The Lamb of God Theme: Seventh Model

Lamb of GodAbridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Seven: Malachi the Prophet – Malachi 1:11, 4:5 – 400 B.C.

An Observation: As I was doing some research on Malachi’s prophecy, I was led back to the sacrifice of Melchisedech; that of bread and wine around 2000 B.C. Note that Melchisedech was the king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and a priest of God who offered bread and wine as an unbloody sacrifice in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory over the four eastern kings (Gen. 4:18-20). Because he was a type of Christ (both kings and priests who offer bread and wine to God), an antiphon in the rite of Ordination for a priest reads: “Christ the Lord, a priest forever in the line of Melchisedech, offered bread and wine.” In the first Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, the priest prays that God will accept his offerings just as He once accepted “the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedech.” __ The Catholic Replies Book, C.R. Publications, Norwood, MA 02062

This King of Salem is a mysterious figure who saluted Abram before God magnified his name to Abraham. It is therefore a very ancient incident in God’s plan which has perdured most prominently in our Catholic Liturgy of the Lamb of God Sacrifice. It points to the real Lamb of God as “a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.”

Malachi’s prophecy is not as popular a subject as it was in the first half of the 20th century, what I like to call the Golden Era of the Catholic Church in the USA and maybe the world. In those days, probably because of the stricter Eucharistic fast, daily Mass was usually scheduled quite early in the morning. Before receiving Holy Communion, the true Lamb of God, we had to abstain from all food and drink, even water, beginning at midnight. Because this encouraged having Mass as early as possible after daybreak, Malachi’s words were often quoted in our missals:

“. . . from the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.” __ Mal. 1:11

Because this last of the Old Testament prophets described it as a clean oblation (to the Jews a ‘clean’ oblation was an ‘unbloody’ offering), artists illustrated our text books with the picture of a Catholic priest raising the chalice of the Mass up to the crucifix which, at that time, was immediately before him, hanging either from the ceiling above him or from the wall in front of him.

Malachi spoke these prophetic words: “Behold I will send you Elias (Elijah) the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Mal. 4:5)” They have great importance when compared to the words of the angel Gabriel to Zachary at the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist: “And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.” __ Luke 1:16,17

Thus Melchisedech’s “bread and wine sacrifice” is the beginning of another theme used by God; for example, the bread and wine of the Passover Meal (Cf. Ex. 12). This theme and the Lamb of God Theme run together in Mal. 4:5 above. These two themes flow together in the valley of time to swell the fullness of our understanding of God’s Eternal Plan. For now in his passage in Malachi 4:5 we see that the “clean offering” (which we now know to be Christ under the form of bread and wine) is beginning to take shape. And in Luke 1:16 the stage is set for John the Baptist (in the spirit and power of Elias) clearing the way for our Redeemer: making straight the path of our Lord, especially with the baptisms performed on the people. The Preparatory work for Christ’s revelation and God’s greatest gift to mankind is almost complete.

My Notes on this Abridgement of Father Hamburger’s text on the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible:

Father had a very strong devotion to Our Lady and here at this point in his work he seemed to stray from the theme. Father and I had several debates about this because it did not fit with the theme on the Lamb of God. I could not get him to give it up and it is mostly useful to those who actually knew the father and not of a great deal of use to those who didn’t. I say that because his use of language, within these chapters, sounds just like him.

Therefore I will omit his inserted Chapter which he called: Mary’s M & M’s which referred to her Memories and Melodies. He wrote this in a fictitious novella style and included the character of Luke because his Gospel was the only one to record the “melodies” that father wanted to illuminate us with: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32), and the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-75).

Although I would suggest that we all get to know these three beautiful verses that have been sung in the Church almost from the beginning, there is no Lamb of God significance per se. Therefore, to keep on theme, I have decided to omit his private meditations that produced this conversation between Our Lady, Luke and others.

Forgive me Father: but I did let you print it your way the first time. I hope you don’t mind that I take liberties with the work for this internet Bible study. God bless you and I am sure Our Lady has taken good care of you since you departed this life. May you now be singing with her and the angelic choirs in Heaven!

Multicultural to Individual

Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594

Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594

Every family has its own language and culture. It is the largest cohesive bond that exists within the family after the bond of familial love. Should a family adopt children from other cultures and languages, it is up to the adopted child to learn the language of the family so that they may truly be on an equal footing and enjoy the unity that the family provides.

Multiculturalism has been turned into a mantra for diversity, inclusiveness and other such words which have now become almost meaningless with their overly politicized use. It is supposed to evoke a warm, understanding and loving view of one another, while the results of these movements have proved to be antithetical to their rhetoric. At stake is the tearing apart of a culture with common values and pitting brother against brother in a never ending barrage of personal attacks and slander.

Two Lessons

The first lesson is the tower of Babel. Though there are a number of lessons to be learned from this Biblical episode, one of them is that when God confused their language, all progress stopped, all unity collapsed and each tongue sought out their own driving them into smaller groups. It was a means to divide a previously large and united family of peoples into smaller disparate groups.

The second lesson is the coming down of the Holy Spirit as ‘tongues of fire’ at Pentecost. I think the lesson here is obvious; that through love, all men of disparate groups came to understand one another though they spoke different languages. It was the antithesis of Babel.

The Church

Very early on the Catholic Church understood this lesson, if not explicitly, at least implicitly. She formed within Herself a common language for the Church: though other languages were used, Latin prevailed and of course the brotherly love of all men was the primary bond. In this way all persons entering the service of the Church as priests or deacons were required to know Latin and all of the Sacraments were administered in Latin as the common family language that the Church finally adopted officially. This was a bond that allowed all men and women, no matter what their native tongue, to worship together and to pray together as one.

When the Modern Church removed the former Latin from the Mass, we found one particular church after another scrambling to find priests that could speak many various languages. So we no longer have one celebration of Mass for the community to share, shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart. Now we have a schedule of Masses to appeal to this ethnic group or that one. The adoption principal and family cohesion has weakened.

For the first time, the Church wrote the Catechism in the modern language of French. Previously, the Latin language was used for all official documents of the church which the former catechisms were deemed to be. It shows us 2 things: we have lost an educated popular base that could be trained in Latin before attending Seminary and we have lost the knowledge of the consequences of confusing the languages within a family.

The Country

This multicultural divide has invaded both our religious and secular cultures and has splintered us into small blocks of individuals who demand special accommodations for our particular group. Such a nation, when it panders to this kind of thinking, can never be united and once again feel like a national family. We no longer share the same language or the same culture. There is no mystery as to why we have such a divided country and we cannot seem to agree on anything. Our politicians and ideologues have played each small group to hate anyone that does not want to pander to their particular demands.

Divide and conquer is the name of the strategy. These people who would destroy this country know that they would not have a chance to win political voice or change our way of life if they did not divide us into small, weak, squabbling factions that cannot unite on anything.

The Church

My fear is that the same strategies have been employed within the Church at the suggestions of the malevolent one who would like to divide us; thereby eliminating the Church’s political voice or gaining a complicit silence.

Last Thought

No wonder we now have so many people embracing a totally individual response to religion, spirituality, politics and freedom. We just keep dividing into smaller and smaller factions until there is nothing left but self-serving egoists ready to be seduced by the panderers of this world.

Changes in the Celebration of Mass since Vatican II

Traditional vs. Novus Ordo

Traditional Altar    Novus Ordo table     Traditional Mass        Novus Ordo Clown Mass

 Note: I wrote this about 5 years after becoming Catholic (15 years ago) but thought it worthwhile to post since it gets to the heart of many misunderstandings that Catholics have about the changes in the Mass. What do the changes mean to us and to our spirituality? How many priests still tend to view the changes as the priest in this bulletin? Would anyone in the past, celebrating the Tridentine Rite, accept a clown Mass as a good and proper way to reach out to children? In the days prior to the Novus Ordo Mass a priest would have been restrained by his parishioners and probably whisked away to a mental hospital had he attempted to do such a thing. Thank God, most parish priests try to do as good a job as they can with the Novus Ordo Mass and there are relatively few who desecrate the Mass as the above priest did. I think most bishops have put an end to these shananigans. Likewise, which sanctuary (designated and consecrated as a holy altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) is more conducive to genuine reverence? I do not remember if I sent this to our Diocesan Paper or not, though if I did, I am doubtful that it was ever printed – I just can’t remember back that far (getting old). Anyway, below is what was written and perhaps submitted:

I was recently appalled by the answer given to a layman’s question in a prominent parish’s bulletin.  I will reprint the entire question and answer below in sections, giving comments for each section.

Question

Since the Second Vatican Council, what are some of the more significant changes in the celebration of the Eucharist?  Why do you think these changes have occurred?

 Answer

Probably the most obvious overall change has been the moving from use of the Latin language to the language of those participating in the Eucharist, referred to as the vernacular.

Comment

Although it is true that the change of language into the vernacular is a huge difference, it is inferred by the above answer that this was the desire of the Vatican Council fathers.  In fact The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Chapter 2, Article 54 says: “A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and ‘the common prayer,’ and also, as local conditions may warrant, in those parts which pertain to the people, according to the rules laid down in Article 36 of this Constitution.  Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”  Article 36 says: “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites.  But since the use of the vernacular, whether in the Mass, the administration of sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may frequently be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.”  I guess some prayers and chants have now been stretched into everything – as if chant even exists in the great majority of churches today.  The appendix to the above in the Flannery edition gives the following information:  “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy had allowed a very restricted use of the vernacular in the Mass, but left the way open for an appeal by hierarchies to the Holy See for more radical concessions.”  Isn’t this what really happened?  It was not the desire of the Vatican Council per se but of social and political pressures brought to bear on Regional Conferences and ultimately upon the Holy See that so devastated our use of Latin in the Liturgy. And thus Flannery continues: “However, restrictions on the use of the vernacular were progressively lifted in the face of representations by the hierarchies from all over the world, until by 1971 the use of the vernacular in public Masses was left entirely to the judgment of Episcopal conferences, to the judgment of individual priests for private Masses, and of the ordinary for the divine office, in private, in common or in choir.”  A classical example of leaving the barn door open or giving an inch to those who would take a mile.

Also, note that the expert who is answering the layman’s question in the bulletin says that we are using the language of those who are participating in the Mass.  The truth of the matter is not so rosy – who is it that participates?  Our communities have been further stratified by the use of English (predominantly) in our Mass.  The parishioners that formerly sat together during Mass must now seek out Masses in their own tongue – and when there is only a small community of Hispanics or Chinese or what-have-you, these people are completely left out of the picture.  When Mass was said in Latin, all peoples regardless of language barriers, could participate in Mass using their own Missals with their particular vernacular translation printed on the opposite page from the Latin.  We are no longer one people but a myriad of little communities who rarely, if ever, cross the language barrier to worship as a larger Catholic Family; a reincarnation of the Tower of Babel. Should we applaud this home wrecking?  So far the answer is not technically wrong – but one senses a personal preference for this change as being beneficial for the Church.  What about the inaccuracies of poor translations that have given us a Mass that diverges from the Editio Typica in so many ways?  It has been a constant source of concern for Rome that we have not yet set right the ICEL translation of the Mass.  To this end the Bishops in charge of that project have been warned recently that they have until Easter 2000 to fix the problems (restructuring the ICEL) or Rome will fix it for them. Note: These are the changes that we are just now witnessing in 2012.

Answer

I think the most obvious visible change has been turning the altars around so the priest celebrant faces the congregation and is not standing with his back to the people while he faces the front wall of the sanctuary.

Comment

Now here is a loaded answer!  It is true that this (unsanctioned) posture of the priest is definitely a visible change that ranks right up there with the absence of authentic art, statues, stain glass, altar rails, the unwarranted use of extraordinary ministers, altar girls et al.  However, the author of the answer has now tried to explain away, what amounts to, an infraction of the rubrics by utilizing his personal sociological or psychological preferences.  The facts again are not that the priest faced the “wall” or “turned his back to the people” as some kind of affront to their personhood.  Does he think that the Church designed the rubrics of the Mass, during all the previous centuries when the Mass was said “ad orientem,” as a playwright might stage the actors in relation to his audience?  The priest did not face the wall, he faced the east (the Orient) or the direction from which Christ would return.  Since all churches could not be built in such an east-west configuration, the practice became to celebrate Mass towards the Tabernacle where the Real Christ who mediates between us and God the Father reposes.  As a matter of my own sociological and psychological preference, I find it appalling that a priest would say Mass with his back turned toward our Lord.  I guess this answers the question of why so many of our churches have removed the Tabernacle and have hidden Christ away in some remote part of the Church; they no longer need to address such troubling questions.  Rubrics of the Mass were designed for the worship of God and not for the amusement of the people – so that we can make eye contact with the priest and be spellbound by his performance.  The rubrics have always placed the priest, (acting in persona Christi) as “alter Christus” a mediator between God and ourselves.  He stands to offer God the only sacrifice that is acceptable (the body, blood, soul and divinity of His only-begotten Son) while he asks further that the individual sacrifices and prayers of the people will be accepted along with the Acceptable Sacrifice that he is offering.  If we were in a mob of people who elected an ambassador to plead our desires or to beg for mercy to a King, I would not want or expect to have my ambassador turn his back to the King and face the people while pleading our case.  The author of the above answer has overstated his case and presented an ingenuous view of the reason for the change.  The change has never been documented as a rubric to be followed although it is true that the bishops have allowed and even promoted it.  In fact, the rubrics at one point say that the priest should now turn and face the people.  If he must turn to face the people, then pray tell, what direction was he facing before the instruction was given?  It is simply another example of the disobedience that has swept through our Church.  No one, it seems, wants Rome to tell them what to do.

Answer

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council advocated these changes to emphasize that the Eucharist is something we all do; the celebrant by reason of his ordination to the priesthood and the laity by reason of their being baptized into what we call the priesthood of the laity.  It was not uncommon, prior to the liturgical changes, for lay participants at Mass to pray a Rosary, sometimes out loud, while the priest, “said the Mass” in a subdued voice.  The Rosary is a proper and honored private devotion but it has no place during the community celebration of the Eucharist.

Comment

Again, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council never advocated these changes – I would defy him to produce a single Vatican document that makes his case.  The Eucharist (or thanksgiving) is the word most widely used today.  It may be an effort to decrease the importance of the ACTION of God – the Sacrifice – while increasing the importance of the ACTION of the people in thanking Him.  At least I personally see it this way – since rarely, if ever, do we hear the Mass referred to as THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.  Don’t get me wrong!  Eucharist is a perfectly acceptable name for the Mass – but still there seems to be a sociological restructuring going on here.  And yes, both the laity and the ordained participate in the thanksgiving.  How is this different from what was taught previously?  Why are there no words from our expert on the difference between the ordained ministerial priesthood and the royal priesthood (which differs in essence and not merely by degree)?  Again, the insinuation of the author is that we are predominantly the same – a blurring of the differences between priest and laity.  The Church never sanctioned the practice of saying rosaries during Mass.  The fact that some people did this is no different today as it was then.  I have witnessed the same in parishes who say the Mass in the vernacular today.  Although, in neither instance have I heard the rosary said aloud in such a manner as to distract the faithful.  I wonder which Mass was quieter and more prayerful and respectful of the other faithful?  I’m sure he knows the answer to that question.  Today it is not uncommon to find a loud and uproarious congregation that allows children to run up and down the aisles or parishioners who banter with the priest who asks them questions – in what has become a totally informal gathering.  Silence is still specified in the instructions for the Mass.  Why isn’t it enforced?  I suppose we are to take notice of the words which the author placed in quotations:  “said the Mass.”  Is his inference that the priests who (for hundreds of years) “said Mass” were not celebrating or offering thanksgiving?  Was it just a simple act of reading the words in a book or play?  Of course, if we were to compare this with what we get in our parishes today I suppose we would have to say that now it has become improvisational theater.  But of course the insinuation is wrong from the start.  Have you ever wondered how the Church produced so many holy Saints and Popes when they were forced to just “say the Mass?”  I wonder if these Saints and Popes were prone to saying a Rosary during Masses they weren’t celebrating themselves.  I found in the above paragraph a not-so-well hidden attack on all things traditional.  We are, don’t you know, a Church of tradition.  To disparage our tradition is to mock our fathers and mothers in the faith and to tell them how stupid they were now that we have matured in intellect and faith that far surpasses theirs.  To accept and actually prefer the changes made in the Mass is one thing: but to disparage the earlier tradition is quite another.

Answer

Another lesser change is being permitted to receive the Eucharist under both the form of bread and wine as the Apostles did at the Last Supper.

Comment

A true statement, but again it is made to sound like all is well with this change.  It was never intended that receiving under both species should be a valid reason for using extraordinary ministers.  But look at what has happened.  Rome has recently written the bishops of the world concerning this blurring of the lines between the lay and the ordained and the preposterous use of lay ministers to accommodate “the many” when there is no clear need.  Reception under both kinds is not a mandate (although our particular Bishop made it one – whether Canonically legal or not).  Canonically it was to be left up to the individual priest in every parish as to whether he could provide this to people in a manner that was not disruptive or if he might require help from the laity.  We see in this change another way in which some people have taken extraordinary measures to overstep the bounds of what was intended.  A social and political agenda is hot afoot in many of the changes – especially when the blurring of lines between the priesthood and laity are concerned.  Finally, a quick quote from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican II documents:  “. . . it does not seem that manner of distribution should be approved . . . in which the communicants come up directly to take the chalice themselves and receive the blood of the Lord.”

Answer

One change disturbing to some people is the practice of being allowed to accept communion in the hand.  I’m not sure why people feel this way and I can only guess.  Is there some sense that one is not “worthy” to receive the Eucharist in one’s hand but is worthy to receive it on one’s tongue?  The only other reason I can think of is that some people might think there is something “unclean” about one’s hands and, therefore, the tongue is the more “worthy” member of the body.  To this mentality I would express my suspicion that most of us commit many more violations of the law of love by what we say with our tongue than by what we do with our hands.

Note: See a short article on the Vatican Website about receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling. (here)

Comment

Oh come now, are you sure you can’t come up with some better guesses than these?  In the first place the whole idea of reception in the hand was soundly defeated in a vote by the world’s bishops as published in the documents of Vatican II (see Memoriale Domini).  That once again, the political wielders of power in the US Church were able to overwhelm and control the vote as to whether or not the US should petition Rome for an indult for this permission is a matter of documented fact.  The history of this little episode is quite enlightening if you will take the time to research it.  So either prudently or imprudently the Holy See granted the US an indult or permission.  It is not the norm but it is permissible until the indult is revoked.  Your first guess would be ludicrous since all Catholics should understand that no one is “worthy” of the body and blood of Christ (“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word,” etc.).  And the difference between hand and tongue as members of our body is not the issue here either.  First, there is the issue that this practice is the chief culprit for bringing down the altar rails and depriving the faithful of reverently receiving Communion on their knees easily, though Vatican II reminds us to make a sign of reverence before reception (do you see that very often?).  Secondly, Communion is not “taken” it is “received.”  I am sure that the author knows that we have not communed until the body and blood of Christ is received into our digestive system.  The last time I looked, I could not begin digestion of anything placed in my hand but I certainly can when it is placed on my tongue.  The question is who am I receiving communion from?  Is it me?  Am I taking it as if it were a right?  It is not a right.  It is a great gift that is given by Jesus to us.  When I receive on my tongue I allow the priest who acts in the person of Christ to give to me what I cannot take of myself.  It is ritual.  It is symbolic.  It is the humble reception of what I could never deserve on my own.  Why then must you belittle the belief of those who continue to think with the Church’s ancient teachings on these matters?  Your other observations and guesses are demeaning to those who reverently hold to the Norm of the Church.  Isn’t it interesting that since both methods are deemed acceptable, we only see communion in the hand taught to new communicants these days.  Is this why only 30% of Catholic laity and 60% of Catholic priests believe in the Real Presence today (by latest poll)?  I don’t know the answer to that but I do know that these changes certainly cannot help.  My argument against the practice is not that it is illicit but simply that the Church has acted imprudently in allowing this permission since we have history to attest to the damage that these practices have caused in the past. We are now starting to see these same abuses in our present day Church.  How many times have you found a consecrated Host on the floor under the pews?  Or outside on the ground?  How many have you seen wait to “eat” their hosts on the way back to the pew or in the pew itself?  As for me, I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember.  And the crumbs . . . those small consecrated Hosts that are trampled underfoot at most every Mass.  Is the convenience worth all that we have lost?

Answer

Having said all of this, I must point out that everyone should feel free to receive the Eucharist in whatever manner they find most comfortable and most uplifting to their own spirituality.  Neither manner of receiving the Eucharist is “more spiritual” than the other.

Comment

Now that he has made those who receive the Sacrament on their tongues feel as lepers, he acknowledges that it’s OK if it makes us “feel comfortable.”  I for one don’t care what it feels like.  Whether something is comfortable or uncomfortable is not the question – everything does not have to feel good in order for us to have a deep and abiding spiritual life.  In fact, if I were to hazard a guess, it is probably the opposite that is truer.  The decision is not about deciding about green beans or peas for supper.  It is a matter of conscience and a matter of trying to convey to the next generation of Catholics that reverence, ritual and proper symbolism bespeaks volumes that mere words cannot express.  It is thinking with the Church – not with cliques of experts who would introduce novelty after novelty into our faith in an effort to restructure society.  This is not a feel good clinic where syrupy love is the only law – translated to mean tolerance, not of others so much but of disordered lifestyles; especially if the lifestyle is in and of itself considered serious sin.  Forgiving someone for the sin they commit is right and good – but hating sin itself is not only OK, it’s required.  If I’m OK and you’re OK, then why is Christ hanging on the cross?  The prevailing attitude in our liturgies today seems to have changed into a saccharine gathering with fellowship being the ultimate goal. It is far from the Apostles who gave up everything, including their lives, to preach the Truth, in season and out, but especially to those who would not have any of it.  Where is the real agape love – that  love we are to have for God – that love which is short on feeling but long on acts of will and self-denial? It is a manly, self-sacrificing love that we seldom see these days. Are we actively teaching that kind of love today?  I hope so. Self-denial, loving correction and heroic acts of will are not much spoken of today. Concern for our sins and perfection of our lives is all but forgotten. Till now I have seen scant fruit from the new improved expression of liturgy.

Note: Since this writing the Holy See under Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made great strides in getting rid of many abuses of the Novus Ordo Mass. In fact Pope Benedict XVI has begun distributing the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling at the Masses he celebrates. See this article (last paragraph). It is now no longer required for a priest to get permission from his Bishop to say the Latin Mass and there is much work being done to return sacred music to a wider use of chant and polyphony. Only time will tell if we will one day experience a true reform of the reform and return to a more dignified, reverent and holy Mass. May God move the Church to restore the holiness, reverence and awe we should expect in all our Catholic parishes.
Since writing this, I also ran across a very interesting quote concerning saying the rosary in Mass that I wish I had known at the writing:

“So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them. (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei)

Dispute over ‘sentimental’ liturgy at closing Mass of Eucharistic Congress : News Headlines – Catholic Culture

Dispute over ‘sentimental’ liturgy at closing Mass of Eucharistic Congress : News Headlines – Catholic Culture.

Is the Episcopal Church a Bellweather for All Churches?

Bishop Don Johnson; pioneering female photogra... The story about the collapse of the Episcopal Church might be a canary in the coal mine for the rest of us. For years the Episcopal Church has led the way in changing the structure of their church to align itself more closely to the modern world and has now evidently found their belief structure being reordered right along with all the other changes.

It would seem that when we start down a road that tries to include everyone and please everyone we find ourselves struggling to have any real identity of our own. Some of this may be creeping into all Christian churches in one form or another. The desire to be all things to all people is only natural. “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” __ I Cor. 9:22    But we cannot assume that the Apostle meant that he would be sinful to gain the sinful. Such would be a real stretch of the scripture passage.

Yet in the Episcopal Church besides women priestesses, we now see openly homosexual priests and bishops and transsexual priests teaching that their sins are no longer sin at all. The mental gymnastics that they go through to justify their acceptance of sin is no small accomplishment: i.e. that the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that the people were not welcoming. So the moral teachings are thrown out under the good intentions of including everyone and being relevant in the modern world. Unfortunately, people are looking to the Church to be more than what they get out of modern society: they want holiness.

I think we have to start examining the Catholic Church at some point concerning the effects of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass. Though the new order of Mass can be uplifting when done as intended, it still cannot measure up to the 1962 Missal known as the Tridentine Rite. One of the observations made by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand has always stayed with me because it portends a major flaw in the new Mass. He asked, “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?” I think it is a question that we might all want to be asking ourselves.

The Vatican has tried to clean up the mess that ensued after the release of the Novus Ordo Mass but we are still a long way from getting ourselves back to the inspiring holiness that we were honored to participate in during the Mass they replaced. The last 2 Popes have tried to stop the overuse of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, banal liturgical music and the inane English translations of the Mass that were doctrinally unsound, gender neutral and full of inclusive language. Recently, they have finally made many good fixes to the English Missal but have yet to stop the glut of extraordinary ministers and syrupy music more fitted for a youth camp than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition to the above problems we are awash with compromises and collaborative changes which affect the function of our local parishes and the laity’s participation at Mass. We seldom find an altar rail anymore as they ‘separate’ the clergy from the people. Presumably this is a compromise with our world’s modern outlook of equality of persons. We no longer receive communion on the tongue though it is still the ‘ordinary’ form of reception as instructed by the Church. This too seems to be a new found equality that proposes that our hands are no different from the consecrated hands of our priests and we therefore have the right to touch the Blessed Sacrament. And of course our relaxed posture of receiving our Lord standing instead of in the humble posture of kneeling before the Lord has taken its toll psychologically.

English: Tridentine Mass celebrated on Palm Su...The priest no longer takes the very manly stand of being the leader of men praying to God, in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ), with the congregation behind him as he pleads to God for all our needs. He is acting as our intercessor to the Most High. The new stance of the priest, ad populum (toward the people), places the priest in an awkward stance with his back to God and facing us as though his only purpose is to be a participant and simply another member of the congregation. I find these to be destructive symbolic gestures that instill within us unprecedented self-esteem and pride. These I place in the first tier of faith-killing changes that I hope and pray will someday be rectified.

In the second tier, we must not forget that since Vatican II men have to a large extent given up their active participation in the Mass. Our good women have taken up the slack and sadly have cast a more effeminate pall over the Mass. Women now serve our particular parishes in roles such as lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers, while our little girls are supplanting our young boys as altar servers which served as the breeding ground for future priests. Overall there is a feminization of the Mass that is quite stark when you view it against the Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

Protestant ideas have flooded into our Church as well in song and in parts of the Novus Ordo Mass replete with the evangelical holding of hands and raising them to heaven though there are no rubrics (instructions in the Missal for the actions of the people and priest) that would lead one to thinking that they are participating as the Church has asked them to do. This I would classify as third tier problems.

Lastly, and this may rise above the other tiers as described above, there is the overall sense of comfort in who we are, comfort in our sin, lack of a guilty conscience (leading to the emptying of confessionals), and arriving before our God in the most awful raggedy clothing we seem to be able to find. Some of the ladies might want to think about their modesty. They often arrive in tight jeans, short shorts and other revealing clothing when they attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. The men now arrive in t-shirts, shorts and sandals as if they can’t wait to get to the barbecue or some televised sporting event fast enough. The overall feeling is that we are not in awe; we have no reverence and we feel no sense of sacredness in the Church space or in the Mass itself. We chatter about our workaday lives to one another before, during and after Mass, disrespectful of those who may be attempting to pray amid the din. This I think is proof of the prophetic question that Dietrich von Hildebrand imparted to us as a warning:  “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?”

It’s a question that I hope the Church comes to grips with soon. For I fear that if we allow this erosion to continue, we will no longer recognize the Church of our fathers and mothers and in the worse case might begin to see some of the collapse that is overtaking our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. Pray for the restoration of holiness, sacredness, solemnity and reverence in our Most Holy Sacrament – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pray for our priests and for our Bishops that they may put an end to all abuses within the Church and may the men of our Church take up their proper roles and put an end to the denuded character that is engulfing our Church. We need to claim that which was ordered towards us and our Bishops should do what they can to restore this order. Religion is not just for women. Real men should properly be warriors for God as well. Lets take our rightful places back and not leave it to our wives to take up the slack.

A Letter to My Friend’s Uncle Who Warned Him Against the Dangers of the Catholic Church

MY REPLY TO THIS AVID ANTI-CATHOLIC

 of St. Michael and the

Satan is a liar and it is he who, quite often, might confuse our thoughts. Thus my initial decision, to give you no answer, may have been tainted by his urging: for he despises Truth and wants desperately that we not spread it. But Christian charity or love moved by Grace, should not allow me or anyone else to keep the Truth hidden, though it seems probable that you have no intention of listening to it: for you opened your correspondence with the words, “no matter what you send me it will still be of the devil,” which seemingly closes all avenues of approach. But I cannot rely on my assessment of your state of mind or heart. I must instead rely on the Grace of God to move your heart and your mind. Should I fail God in my poor explanations and my inept use of the Grace already bestowed on this unworthy vessel, it is certain that He shall not fail us. He is always the one who moves our hearts and minds to Him and also to His eternal Truth. Indeed, each and every conversion is effected solely by God’s Grace, though it may be facilitated by simple things and by simple people as well. For God can use any of us as instruments in order to accomplish His Divine Will: including me, I suppose.

Let me start by saying that deplorable satanic cults abound in this modern world and have certainly grown in number and strength these past 50 years. I have always found it fascinating that these cults have a particular hatred for the Catholic Church. This I witnessed and recognized even as a Protestant. I am sure that you have heard of their practice known as the Black Mass. This diabolic ceremony is described as a ‘travesty of the Roman Catholic Mass’ that must be performed with a Consecrated Host (bread that has been changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ during a Catholic Mass). In order that they might obtain this Manifestation of our Lord and desecrate Him, the satanic cult members will risk both life and limb to break into a Catholic Church, force open the tabernacle, and steal this Most Precious Sacrament of the Church. Now whether or not you believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not the point of this story. It is merely to show that if Satan were indeed in-league with the Catholic Church, he would surely not attack Her or Her beliefs. “. . . if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand?” _ Matthew 12:26.

Again, I am sure that you recognize that there is no other Church on the face of the planet that concerns Herself more with the release of souls from the clutches of Satan. By this I mean that only the Catholic Church has ancient rites for the exorcism of demons that are practiced to this day. The Catholic Exorcist is a priest that has been chosen for reasons of his personal holiness, maturity of faith, and deep prayer life. Each diocese (every Bishop) is to have at least one on staff. Further to this idea, the vows that each Christian soul takes during the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation require that the person state that he or she “renounces Satan and all his lies.” The point, once again, is not to have you approve of our practice or belief at this time, but instead to open your eyes to a possible inconsistency in your allegation: i.e. that “the Catholic Church is of the Devil.” Once again I would cite Matthew 12:26 in this regard.

            A little further down we see in Matthew 12:30:  “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”  Logic dictates that the same would hold true of Satan. I would propose to your intellect that it is highly unlikely that Satan is opposing and desecrating the Catholic Church if She is indeed aChurch ofSatan. Of what benefit is it for Satan to scatter his own flock?

Matthew 12:33  “Either make the tree good and its fruit good: or make the tree evil, and its fruit evil. For by the fruit the tree is known.” Matthew 12:37  “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Christ, it seems, has given us, in the Gospel of Matthew, a two-fold way to discern whether the person or institution is good or evil: by their fruits and by their words. Is the fruit of the Catholic Faith evil? Is the caring for the poor, the homeless, the widows and orphans, the imprisoned etc. evil? Is the Catholic Church’s proclamation of Christ’s Gospel evil? What are the words of the Catholic Church? They are the words of the Holy Scriptures, which She Herself preserved and canonized into the Sacred Depository known as The Holy Bible. They are also the words of the apostles as given us through constant oral teaching. Might She therefore be, as the Scripture above says, justified? Hopefully, you might at least entertain the possibility that the Catholic Church is, at the very least, another Christian denomination, though you might eye Her with uncertainty regarding Her practices.

Now it is apparent that you have problems with much of what you have seen, or heard of the Catholic Church. To you, our Protestant brothers and sisters in faith, who have been separated for these 450 years, little remains of our traditions and beliefs that we once shared. Isolated, as it were, from the Church these past 4½ centuries, many rumors and myths have grown up about our beliefs. Most have no validity whatever, while others are merely taken out of the context in which we practice them. By interpreting as best I can your actual concerns regarding the Catholic Church, I will now try to answer these in the most forthright manner I can, though I am but a novice in this regard.

Catholics claim to have received an oral tradition from the apostles of Christ and I gather that you find this somehow offensive. I would propose that you too, have an oral tradition, though of a much shorter duration, leading back to the Protestant Reformation and your religious leaders. By your insistence on the use of the King James Bible (circa 1600’s) you have limited your resources and your understanding of Scripture by a ‘traditional’ bias that you have inherited from your own denomination. Traditions are the most used ‘authorities’ for what each of us holds as truth. Our family tradition allows us to believe in our heritage. Our national tradition allows us to embrace concepts of freedom and liberty, and develop patriotism and nationalism etc. So it is not that you do not have a religious tradition, the same as we do, it is rather that you do not accept ours.

We do not believe our tradition blindly, as some might believe, but we have Biblical, historical, archaeological, theological, and logical ‘proofs’ for its legitimacy. You have limited our explanation of these to only one realm, which certainly limits a full explanation of the subject. It is much like limiting the knowledge of your family heritage to a great aunt and to no one else. You have further made the task more difficult by limiting our proofs from Holy Scripture to that of the King James Version, which might be likened to listening to your great aunt only between the hours of 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM on a Sunday. It is an undisputed fact that the King James Version omits, or at least relegates to the status of apocryphal, a number of books from the Holy Canon of Scripture that the Catholic Church gave to the world in and about the year A.D. 400. It is also a fact that this version relies on the Jamnian or Palestinian Canon of Old Testament Scripture rather than the Septuagint (circa 100~200 B.C.), which history verifies was used by our Lord Himself and read by Him in the Synagogue – for the Jamnian Canon of Old Testament Scripture dates from shortly after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (circa A.D. 70) and therefore at least 35 years after Christ’s atoning death. There have also been many new rewrites of the King James Version that have seemingly tried to rid the text of some of its more obvious errors, such as the copying of Martin Luther’s “saved by faith alone” sentence, which all modern Protestant scholars admit as erroneous. I do not know which version you use, so I will quote my own Douay-Rheims Bible and you can look up the differences in your own version of the King James. Most often we will have similar translations, as the language of the Douay is also Victorian. At times (though you have said you will believe nothing except what is in your King James Bible) I will include passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). This is because, regardless of your bias, nothing can best characterize someone’s beliefs like their own words. So if Christ has said that by our words we will be justified or condemned (see above), it is only proper and fair to let the Church speak for Herself. I also want to reserve the right to quote the early fathers of the Church who have left historical written records of their faith. For if I cannot present any evidence in defense, this would be much like convicting a defendant without letting the defending attorney call any witnesses.

To begin, I would like to take you to two definitive statements in the New Testament. If the Church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), as this scripture says, and if the early Christians were urged to hold on to the “traditions, which you have learned, whether by word (oral tradition) or by our epistle (written tradition)” (2 Thessalonians 2:14), why will you not accept that there is to this day a Church that claims to fully reveal the Truths of the Christian faith and adhere to both an oral and written tradition? Didn’t Christ assure His early Church that He would not leave them “orphans” (John 14:18) and that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)? Therefore, the Church that Christ started should still be with us and should still be ruled by the traditions of both the words (living memories) and epistles (written records) that She received from Christ’s apostles.

I would also propose that the Church that Christ founded would likely be one that:

  1. Has members who at times cause scandal (Matthew 18:7)
  2. Is hated by the world and all men (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9,10; John 17:14)
  3. Recognizes the sins of all men including her own members and hierarchy (1 John 1:10)
  4. Offers an unbloody sacrifice, of bread and wine, to God “from the rising of the sun even unto its going down” (in other words, everywhere and at every time) as Malachi predicted in Malachi 1:11 and as Christ commanded at the Last Supper (Synoptic Gospels) and as practiced by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29
  5. Has priests as seen repeatedly in the New Testament writings: Acts 14:22; Acts 15:2; Acts 22:30; 1Tim. 5:17,19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14
  6. Exercises the gift given the apostles to forgive sins in the name of Christ (John 20:23) and the gift given specifically to Christ’s Church leader (Peter) in Matthew 16:18
  7. Has adopted Mary as our own mother as was commanded of John by our Lord at the end of Christ’s earthly life (John 19:27), thereby making it mandatory to honor her via the 4th Commandment (5th for you)

There are others, as well, but this list should suffice for now. I am sure you agree that this seems to fit the Catholic Church quite well even if you do not accept all of the points above. Though many cannot abide by Her teachings, bringing scandal after scandal, She refuses to change Her teachings in order to get along in the world. For example, did you know that all Protestant churches forbade contraception before Margaret Sanger (Planned Parenthood’s founder and a promoter of eugenics) waged her successful battle against the family? Not until the 1930’s did any Protestant church succumb to this practice, with the Anglican Church being the first to yield. Others soon followed until the entire Protestant world accepted the practice. The Catholic Church now stands alone against the world in its defiant stand against the deliberate separation of the marital act from procreation. If “of the devil” wouldn’t we want to destroy the institution of marriage and encourage recreational sex? For this reason, the United Nations has tried repeatedly to exclude the Vatican from meetings where world population control was on the table, etc. Since Church teaching is supposed to be “revealed truth,” Christ’s Church might respond precisely as the Catholic Church has on many of today’s issues, stating in words to the effect that: “we do not have the authority to make this change.” I have heard no other Church in the world make this argument. If our Church were a worldly Church, subject to the desires of the people, She would certainly have ditched such unpopular practices as our teaching on contraception, our teaching on the Holy Eucharist, or our teaching on Sacramental Confession, to name but a few. No human being on the face of the planet would come up with these disciplines of their own accord – they had to be inspired by Divine Revelation. Therefore, Catholics are derided for obeying unpopular teachings, which we believe to be obligations of the faith as given us by Christ through His Church. We cannot be ruled by popular human opinion nor will we be able to completely vanquish the hatred that the world bears us as Christ foresaw (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9,10; John 17:14). I am moved to recall the reaction of the disciples that left Jesus after He told them that they had to eat His body and drink His blood. “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John 6:61) and then we were told that they “walked no more with Him” (John 6:67). That is a very human reaction to the teachings of the Church, which makes it quite improbable to convince those who have not, as yet, been moved by the grace of faith, which makes even the impossible possible.

History seems to supply ample evidence of the constancy in our teachings including: The Holy Eucharist, Confession of Sins, and the practice of giving great honor to Mary and the Saints. I would like to start with our teaching on the Eucharist.

John 6 opens with an account of Christ having fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. It seems that this miracle might be regarded as a significant sign of what Catholics believe in regards to Holy Communion, when viewed as a prefiguring of Christ’s institution of this Sacrament. In Greek the word for fish became an acronym for Jesus and stood for “Jesus, Son of God, Savior”, and thus was used by early Christians as a sign for their belief in Christianity. Having said this, we have Christ feeding the multitudes with bread (an element of the Eucharist) and fish (symbolic of Himself) at one and the same time – and everyone was filled. There were fragments enough from this miracle to fill 12 baskets, perhaps to indicate that Christ could feed all “the chosen people” (the 12 tribes of Israel) from this 1 meal.

Further in John 6 starting at verse 51 through 59 we read: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live for ever.”

Is it possible that Christ’s words were only symbolic? I would at least entertain such a possibility if it were not for the prefigured feeding of the 5000 and the information given us at the end of this chapter. For Christ, Who came to give His life for our Salvation, allowed those to walk away who could not bear this “hard saying”. He did not call them back to explain the symbolism as he had often done when His parables were misunderstood. Instead, He asked the 12 apostles if they too would leave: an indication that we must have faith in His words even if we do not quite understand how it is possible to eat His Body or drink His Blood – even if it must remain a mystery. Christ, of course, sheds much light on this mystery during His Seder meal (the Pasch) on the night before He died (the Last Supper).

Christ’s words at the Last Supper were direct and unambiguous in all the Gospel narratives: “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood.” He did not say this is a symbol or representation of My Body and Blood but that it IS MY BODY AND MY BLOOD. Does this bother you just a little bit as it did me when I was Protestant? Even if you have an interpretation, which justifies your not believing these words of our Lord, you must admit that it is neither a wild gesture on the part of the early Church nor on the part of today’s Catholics to take Christ literally on this point. Should we be vilified for it?

I would like to digress for a bit in order that you might understand that Catholic’s are not an un-Biblical people; though Protestant’s often portray us as such. It seems to me that one of the big problems between us is how we read and study the Bible, not whether we have read or studied the Bible. By this I mean that there are some huge differences between the Old Testament writings and the New Testament writings that beg to be solved in 2 different ways.

One way might be to see the Old Testament purely as a history of the “old Law” which is overturned by the “new Law” which is realized in Christ. This is fine if we can fully determine what is meant by “the Law:” otherwise we risk discarding much of God’s revelation, which provides light for a proper understanding of the New Testament. Some interpretations tend to portray the God of the Old Testament as a different God from that of the New Testament. He was the God of wrath while the New Testament God was a God of love (a depiction that is understandable considering all the ‘smiting’ that went on in the Old). For some then, the Old Testament revelation and covenants are looked upon as antiquated, as is the Old Testament view of God.

Though none would argue that much has been overturned, there is another way to view the whole of scripture. That is that the Old Testament teachings prefigure the New Testament teachings – Christ fulfilling all within the New Testament. Now it is my contention that God does not make mistakes. I cannot look upon our Omnipotent, All-knowing God as one who tried something and then failed at it – so He decided to take another shot at our salvation. I see it all as a whole and as a single plan for salvation. All of scripture seems to be training mankind for his ultimate end by continually revealing Himself to us. For the end of man, which should be every man’s desire and happiness, would also seem to be God Himself. Therefore, Catholics are more prone to approach the Bible as a process or development of themes that are important to God’s revelation. It becomes then a book of salvation history with man learning his ABC’s long before he understands the necessity of them. It is primarily through the New Testament that man learns of the relevance of the Old Testament, making it necessary to our proper understanding of the revelation given by Christ. In this way we might see much of the old Law transformed or transmuted into the new.

Now why did I digress to speak of these things? It is only to show that an understanding of all corresponding Old Testament pre-figurations is germane to any explanation of a Catholic understanding of things.

Therefore, in my explanation of the Catholic understanding of Holy Communion, started above, I would like you to at least examine some of the Old Testament pre-figurations (types, or models if you will), as additional support for our beliefs. In regards to our understanding of the Eucharist you might want to re-read the institution of the Pasch immediately preceding the Exodus fromEgypt. The lamb was sacrificed and then was to be eaten by all, without a bone being broken. Now doesn’t the Catholic Eucharist fulfill what was started back in Egypt? We take the Lamb of God and eat what was once a Bloody Sacrifice in the Old Testament but fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament in a Spiritual Pasch, where not a bone is broken – a re-presentation of Christ’s Sacrifice. Now the Jewish Sacrifice was taken away once theTemple was destroyed inJerusalemin A.D. 70 and therefore a lamb can no longer be offered by the Jews for their sacrifice as instituted in the Old Law. To this day, the Jewish people celebrate their Pasch with a shank bone placed on their plate, to symbolize the lamb, once sacrificed, which cannot now be truly offered. But a true sacrifice continues to this day in the Catholic Church alone, the once for all sacrifice of Christ, though it is offered perpetually in order that each Christian should have the opportunity to accept its application to their own soul. Protestants also believe that we have to do something: even if it is no more than saying in your heart that you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But Catholics do not dismiss the fact that God uses material things to impart spiritual good. For example, Baptism confers God’s Grace through water. God is the maker of both the spiritual and the material universe and men are creatures comprised of a marriage between the spiritual (soul, intellect, reason) and the material (our corporeal bodies). We cannot separate our souls from our bodies and God works with us according to the nature that He gave us. He uses the physical to impart spiritual gifts and has done so from the beginning: the Old Testament and the New Testament are full of the history of this. Therefore it is not a new idea, concocted by Catholics, that we get God’s Saving Grace from the Baptismal element of water, that we get God’s Forgiving Grace through a priest, a mere human being, or that we might receive Christ Himself in the form of Bread and Wine. Such is the way a merciful God deals with the human being. For as a concoction of spirit and matter, human beings need to utilize their corporeal senses to see, feel, hear, taste, and smell. And God does not deny us the things that we need. He has given us something within our material reality by which we can lay claim on the spiritual.

What would you make of the Old Testament story of Melchisedech especially the Genesis 14:18 verse? Here we see a man, a priest, who prefigures Christ in offering bread and wine as a Sacrifice and distributing God’s blessing to Abram. It was an act by a mere human being in the name of God. This sacrificial offering and blessing is apparently a very old method God utilized in order to bless His earthly creatures. And although Christ is the High Priest that was prefigured by Melchisedech, our priests today only represent this Eternal High Priest in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. Yes, it is Christ Himself who is the High Priest, is the Lamb of God Offering, and is the Blessing conferred. It is a mere human priest who represents Christ. The priest, having received the power of the bishop in a long line of apostolic succession, only does as Christ instructed the apostles that last night.  For He commanded them to “Do this in remembrance of Me”: an act that is not just a simple acting out, like a school play. It is a re-presenting of the very same mystery that Christ enacted that evening when He gave Himself to the apostles in the form of Bread and Wine. I do not blame anyone for being skeptical about such an event, for it is purely a Divine Mystery that we accept by faith. That we view this in the same way as early Christians is pretty easily proved.

St. Paul warns the early community that they “eateth and drinketh  judgment” to themselves  if they do not “discern the Body of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:29). The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (circa A.D. 80) says the following in Chapter 14: :1And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.  2And let no man, having his dispute with his fellow, join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled; 3for this sacrifice it is that was spoken of by the Lord; In every place and at every time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, saith the Lord, and My name is wonderful among the nations.”

Note the connection to confessing one’s sins and the fact that “to break bread” was seen as a sacrifice to be offered to God. The “Lord’s own day” is Sunday, the first day of the week, the first day of the New Creation in Christ. It seems only fitting that the earliest Christians moved the Sabbath to Christ’s own day of Creation. In fact John tells us in the Book of Revelation (1:10) that he was “in the spirit” on the Lord’s Day. This was most probably a great favor given John by our Lord during or after “the Breaking of the Bread:” for it is not uncommon for great saints to experience spiritual ecstasy during the Mass. Our beliefs are not unbiblical nor do they go unsupported in early Christian writing. I could cite writer after writer from the first 4 centuries of the Church with the same belief if this would help. My hope is not that you accept all that we believe on this subject but to at least give us the benefit of a doubt when it comes to these beliefs, which we have held from the beginning. You might also recognize that we have 2000 years of history supporting these beliefs.

Now let us turn our attention to the Sacrament of Confession. I have already explained that Catholics do not think that priests forgive sins on their own authority but rather on the authority of Jesus Christ and by the command given to His apostles (John 20:23).

Is there further Scripture that may lend support to this practice? 1 John 1:9   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.  I am sure that you agree with the idea of confession of sins as related in the above passage. The only difference between us is that we believe that Christ wants us to make our Confession to God in a formal way through one of His ambassadors, a priest, who has received the same “blessing” given to the apostles by Christ, and passed on throughout our Church history by the imposition of hands. It is interesting to note that God had the Jews present themselves to the priests in the “old law” in a similar way. In the Old Testament, lepers were looked upon as sinners, and they were to present themselves to the priests in order to be cleansed. Again, did God make a mistake, or did God prefigure the Sacrament of Confession that Catholic’s practice today. It is also necessary at this time to remind you of how God passes blessings on from man to man through the imposition of hands – a prefiguring of the ordination rite for bishops and priests within the Catholic hierarchy. I will only refer to one such event because I think it profound enough to suffice for my proof.

Please read Genesis Chapter 27 concerning how Jacob “stole” the blessing of Isaac from Esau. Once the blessing was gone (through the imposition of hands) it could not be taken back. God’s blessing surely fell on Jacob and even God would not undo the blessing for He is always true to His promises. Again, God was giving Divine Grace through His own sinful human creatures. Not that the blessing actually came from Esau, but, of course, came from God. We say the same about our Sacrament of Confession and our Rite for the Ordination of priests and bishops. It does not come from the power of the individual but from God alone, and because God always remains faithful to His promises.

In James 5:16 we read:  Confess therefore your sins one to another . . .      Now who are the ones to hear these confessions? Is it just anyone in the community, everyone in the community, or should we take our sins to the authorities of the Church? For in Ecclesiasticus 4:31 (also known as the Book of Sirach) the Old Law even suggests prudence in choosing those to whom we might confess and submit our sins:  Be not ashamed to confess thy sins, but submit not thyself to every man for sin. We happen to think that it is prudent to confess our sins to a priest who has been ordained in a long succession of ordination that stretches back to the apostles: to one who has received God’s ancient blessing and thereby given the same power that God gave the apostles to forgive sin.

So in ending this part, I would at least ask you to admit that Catholics are not unbiblical in their claims – whether you believe our teachings or not. I only want to show that our contention is not only Biblical but logical as well.

My final point has also been covered, in part, in the above writing: i.e. why Catholic’s pay great honor to Mary and the saints. First, let’s be perfectly clear on some of these points: Catholics only worship God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mary, because she is the mother of Jesus and thereby, the Mother of God, receives great love and honor. She is not the mother of His Divine Nature, which He possessed from eternity, and we do not claim this. However, we do claim what Scripture tells us of her: i.e. that Mary is the mother of our Savior’s human nature, having received this nature from her. We quite understandably give her great devotion and the honor that is befitting a human creature that was picked (from among all people and from all time) by God to be His very Mother. Catholics did not elevate her status: God did this by His election of her.

Christ, who chose Mary from eternity, was prepared, by God, for her task and was therefore, born without sin – an immaculate mother for our God. Though you may not believe that God would or could preserve Mary from the stain of sin from her conception even to her death, there is good theological reason for believing this. For one thing the angel greeted Mary as “full of grace.” Now “full” does not leave room for any extra. She cannot be at once “full” and yet stand in need of “more” grace. We also see from Scripture that nothing unholy can remain in contact with God. Moses had to hide his face from God. Hell itself separated the defiled from God’s presence while sin caused Adam and Eve to hide from God in the Garden – ending their life in Paradise.

Many stories in the Old Testament show us the Holiness that God demands as a prerequisite for God’s dwelling among men. Think for a minute about the Ark of the Covenant: For the defiled to even touch or look upon the Ark was punished by instant death. Likewise, Catholic’s believe that Mary, (as the New Ark who carried the New Law and the Word of God Himself within her womb), was also made holy. Yes, she was saved by Christ, as we all were. But she received a special favor in having His atoning death applied to her at the moment of her conception, instead of lying in wait for it as we did. This is a step above God’s special arrangement for the saints of the Old Testament who slept – in Sheol. God kept them somewhere, knowing that Christ’s Saving Grace could be applied to them in the future. Otherwise, they would have all been in hell, not having Sanctifying Grace in their soul at the time of their death.  So Christ’s Saving Death was applied to people who died throughout the ages and can be applied to all who ever will live. But for Mary – it was applied at the moment of Her conception so that she would be the perfect vessel for the 2nd person of God.

And just like the Ark of the Covenant that contained the word of God (10 Commandments), Mary contained the real WORD OF GOD. Just like the Ark of the Covenant contained a jar of the Manna (from Heaven), Mary contained the real BREAD FROM HEAVEN. Just as the Ark of the Covenant contained the Rod of Aaron that had bloomed (a symbol of his high priesthood), Mary contained the ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST. Early Christians saw the Ark of the Covenant as a Symbol for the Old Testament Church and Mary as a Symbol for the New Testament Church and as a fulfillment of the former. Therefore, I look for a Church that preaches THE WORD OF GOD (the Bible), feeds its people with THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN, and ministers to the people with a valid priesthood in the name of our ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST.

It follows that a continual sacrifice needs to be offered, since a priest is ordained to offer sacrifice for the people. Otherwise, there is neither a need for any priests on earth nor for an Eternal High Priest in Heaven. If it was done once in time and has no need to be repeated or re-applied, then why should Christ retain His title as Eternal High Priest?

Christ came as our brother and by extension this makes Mary our mother as well. Catholics therefore obey the Commandment to love, honor and obey our mother and our father not only in regards to our corporeal relatives but in regards to our spiritual parents as well. Will Mary ask you to do anything that will not be in the best interest of your soul or somehow compromise your obedience to Christ? Is she harmful to our souls? If God entrusted Himself to her care, I feel confident in entrusting myself to her care as well. The Mary I know from Scripture will have nothing to do with evil and will only lead me to her son, Jesus, my Lord and my God. Mary has said little in Scripture but the following 2 lines best characterize her: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” as spoken at the annunciation and “Do what he tells you to do.” which she told the servants at the wedding feast in Cana. I think Mary would like us all to make these words our own. I, for one, would like to obey her wishes.

Our honoring saints is not completely unlike our honoring of Mary, though Mary led a life that was supernaturally grace-filled from the start and never lost any of this grace by personal sin. Our saints are quite different in this regard. Many were great sinners (think of Moses and David who were guilty of murder and various other sins). However, in every case the saint overcame his sinful inclinations and found God’s grace that delivered them from the clutches of hell. These men and women have become the heroes and heroines of Christianity. They far more qualify themselves for reverent praise than do our civil and military heroes and heroines to whom we erect plaques and fashion statues to grace our parks and government buildings. These are true heroes and heroines that were weak, as we are weak, and yet overcame that weakness by the grace of God and by their cooperation with this grace. That makes them models of holiness for each of us and for our children. In an age when there are precious few role models for our children, thank goodness that we still have heroic saints to read about and to pray for us.

God is not a selfish God. Yes, He is a jealous God, because He loves us and desires the best for us. He is jealous of our following after false Gods. But He is also desirous of our praise for those whom He has given the ultimate praise: raising them up to His Heavenly home to live with Him. If God praises these saints and His Mother, does He get angry if we praise these men and women for their victories as well? I think not. As stated above, God is not selfish He is instead supremely giving; having given us His only begotten Son. Does God want us to forget His Son’s best pupils? Are we not to congratulate and admire them? Should we not try to learn from them and emulate them? If mere men are flattered when their students are praised or when their work of art is appreciated, would God be any less flattered? The praise that is given to a student or a work of art reflects on the teacher or the artist and praises them as well. Therefore the praises we give to the saints, gives further praise to God as well as thanksgiving for the grace He has bestowed.

Catholics do not think that saints are merely twiddling their thumbs in Heaven. We believe that God uses them to dispense His Grace. Not that God has need of them, but that God is a loving God and knows that they will find great happiness in participating in His Divine Plan. God had no need for angels yet He made them His messengers and servers.  He has no need for us, yet He wants us to share eternal life with Him and desires our eternal happiness. So it is a Catholic’s belief that God allows our participation in His Divine Plan for our true happiness due to His great love for us.

Since our Real Life starts in Heaven – and it is not just bread and circuses – we believe that our saints and God’s angels are active in our earthly life. They dispense God’s grace and they intercede with God for our needs. The participation of angels in God’s plan and in our salvation is obvious in scripture and yet most Protestants will not admit that God might possibly allow us to serve Him in a like manner. Yet, God seemed to think that man merited a Savior and the fallen angels did not. It seems to me that Mary and the saints may have roles in heaven that are at least equal to the roles that angels have played.

Most Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, would have no objection to praying for another, nor would they shy away from asking another to pray for them. This is intercession with God, the same thing we ask of saints. Yet, simply because a saint has begun his or her Real Life in heaven, these same Christians seem to think it somehow unfitting for Catholics to ask for their prayers simply because they have departed this earthly plane. This is not the conjuring of spirits from the nether world as forbidden in Deuteronomy. This is simply intercession of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They who are incorporated permanently into the mystical body of Christ are more capable of praying properly than we are. Their prayers, being in full accord with the Divine Will, might then be more efficacious than our own. Is it possible also that God may even entrust the dispensation of His Grace to those who ask for their help? Again, angels dispensed God’s blessings to men here on earth. Can Mary and our saints also dispense God’s blessings? Catholics reply with an unequivocal yes to this question. The Church has been utilizing these saints from the beginning and has an historical record of its effectiveness: miracles of every sort and kind over these past 2000 years. Thanks be to God for all His blessings and also for the love he has shown to His angels and His saints. A lesser god would never entrust such goodness to his creatures. Our God is neither diminished by His angels nor by His saints. Our God shows us the extent of His love and of His Greatness.

I hope that this helps in your understanding of some of the things that Catholics believe or practice. If you have further questions, please present them a few at a time in order that we might deal with them in an orderly fashion. Thank you for the opportunity given me to attempt this defense of the Catholic faith. For I believe it is through such efforts that God strengthens us in our faith though we may not be very adept in his service. May God bless you in this life and also in the next.

SIDE NOTE: I am happy to note that today marks my 20th year as a confirmed Catholic. It marks the most pivotal moment in my life and I cannot express the joy that this homecoming meant to me. It is my real birthday – the day I was joined to Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church for eternity.