother and guide of Jesus, intercede for each Christian community, so that, made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, it may be a source of true vocations for the service of the holy People of God”.

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Charisms of Religious Life

A friend of mine asked why there are so many different kinds of priests in the Catholic Church. The reply, quite honestly, is rather overwhelming at first glance. To begin, the Catholic Church is Universal. You may have heard it said, “Here comes everybody!” as a definition of “Catholic”. In a nutshell, that is why there are so many different kinds of priests and brothers and sisters and nuns in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is God being all things for all peoples.

In my explanation, there are those men called to Preach (Dominicans), those called to lead an example of poverty (Franciscans), those called to a life totally devoted to silent prayer (Trappists), there are teachers(Jesuits, Benedictines, Christian Brothers, Augustinians, Holy Cross) and minister to the sick and dying. Whatever the call from God, there is a Religious Order or Diocesan Vocation for the man or woman. One does not have to be Ordained, they can serve as a Brother or Sister. The list goes on and and is filled with blessings from one end of the world to another. Men and women have given their lives, and blood, in every Order and Diocese.

Please, follow some of these links and see some of the very special callings across this wonderful Church that Christ built upon Peter.

www.religiousministries.com

St. Gregory’s Abbey

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Knights and Social Media

I have been a proponent of using social media to get our message across. Using our web site, email lists, and Facebook has been a great way to spread the word about our activities and spreading the Gospel. We have been able to tout our successes, spread the word about upcoming events, and brag about our accomplishments. Using social media has enabled us to give a justified pat on the back to those members who, otherwise, might not have the recognition they so much deserve. No matter what your feelings are about the advent of computers, social media is here to stay and has to be integrated into the way we communicate or we will suffer the consequences of being passed by.

That said, there is also a darker side to social media which we, as an Order and as a Council, must not ignore. When we invite Knights into our online communities, we share our ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. These opinions are usually shared with our ‘friends’ on their online pages. We don’t know who are watching when we click “Like”. I found this out the hard way. I used to make it a practice to ‘friend’ Knights because we are Knights. Unfortunately, in recent months, I have had to ‘unfriend’ Brother Knights because what they were sharing on my page was inappropriate to the audience that routinely views my page.

Imagine my surprise when my wife told me that something shared by a Brother Knight that comes up on my News Feed turned out to be soft porn and was seen by my eleven year old granddaughter! Since that day, I or my wife have intercepted obscene quotes and images which have definitely not been, either respectful of women, young girls, or family friendly.

According to a recent article on Fathers For Good (http://www.fathersforgood.org/ffg/en/news/pornography/special.html)

As I see it, all pornography is addictive; and from a “spiritual perspective” viewing any type of pornography is a sin. Both soft and hardcore pornography also portray women as sex objects.

Brother Knights, once we make the choice to be Knighted, we have made a choice to stand out in a crowd. I, as much as anyone, know that we are sinners. However, we are Catholic Men who have chosen to support the Church. We have held ourselves up as Knights of Columbus, we have become “These men they call ‘Knights’”. What does it do to the impression a young child has when they see that a Knight shares something on their father’s or grandfather’s Facebook page something that is contrary to what the Church teaches? By it being shared on their parent’s page, doesn’t that give the impression that a fellow Knight also supports what has been “liked”?

I implore my Brother Knights, hold yourself above reproach. If you wouldn’t want that image to be your daughter or granddaughter, it isn’t that funny. We are all sinners, we have our crosses to bear and have needed our brothers to help us bear them, through prayer and assistance. We are, however, on the same road to Sainthood.

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Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #151

Content_pages_header

Topic: Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #151

General Comments

Again, this was written by John Martignoni, of the Bible Christian Society. He is not a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #11194 but has allowed us to reprint his Apologetics Newsletter. We thank him for being so gracious to allow us to do so. There has been some confusion in the comments that lead me to believe that some believe that I have written these columns. I wish that were so but they are the writings of Mr. Martignoni.

J.A. Arroyo, Deputy Grand Knight

Introduction

Below is a list some folks came up with of “Arguments Catholics Shouldn’t Use” when evangelizing Protestants. This was written more than a year or so ago and at that time someone emailed me and asked me to respond to these 18 points. I never got around to it last year, but I re-discovered the email request in my inbox recently and decided to take a shot at it. I’m sending it out to you in the hope that it will be a useful and informative exercise. Maybe you use some of these same arguments they say not to use when talking with Protestants, maybe not, but either way I wanted you to be informed as to possible difficulties, or alleged difficulties, with those arguments.

I will state up front that I agree with some of what they say and disagree with some of what they say. I disagree more than I agree, which is what makes it fun for me. My reasons for disagreeing with a particular point they make will be immediately below that point. I also wish to say, from the outset, that I do not know any of the authors of this article and that there is no antagonism in this response, whatsoever. They are entitled to their opinions and, as they stated, they put this forth as an exercise in intellectual rigor, which I think is a very good thing. For Catholics to discuss topics like this amongst themselves is an exercise that everyone can hopefully profit from.

I’m going to put the 1st half of it in this week’s issue and the rest next week. Their arguments are italicized.

Challenge/Response/Strategy

Unsound Sticks, or, Arguments Catholics Shouldn’t Use

by Ben Douglass, David Palm, and Nick E.                                     May 1, Anno Domini MMIX

The following is a list of arguments against Protestantism which, in our judgment, Catholics should not use, either because they are not true, or because, while they might be true, it is impossible to prove that they are, for a plausible alternative explanation of the data exists. This is certainly not a complete list: it is merely one missive fired for intellectual rigor. Neither is it an infallible list: it is possible that one or more of these arguments might be saved.

1. Alleging that there are 33,000 Protestant denominations. This tally comes from the 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia, and it includes all denominations and paradenominations which self–identify as Christian, including Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Old Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Gnostics, Bogomils, etc. And even so, the number is too high. The World Christian Encyclopedia artificially inflates the number of Catholic “denominations” by counting Eastern Churches in communion with Rome as separate denominations. It likewise inflates the number of Eastern Orthodox “denominations” by counting Churches in communion with each other as distinct.

This reference lists 8,973 denominations under the heading “Protestant,” and 22,146 more under the heading “Independent.” Some, but not all, of the “independent” denominations may justly be described as Protestant. Still, these numbers may be inflated similarly to the numbers for Catholics and Orthodox. Suffice it to say that there are thousands of Protestant denominations.

Moreover, even if we could arrive at an accurate tally for Protestant denominations (20,000?), we still could not blame the whole of that number on Sola Scriptura. Some of these churches share substantial unity in faith, even if they are juridically independent (perhaps due to geography). And much of the disunity of faith within Protestantism, at least in the developed world, stems from efforts to subordinate the authority of Scripture (e.g., to various sexual perversions). In reality, if every Protestant denomination were serious and consistent in affirming and applying the rule of Sola Scriptura, the spectrum of Protestant belief would be significantly narrower. It bears emphasizing: the only thing for which we can directly blame Sola Scriptura is the extent to which it fails to provide unity in true faith and morals to those who sincerely adhere to it, e.g., “orthodox ” Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Campbellites, etc.

My Response: I disagree.
I disagree because I personally believe, based on my experiences, that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestant denominations, and the main reason for this is sola scriptura.  Now, I admit that my “experiences” constitute anecdotal evidence, but I have found nothing to dissuade me from the notion that my anecdotal evidence is not indicative of a much more widespread phenomenon.  And, for clarity’s sake, I define a Protestant denomination as a religious unit of one or more persons that has: 1) A particular set of beliefs on matters of faith and morals, which may or may not be unique to that group; and 2) Has its own structure of authority that ultimately answers to no human being outside of the denomination.

In the last 15 years or so, I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of Protestants, either on the radio, via email, on the phone, or in person.  I have heard from the mouths of at least 2–3 dozen or so of those folks that while they may attend a church in a particular denomination, let’s say a Baptist church for example, they are not, however, members of that denomination.  They have all said something close to this: “I only go to that church because that pastor comes the closest to what I believe.”  The first time I heard that about 15 years ago it blew me away.  But I have heard it time and time again since.

In other words, these folks are their own little denomination within a denomination. They have their own set of beliefs and they are their own authority for what is, in essence, their own private denomination.  They are the Pope, the pastor, and the chief theologian of their own personal denomination.  Now, out of the several hundred Protestants I’ve talked to, the number who have said something along these lines accounts for about, let’s say, 2–3% of the total.  I think the true  percentage who are in this situation is much higher than that, however, because I have actually not even addressed this particular point with the vast majority of the Protestants I have talked to.  So, there may be many more of the Protestants I’ve talked to who are in this same situation, but the topic simply never came up in our discussions.  Plus, I have talked to any number of Protestants who have flat out stated that they do not need any church, all they need is a Bible.  So, again, I believe the percentage of Protestants who belong to their own private denomination is rather high.  But, let’s use the 2–3% figure just to be conservative. 

So, estimating that 2–3% of Protestants, just in this country, are members of their own private denominations – they answer to no human authority in matters of faith and morals outside of themselves, and they have a particular set of beliefs they call their own – then we’re looking at the number of denominations as being in the millions.  I have said many times that if God leaves us on this earth long enough there will eventually be one Protestant denomination for every Protestant or, at the least, one Protestant denomination for every Protestant family.  And what is the main reason for this phenomenon?  Sola Scriptura.  Folks interpreting the Bible on their own to arrive at their own particular set of beliefs and subject only to their own authority.

Plus, I disagree that you cannot blame Sola Scriptura for the disunity of faith within Protestantism that results from the “efforts to subordinate the authority of Scripture.”  The essence of Sola Scriptura, whether its adherents realize it or not, is not the authority o f Scripture, but rather the authority of each individual’s interpretation of Scripture.  Big difference.  The authority of Scripture, and the authority given by Christ to the Church He founded, are actually usurped by sola scriptura adherents, again, whether they realize it or not.  And this indirect, or inadvertent, usurpation of authority by the individual, which allows him to “authoritatively” pronounce right from wrong, true doctrine from false, all based on his own private authority, inevitably leads to individuals believing they have the authority to directly and knowingly usurp the authority of Scripture and the Church.  It all stems from the same root. 

2. Using the term “anti–Catholic.” The term is ill–defined. If it refers to a form of bigotry or prejudice then it could only be applied to individual Protestants (or other non–Catholics) on a case by case basis, and that only after they had exhibited a demonstrable pattern of bad faith. If, on the other hand, it refers to theological opposition to Catholicism, then it ought not to be used as a term of disdain. For Catholics are theologically opposed to Protestantism. Indeed, according to Dominus Iesus, Protestant “churches” are not, properly speaking, churches. The distinctives of Protestant theology are heresy, and the Council of Trent has pronounced anathema upon them. If, then, Protestants who believe Catholicism to be heretical are anti–Catholic, by the same standard Catholics who believe Protestantism to be heretical are anti–Protestant.

My Response: I agree and disagree.  
I agree that the term anti–Catholic should not be used to simply refer to anyone who disagrees with Catholicism.  I disagree that the term is ill–defined and should not be used.  I have used the term a number of times in the past.   But, I have a very specific definition of an anti–Catholic which I published in one of my past e–newsletter issues of “Apologetics for the Masses.”  That definition, and the distinction between an anti–Catholic and a non–Catholic is basically as follows: An anti–Catholic is someone who will not let Catholics believe what they actually believe.  They substitute their biased understanding of Catholic belief for the true substance of Catholic belief even when presented with evidence from official magisterial documents that Catholics do not believe what these anti–Catholics think we believe.  They are not interested in discovering truth, they are only interested in railing against Catholicism.  A non–Catholic is simply someone who does not agree with Catholic teaching. 

An example: An anti–Catholic and a non–Catholic both say, “You Catholics worship Mary.” When the Catholic responds, “No, we don’t worship Mary,” and tells them that we love and honor Mary just as Jesus did, and presents the Catechism, papal encyclicals, and such that all say Mary is human not divine, the anti–Catholic says, “Yes, you do worship Mary.” The non–Catholic  says, “Well, okay, I see that I did not fully understand Catholic teaching on that…you don’t worship Mary after all.”  Now, the non–Catholic may still disagree on what we teach about Mary, and they may still even think all Catholics are going to Hell, but they at least are open to understanding what we believe and why we believe it.  The non–Catholic allows us to believe what we actually believe, the anti–Catholic does not.

3. Justifying lack of charity by appealing to the example of St. Jerome. Not everything a saint does is necessarily worthy of emulation. St. Cyprian was insubordinate to the Pope. St. John Chrysostom said some indefensible things about Jews. St. Thomas More used scatological insults.

My Response: I agree and disagree. 
I agree in that one should never be uncharitable and one should never appeal to St. Jerome, or anyone else for that matter, in order to justify being uncharitable.  However, it seems to me that there is a belief behind this particular point, which I have seen many a time and with which I disagree – the belief that one can never say anything to someone else which gives them a verbal punch in the nose, as it were.  That one always has to be “nice” and “sensitive” to the other guy’s feelings, cushion one’s blows, and so on.  Well I say, “Bunk,” to that. (And if I am misreading the thought behind this particular point then I apologize ahead of time.) 

I tend to be very direct and very blunt when engaged in a debate with someone, particularly when it is in writing – which is the medium for the vast majority of my debates – and I frequently call a spade a spade.  Because of that, I have in the past been accused of being uncharitable.  To me, however, I view it as being more respectful to the other person by not wasting the other guy’s time with a lot of wasted verbiage and wishy–washy niceties, nor am I treating them like a little child who is not capable of direct criticism and of being disagreed with.  I prefer people do the same with me.  And, if someone is being a hypocrite, I call them a hypocrite.  If someone is flat out lying and purposely misrepresenting what I say, I call them a liar. If someone says something that is ridiculous or absurd, I say that it is ridiculous and absurd.  If I believe someone to be wrong, I tell them they’re wrong. Is that necessarily uncharitable?

If someone thinks it is, then I would ask if Jesus was being uncharitable when he called the scribes and Pharisees liars, blind guides, white–washed tombs, sons of murderers, vipers and serpents, and said that they were full of extortion and rapacity and hypocrisy and iniquity?  I don’t think anyone would say that Jesus was being uncharitable, would they?  Was He being uncharitable when He got out a whip and turned over the money changers tables in the Temple?  Was He being uncharitable when He asked, “How long must I endure this generation?”  Was He being uncharitable when He called the Samaritan woman a dog?  Of course not.  He wasn’t necessarily being “nice” in all these instances, but not being nice is not the same thing as being uncharitable.  What I’m saying is that one needs to be very careful in judging something to be an uncharitable act.  Not being nice is not the same thing as not being charitable.  What might “seem” uncharitable to some, could actually be an act of charity, and to judge it as being uncharitable could be an uncharitable act on someone’s part. We’ve gotten so touchy–feely and sensitive and we worry so much about making everyone feel “validated” these days that it sometimes borders on the ridiculous. 

4. Exaggerating the inadequacy of Sola Scriptura, as if it were not possible to understand the Bible at all without the Magisterium. In reality, if one, without help from any external authority, gives the Bible a diligent, sincere, and attentive reading, it will be possible to achieve the right answer to a fair number of questions. Sola Scriptura is inadequate because it cannot give the Church definitive answers to every question which she needs answered in order to function as the Church. For example, it cannot give the Church a definitive answer regarding whether Christian marriage is dissoluble. On the other hand, the Bible is clear enough that the text alone suffices to tell the Church that homosexuality is evil, among other things. If one fails to recognize this then it will be impossible to come to terms with the patristic witness to the clarity of Scripture.

My Response: I agree. 
I always say that you can read the Bible on your own and come to some understanding of what you read, but I also always say that there are many things in the Bible that are difficult to understand and for which we need a guide – as the Bible clearly tells us.

5. Insisting that Protestants need to know, as a matter of faith, that Matthew wrote Matthew. According to the internal logic of their system, they do not. It suffices that the book of Matthew be inspired by God, regardless whether the traditional attribution is correct. As such, there is a limited value in asking Protestants the question, “How do you know that Matthew wrote Matthew?” If a particular Protestant does in fact accept the traditional authorship of Matthew, one might ask him on what basis he does so. If he replies that he does so on the basis of the patristic testimony, this can be an opportunity to expose any double standards he might hold as to the reliability of the patristic testimony at large. Nevertheless, it is fallacious to argue that, since Protestants need to know that Matthew wrote Matthew, and since Sola Scriptura cannot provide that knowledge to them, therefore Sola Scriptura is false.

My Response: I disagree. 
First of all, I disagree that there is any kind of “internal logic” in a Protestant theological “system.”  There may be internal logic in various compartments of a Protestant theological system, but not consistently throughout the system as a whole.  Now, I never specifically insist that Protestants need to know who wrote Matthew (or Mark or any other book) as a “matter of faith.”  I do, however, quite often ask the question: “Who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and how do you know?” And I ask because if the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians, and one only accepts as definitively true that which comes from the pages of the Bible, then it is indeed important to know who wrote the various books of the Bible.  Why?  Because the inspiration of Scripture comes from God through the authors of Scripture.  The authors were inspired by God.  If you don’t know who wrote the book, and the book is your only authority in these matters, then how can you know it was inspired? 

So, if the Bible cannot answer fundamental questions about its own inspiration – which is what the question, “Who wrote the Gospel of Mark,” is aimed at showing – that means you cannot know from the Bible that all of it is inspired, then how can Sola Scriptura be true?  So, since the Bible does not tell us who wrote Mark, or Matthew, or some of the other books, and the Bible is supposedly the only definitive source for answers regarding questions of this nature – one cannot turn to tradition when one does not believe in tradition – then Sola Scriptura has to be false because Sola Scriptura cannot provide you with a Scriptura in the first place.

6. Assuming that it suffices, for falsifying Sola Scriptura, to demonstrate that inspired oral Apostolic Tradition existed during the Apostolic era (2 Thess 2:15, etc.). Protestants grant this. One must proceed to demonstrate the perduring presence of this Tradition within the Church throughout all ages. Or at least, one must justify laying the burden of proof on Protestants to demonstrate that all oral Apostolic Tradition was eventually inscripturated.

My Response: I agree and disagree. 
I agree in principle, but in practice it may indeed suffice to prove Sola Scriptura wrong to any given individual by showing them that Apostolic Tradition existed during the Apostolic era.  One should always be prepared, however, after showing the verses on tradition (such as 2 Thes 2:15) to answer, should it come, the follow–up: “Well, that was just for the time before the New Testament was written,” with the appropriate responses.  I would also add that one should not really try to “prove” anything with this or that verse from Scripture.  Apologetics is about building the case.  Use Scripture and logic and common sense, and tradition if necessary, all to build the case and to plant the seeds.  Then let the Holy Spirit “prove” it.

7. Arguing that since St. Paul knew that the magicians who opposed Moses were named Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim 3:8), these names must have been preserved in the old covenant equivalent of Apostolic Tradition. According to the Catholic dogma of the inspiration of Scripture, God furnished the sacred authors with an infallible judgment in evaluating the truth of non–inspired and hence fallible historical records (Pius XII, Humani Generis, 38). As such, judging by the standard of Catholic theology (which conservative Protestants share on this point), it is possible that St. Paul learned these names from ordinary human historical records, and not from Jewish Sacred Tradition. To establish the presence of Sacred Tradition within the old covenant a Catholic must look elsewhere (e.g., 2 Chron 29:2).

My Response: I agree.
 

Next week: Points #8 – #18.

 

In Conclusion

As you can see, not all Catholic apologists think alike. I think exercises like this one are important, though, so that more Catholic apologists can start thinking like me [insert smiley face here].

I hope all of you have a great week!

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Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

General Principles
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

[Note: The following memorandum was sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick and was made public in the first week of July 2004.]

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: "Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?" The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being
present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the
moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest
grave sin (cf. can. 915).

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him
that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion
and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

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Bush Becoming a Catholic?

Monday, June 16, 2008 11:05 AM

By: Jim Meyers

President Bush may follow in the footsteps of his brother Jeb and convert to Catholicism, several European papers are reporting.

In the wake of the president’s visit to see Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Italian newspapers, citing Vatican sources, said Bush was open to the idea of converting to Catholicism.

The Italian newspaper Il Foglio referred to such talk about Bush’s possible conversion and stated that “anything is possible, especially for someone reborn like Bush.”

Noting that Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving office as Britain’s prime minister last year, the paper also stated that “if anything happens, it will happen after he finishes his period as president, not before. It is similar to Blair’s case, but with different circumstances.”

President Bush welcomed Pope Benedict XVI warmly when he visited the U.S. in April. And Vatican watchers noted that Bush met privately with the pontiff in the private gardens of the Vatican last Friday — an unprecedented place for the Pope to meet a head of state. Typically, the Vatican gardens are used by the Pope for private reflection.

A Vatican spokesman said the Pope used the unusual locale to reciprocate for the “warmth” Bush showed when the two met in Washington.

Though the Catholic Church has criticized the U.S. war in Iraq, Bush has been an ardent supporter of pro-life issues; he has staunchly opposed stem-cell research; and he opposes gay marriage — all issues important for Rome.

Currently Bush belongs to a Methodist church in Texas and attends an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C.

A friend of Bush, Father George William Rutler — who converted to Catholicism in 1979 — told the Catholic News Agency that Bush “is not unaware of how evangelicalism, by comparison with Catholicism, may seem more limited both theologically and historically.”

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