Far As the Curse is Found | First Things

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, / Nor thorns infest the ground; / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found, / Far as the curse is found.”Like many other carols, this rarely sung verse of “Joy to the World” leads us into the profound mystery of the Christmas feast. In the little child whose birth we celebrate, we gaze on the face of our champion in a struggle that could not be won without him. Listen to St. Leo the Great:

For unless [Christ] the new man, by being made in the likeness of sinful humanity, had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan. (Epistle 31, 3; LH vol.1, 321)

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A God-acknowledging party- if we strive to build it, will you come? | Loyal To Liberty

by loyaltoliberty on November 11, 2012

FOR THE LORD’S DAY

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:24-27)

To make sure that it serves its intended purpose (which is the overthrow of Constitutional self-government, of, by and for the people) the elitist faction’s script for the 2012 election included a post-script.  No matter how the election turned out, the moral of the story was always going to be the same- in order to win American politicians must embrace elitist socialism.  Of course, this lesson especially targets the GOP.

This is so because the GOP’s role in the elitist faction’s orchestration of the political process is to befuddle and demoralize the conservatives with results that

…move the government toward greater consolidation of socialist politics.  In the process the term “conservative” gets progressively (pun intended) redefined to encompass more and more of the features of socialism.  What is more important, those who articulate and insist upon approaches that actually correspond to conservative principles and institutional goals (like respecting unalienable rights, preserving the natural family, encouraging morally responsible individual  entrepreneurship and competitive free enterprise) are put in the false position of being unrealistic “purists” and rigid opponents of “the possible”. (Is Romney to lead conservatives to self-extinction?)

Had Romney won the election, conservative principles would have been abandoned in order to “reach across the aisle” in a bipartisan spirit of unity.  Such was the theme of Romney’s speeches in the closing days of the campaign.  But Obama won. So, like a teenager on prom night, GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner can’t wait to drop his abstinence only conservative date at her outdated home. He’s ready to shed the formal wear put on for the campaign season.  He’s almost frantically eager to cast off the GOP’s façade of phony conservative inhibitions (against tax and spend government policies,)  and get down with the newly elected Prom King in an orgy of bipartisan socialist relations, aimed at proving that a lame duck still has one leg to paddle with.

Such is “the culmination of more than twenty years of…stupidly destructive…”conservative pragmatism.”  In terms of politics it “represents the successful “transvaluation of values” (as the Nazi’s muse, Friedrich Nietzsche called it. That’s the political equivalent of a sex-change operation.)

Many GOP leaders dutifully played their role in the elitist faction’s election farce.  They were the supposedly conservative chorus,  luridly portraying Obama as the last act of America’s play, and “reluctantly”(?) touting Romney as the “less evil” (because somewhat longer?) alternate version of the same ending.  As the elitist faction media launches into the post-script phase, these leaders are coming forward to react against the notion that conservatism had anything to do with Romney’s defeat.  This requires, of course, implicitly contradicting the notion that Romney is a conservative, making all their actual or implied statements to the contrary during the campaign seem rather like, well, lies.

That’s the problem with making expediency your political standard.  It’s especially a problem for self-professed conservatives in the GOP who want people to believe that they still embrace the “self-evident truths” on which the U.S. was founded.  People who show no respect for factually observable truths have little or no credibility when they claim to respect truths that require sound reasoning as well as observation.  After all, reason ultimately derives its force from a moral commitment to its discipline, i.e., a willingness to acknowledge, the truth, in principle, and to follow its logic, whether or not it serves our passionate interests.

By encouraging people to let their fear of Obama drive them to Romney, these supposedly conservative prophets of “lesser evil” lent themselves to corrupting the mind and character of the electorate.  Such corruption is the definitive cause of the destruction of Constitutional self-government in the U.S.  Uninformed by principle, passionate self-interest can no more provide a basis for human self-government than the random interaction of uninformed matter provides for the orderly relations of material things. I made this point back in February (Santorum’s Ave Maria U. Speech “off message”? ), in a discussion of the “divided against itself” passage quoted from Scripture at the opening of this post:

A rational thinker as renowned as Immanuel Kant thought it reasonable, by exploring the limits of purely human understanding, to preserve a basis for moral reasoning that secures the salutary effects (especially in the political sphere) of acknowledging this Being of beings, beyond the limits of our self-conscious knowledge, which we must nonetheless assume in order to exist, no matter what conviction we hold with respect to its reality.

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If I were Satan

Satan as Antichrist

I thought it would be interesting to put myself in the place of Satan and try to understand better his tactics. This is by no means very comprehensive for Satan is pure spirit and his intellect and means of temptation and disruption in our personal lives and in the history of the world could be the subject of a many volume set of books. But it is an interesting meditation to make and many things come to mind that seem to open up our understanding of Satan along the lines that C.S. Lewis did with his Screwtape Letters. This is my first go at it:

If I were Satan and wished to seek the ruin of human souls, I would prowl about in search of weakness and attack without mercy. I would insinuate doubt and confusion where before there was certitude, I would cause factions where before there was unity, I would disguise evil for good and convince these lowly human intellects that neither I nor evil really exists.

No longer would people fear hell, for there would be no hell to go to; and for those who did believe in hell, they would believe that it was empty or that at least they, themselves, were not destined to go there. People would no longer look to the Church to guide them through this life to the Heavenly Gates. They would look to themselves or to their governments to create a heaven on earth that would be eager to excuse their personal indiscretions and no longer would there be a need to endure the embarrassment of Confession. Besides, they no longer need absolution for sins which they no longer believe in anyway. Many will embrace secular scientific interpretations about our beginnings and our final end: embracing ideas of aliens from outer space and their genetic intervention with human beings over the millennia.

I would make attacks on love. First I might attack the family and the children by destroying marriage and encouraging divorce. I will also separate sexual activity from the procreative, rendering these acts sterile. Thus, these human animals can revel in their debauchery and self-indulgence to their hearts content. All sexual acts shall be seen as licit and private and of no business of the Church. For the new Church that I create will be nothing but a shell of what it was. It will now act as a kindly social worker and encourage many acts of kindness and tolerance, especially when it comes to their judgment of sin. In so doing, all moral acts will be tolerated with kindness leaving one free at last to have a conscience that no longer gives them the least bit of trouble.

If given a chance, I will remake the Church – knowing that my powers will not prevail against the powers of Heaven – but also cognizant that I can confuse and divide men and introduce great confusion; winning many souls for the dark kingdom. I will destroy the beauty, the silence, the reverence and the awe not only in architecture but in every way imaginable. I will encourage worldly chatter in the old hallowed halls and invite everyone to Communion whether they have sinned or not or whether they are Catholic or not. For the Church will be much more tolerant after I have had my way with Her.

Should the Church let down Her guard sufficiently (becoming complacent), I will give Her a new Sacrifice of the Mass that will cause divisions between Her members and encourage the lack of prayer and devotions that were once Her mainstay – many will leave the Church and seek their own factions. Dividing the Kingdom of God will return man to the state of Babel where no one truly understands another which was healed at Pentecost. By then it will no longer matter, for the Church will no longer be silent or reverent and completely unsuitable for prayer or devotions anyhow.  It will simply become a meeting hall that is there to coddle and stroke the people and encourage them in dealing with their sins; a church reduced to an army of social workers. The Church will not demand Confessions; only forgiveness and tolerance of others. Nay, but there is one exception: anyone that holds to the old ways shall be reviled and hated by all. It is the only commandment one must never break. They will be the new enemy of the Church.

This new Mass will no longer be called the Sacrifice of the Mass; it will be called Eucharist or thanksgiving. Yes, it does sound a bit like our holiday by the same name; now devoid of giving thanksgiving to God but a chance to eat with friends and enjoy the bread and circuses of football, drinking to excess and great revelry. So they shall no longer refer to the altar as an altar but as a table and the thanksgiving (Eucharistic) meal. They will eat the food from their own hands with no belief in the difference from the consecrated hands of the priest and our own hands. The lines between priest and laity will be blurred. With this in mind, the idea of sacrifice will of course be missing; all may share a meal together without remembering their sins and ignoring the fact that many have not been to Confession in years. Even Confessions will be renamed Reconciliation as it sounds more like receiving validation of our basic goodness and receiving a pat on the back rather than divulging one’s sins. Even so, no one will see the reason to go to Reconciliation as they will receive all the affirmation they could possibly want from their secular world and also within the newly fashioned Church of the non-judgmental and tolerant.

They will no longer speak of transubstantiation and will use the confusing term “real presence” to speak of Christ in the Eucharistic Species. In this way, it will be confused with the protestant term which at times means: consubstantiation, trans-signification or trans-finalization. There will no longer be seen a distinction between these competing and opposing theological doctrines. This will allow no Church to claim an exclusive right to the Sacrament that Christ once gave to His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The lines will be confused and obfuscated by changing the use of terms. People will then believe that no church is better than another and that all churches are basically the same. Salvation can be gained in any religion and there will no longer be a need to evangelize our neighbors or to send missionaries to convert other faiths. Such meddling in other denominations and faiths will seem, in itself, to be unkind and expressing a self piety that is completely unacceptable; what will be derided as Triumphalistic in their approach. This new enlightened approach will confuse all Christian churches and create a complete ambivalence among their members.

After that I will present new Rites for the Church: I will rewrite the Rite for the Ordination of Priests, for the Rite of Baptism and for the Rite of Exorcism. Confusion will enter into many factions as to the legitimacy and efficacy of the new Rites and render a fog surrounding the Sacramental validity as offered by the Church. Doubt will reign among the more informed Christians and apathy will reign among the lukewarm Christians. Hatred and distrust will be the undercurrent between these various groups. In fact the Church will more and more appear to be an extension of a political party and one more organization among many that pushes their own political and social agenda. Each will push an ideology that split their unity into a multi-faceted coalition of personal beliefs. They will decide on truths based on their individual beliefs.

So beneath it all, love will be replaced with infighting between factions and the Churches will be divided in an effort to isolate each of them into competing groups vying for dominance in their public discourse. It will be indistinguishable between the political discords we see in the public square.

My plan will nearly be complete. My attacks on the priests, theologians and biblical scholars will produce discordant expert commentary that fundamentally disagrees with one another. The Church will no longer be viewed as a Church that speaks with a single voice but many voices with disparate views. Confusion will abound and the striving Christian will be busy digesting, fighting and arguing with one another to such an extent that the primary purpose of worship and prayer will be almost lost to the world.

It is not important that the Churches sacraments remain valid, protected by the Holy Spirit. It is more important that I introduce doubt and divide my foe. My plan is not to win the war; for it is ordained that in the end the war will be lost. However, my desire to inflict as much pain and loss on my enemy will allow me to win many battles before the day when the King of kings returns to dispose me from my throne as Prince of the World.

The trick you see is not so much to overcome the ability of the Church to bind the Sacraments with validity by the guidance of the Holy Spirit but it does not stop me from fomenting distrust, disillusionment, confusion and doubt within the people. Their membership in this Church will be compromised and many defections are certain to stir up great discord and win many to my dark camp where I can subjugate them and torment them for an eternity. I will then have some satisfaction and gratification in denying Christ those who were destined for His Kingdom. I relish the destruction of these souls and the sadness of Christ.  To this end, I will certainly find some success. It will be my only solace throughout eternity. And think of the many secular souls that I will reap because of the divisions in the Christian churches. No clear voice of morality and truth will exist to dissuade their fall into the pit for which they are now destined. My plan is nearly complete, but I have reserved a few secret tactics to catch mankind unaware. Watch my cunning and how flawless my militant strategies will be carried out; often without my minion’s own knowledge of their complicity or how they ultimately share in my plans.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Another Relevant Essay

 

Scandals

by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Every now and then people come across a counterfeit bill, but I never knew anyone who, because of it, argued that the United States currency was worthless. Astronomers have seen spots on the sun, but I have yet to hear of one who denied that the sun is the light of the world. But I know many who pick out the failings and sins of a few Catholics and then say: “But, my dear, they don’t tell you everything! The Church is really the work of the devil.”

This extreme point of view starts with a fact: There are scandals. For example, some Catholic husbands and wives are unfaithful; some Catholic politicians are more crooked than those who have no religion; some Catholic boys steal; some Catholic girls worship the same saints as pagan girls: movie heroes or band leaders; some Catholic industrialists are selfish and hardhearted and totally indifferent to the rights of workers; some Catholic labor leaders are more interested in keeping their leadership by annual strikes than in cooperating for social justice. Then in the Papacy, there is Alexander VI.

What does all this prove, but that Our Dear Lord has espoused humanity as it is, rather than as we would like it to be! He never expected His Mystical Body the Church to be without scandals because He Himself was the first scandal. It was a terrible scandal for those who knew Him to be God to see Him crucified and go down to seeming defeat, at the moment His enemies challenged Him to prove His Divinity by coming down from the Cross. No wonder He had to beg His followers not to be scandalized by Him. If the human nature of Our Lord could suffer physical defeat and be a scandal, why should there not be scandals in Our Lord’s Mystical Body made up of poor mortals such as we? If He permitted thirst, pain and a death sentence to affect His Physical Body, why should He not permit mystical and moral weaknesses such as loss of faith, sin, scandals, heresies, schisms, and sacrileges to affect His Mystical Body? When these things do happen, it does not prove that the Mystical Body the Church is not Divine in its inmost nature, any more than the Crucifixion of Our Lord proved He is not Divine. Because our hands are dirty, the whole body is not polluted. The scandals of the Mystical Body the Church no more destroy its substantial holiness than the Crucifixion destroyed the substantial wholeness of Christ’s Physical Body. The Old Testament prophecy fulfilled on Calvary was that not a bone of His Body would be broken. His flesh would hang like purple rags about Him, wounds like poor dumb mouths would speak their pain with blood, pierced hands and feet would open up torrents of redemptive life – but His substance, his bones, they would be sound. So with His Mystical Body. Not a bone of it shall ever be broken; the substance of Her doctrines will always be pure, though the flesh of some of her doctors fail; the substance of Her discipline will be sound, though the passion of some of her disciples rebel; the substance of Her faith will always be Divine though the flesh of some of her faithful will be so carnal. Her wounds will never be mortal, for Her Soul is Holy and Immortal, with the Immortality of Love Divine that came to Her Body on the Day of Pentecost as tongues of living fire.

Coming to one of the major scandals, let it be asked: “How could a wicked man like Alexander VI be the infallible Vicar of Christ and head of His Mystical Body the Church?” For an answer, go to the Gospel text where Our Lord changes the name of Simon to Rock, and then made Him the Rock on which He built what He called “My Church.” Our Lord on that very occasion made a distinction very few ever think of: He distinguished between infallibility or immunity from error, and impeccability or immunity from sin. Infallibility is inability to teach what is wrong; impeccability is inability to do wrong. Our Lord made the Rock infallible, but not impeccable.

Immediately after assuring Peter that he had the keys of Heaven and authority to bind and loose, Our Blessed Lord tells His Apostles that He “must go up to Jerusalem,” and “must be put to death” (Matthew 16:21). Poor, weak, human Peter, proud of his authority as the Rock draws Our Lord to his side, and begins rebuking Him, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You” (Matthew 16:22). On hearing these words Our Lord “turned around and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle to Me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23).

A moment before Peter was called the Rock; now he is called Satan! In so many words Our Lord was telling him: “As a Rock upon which I build My Church, whenever you speak with the assistance of Heaven, you shall be preserved from error; but as Simon, son of Jonah, as a man, you are so frail, so carnal, so apt to be sinful, that you can become even like unto Satan. In your office you, as Peter, are infallible; but as man, Simon, you are peccable. The Power you have as Peter is My Making; the want of morals you have as Simon, is of your making.” Is this distinction between a person and his function hard to grasp? If a policeman directing traffic held up his hand and ordered you to stop, you would do so, even though you knew he beat his wife. And why? Because you make a distinction between his function as a representative of law and his person. I am sure that Our Lord permitted the fall of Peter immediately after the gift of Primacy to remind him and all his successors that infallibility would belong necessarily to his office, but virtue would have to be acquired by his own striving with the help of God’s grace. Whether the voice be sweet, or dull and grating, whether it be spoken with an accent or a flaw in grammar, we consider not the tone but the message. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:9).

It is generally safe to say that those who know everything about the few bad successors of Peter, know nothing at all about the very many good ones. The wickedness of one man in authority is allowed to obscure a million saints. How many who dwell on the Vicars of Christ during the brief period of the Renaissance, ever dwell on their history for the other 1900 years? How many of those who exploit the bad few ever admit that of the first thirty-three successors of Peter, thirty were martyrs for their Faith, and the other three exiled for it? How many of those who concentrate on the bad example of a few know, or ever admit, that of the two hundred and sixty-one successors of St. Peter, eighty-three have been canonized for their heroic virtue, and that over fifty were chosen over the protest of their own unworthiness for such a high office, and that few can match in humility, wisdom and learning our present Holy Father, Pius XII? Anyone who attacks such a long line of martyrs, saints, and scholars must be certain of his own sinlessness to lay his hand on the few who revealed the human side of their office. If the revilers themselves are holy, pure and undefiled, let them pick up their stones. Our Lord said that it is the privilege only of those who are without sin to cast the first stone. But if they are not without sin, then let them leave the judgment to God. If they are without sin, they belong to a different race from you and me, for from deep down in our hearts a cry comes to our lips: “Be merciful to me a sinner.”

Turning to the scandal of bad Catholics, it must be remembered that Our Lord no more expected to have every member of His Church perfect than He expected to have perfect Apostles. That is why He said that on the last day He would throw the bad fish out of His net. Some Catholics may be bad, but that does not prove the Mystical Body is wicked, any more than because a few Americans who sell themselves to Russia, proves that America is a race of traitors. Our Faith increases responsibility, but it does not force obedience; it increases blame but it does not prevent sin. If some Catholics are bad, it is not because they are members of Christ’s Mystical Body, but rather because they are not living up to its Lights and Grace.

The psychology of those who are scandalized as bad Catholics is interesting. It means that they expected something better; if people who themselves are wicked, rejoice in the scandal, it is because they think they have greater authority for sinning than anyone else who fell. One never hears it said: “He is a bad Relativist,” or he is a “scandalous Humanist” or an “adulterous Ethicist,” because they never really expected anything better from them in the beginning. The horror that one feels at those who fall, is the measure of the height of virtue to which they expected to stand. We are grateful for the compliment of their being scandalized at our weak members, and for being intolerant with us about the very things they tolerate in others. They know that there are no other new lights possible if the sun fails! It is intellectually stultifying and morally easy to be a Communist; it is intellectually refreshing and morally hard to be a Catholic.

No ideal is more difficult of attainment. When anyone falls away from a Sun Cult he never has very far to tumble. But when a Catholic falls away, he is apt to be far worse than anyone else. The greater the height from which he falls, the greater the splash. “The corruption of the best is the worst.” No flowers smell worse than the rotted lily.

May we ask those who are scandalized with the failings of the Church, how perfect the Church would have to be before they would become incorporated into it as a living cell? If it were as perfect as they wanted it to be, do they realize that there would be no room for them? Just suppose for a moment, that Christ’s Mystical Body had no moral weaknesses; suppose that no monk ever broke his priestly vows to marry a nun and start a new religion – and this really happened; suppose that no bishop was ever just a business administrator and no priest ever disedifying and no monk ever fat, and no sister ever cross to children, and sanctity was as automatic as a parking meter; and suppose no one ever gave scandal to those who are on the outside to justify the way they were living. Would such a Church be the kind that Our Lord envisaged Who told us that cockle would be sowed with wheat, and that some of the children of the Kingdom would be cast out? If the Mystical Body were as perfect as the scandalized would have it, would not Her very perfection accuse and condemn us who are not saintly? Too high an ideal often repels rather than attracts. She would be so saintly that She would no longer allure ordinary mortals. She might even appear to the struggling souls as terribly Puritan, easily scandalized at our failings, and might even shrink from having Her garments touched by sinners like ourselves. Gone then would be the hope for those who are unholy or in sin. NO! The Mystical Body with none but perfect members would be a stumbling block. Then, instead of us being scandalized by Her, She would be scandalized by us, which would be far worse.

If the life of the Mystical Body had been one triumphant, blazing transfiguration on a mountain top, apart from the woes and ills of man, She would never have been the comforter of the afflicted and the refuge of sinners. She has been called like Her Divine Head, to be a redemptress, lifting men from the shadows of sin to be the tabernacles of grace where saints are made. She is not a far-off, abstract idea, but a Mother, and though She has been stained with dust in Her long journey through the centuries, and though some of her children have nailed Her Body and saddened Her Soul, yet there is joy in her Heart because of the children She has nourished; there is gladness in Her eyes, because of the faith She has preserved; there is understanding in Her soul, for She has understood the frailty of our flesh, and knows how to nourish it back to life. And in these qualities one divines the reason why Our Lord chose, not a saintly man like John, but a weak, fallen man like Peter as His First Vicar, in order that through his weakness he, and the Church of which he is the head, might sympathize with the weakness of his brethren, be their apostle of mercy and, in the truest sense of the term, the vicar of the Savior and the Redeemer of the world, Who came not to save the just but me, a sinner.

Our Lord often punishes His Mystical Body from time to time, by permitting some of the members or cells of that Body to separate themselves from it, but He punishes them still more. On the whole the world is right! We Catholics are not all we ought to be! The world is the way it is, because we Catholics are the way we are. Our Lord said: “If salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it?” (Matthew 5:13). It is not the world we have failed, but Christ, and in failing Christ, we failed the world. But we beg those of you who see our failings to remember how hard it is for us to be everything Our Lord wants us to be. It is so easy to be a Democrat or a Republican or a “Cosmic Unifier,” but it is very hard to be a Catholic! Judge us not by our failings, as you judge not art by the feeble scribbling of a child. Look rather to our artistic masterpieces: the saints, and there are countless armies of them in the world. We have hurt you by our failings, and we beg your pardon, but we hurt Our Dear Lord more, and we shall do penance.

There are many of you who are scandalized by us, who, if you had the same Infallible Truth to guide you, the same Divine Eucharist to nourish you daily, would be a thousand times better than we are. We ought to be better than we are. And here I touch on the only unhappiness that comes to us as Catholics, and believe me, it is very real! We are unhappy because we are not saints. Will you therefore pray for us? Thanks!

God love you!

Protestant-land

When I lived in Protestant-land I was warned of Catholic-land. There were untold demons there and the Devil himself dwelt in their midst. So I went out and traveled to the far exotic land of the Catholic and found to my surprise something very much different than that which I had expected.

I found the evil spirits there alright but not in the way I was told. They feared the Catholic Church and trembled before Her. But hordes of them gathered around Her and attacked and vexed them day in and day out. The holier they were the more they increased their anger against them. They were fuming and bitter and full of Hells fury and wrath.

It was then that I decided that the Catholic Church must be the True Church of Christ, or why else would they attack Her with such vehemence? If an ally, then why are the faithful so vexed? Yes, the demons were there. Where else would they be? Their greatest prize was to snatch a soul from the hands of Christ. How could that be, if it is Satan’s church. Why did the Church have exorcists and sacraments to fight off the assault of evil? After all, I thought they were supposed to be friends and in league with one another.

As I looked back at Protestant-land from my new Catholic-land home, I only saw a few dragons there: ones that darkened the mind and the eyes and those that sharpened the tongues against the Catholics and one another. These Protestants were not vexed at all it seemed: and the few evil spirits they had took life easy; simply staying busy making men blind and muddling their minds, speaking lies as if they had first hand knowledge of what was true – though they had mastered the lie. Their measly little foes were demons of deception, trickery and disunity that populated both Secular-land and Protestant-land alike and there was not very much labor involved in their work. It was all too simple, pitting one against another. There was, of sorts, a truce in Protestant-land and Secular-land as well.

How different the landscape from Catholic-land. On arriving the scales fell from my eyes and my heart filled with joy from an influx of loving grace. I was fed with Christ and He came to live in my poor soul as my strength. The Catholic prayers were not as I expected them to be; for I had been sure that the Catholics wished to destroy Protestant-land. Instead their prayer was to give them God’s mercy and to help them unite once again with those who fight evil under the banner of Christ the King. They were not my foes as I expected but instead other poor souls misguided and misled. Their eyes were closed shut and their minds set against us by evil whisperer’s that spoke to them in the quiet of their souls each night. Their voices were raised aloud to defame us but much to their chagrin, there was hardly ever a soul who could be turned toward their side. After all, the Catholics had tasted what the True Church feeds them and the drink that gives them great courage. And the Catholics did not fear the scandals and the evil around them; they only feared that the evil might go elsewhere to vex another less prepared; for their absence would mean only one thing – that they may have been drawn into sin by evil’s constant prodding and no longer considered their primary target. It is considered good to belong to the Prize that the evil one despises and relentlessly attacks.

They are like two foreign lands: Protestantism and Catholicism but we wish them well and would like to unite our lands with theirs again someday. Then Protestants might take up their armor and weapons and fight the evil together with their Catholic brothers and sisters. The victory would be so much sweeter if we were to gain the release of the Protestant from the grip of the deception, disunion and deceit of the dragons. Evil would be enraged and together we might even gain a greater crown than the one we might win separately. Or is this just my version of a fairy tale or perhaps a dream from which I’ll soon awake? At least I devised a happy ending; for what it means, I do not know. And the moral of this story I shall leave to your own preponderance.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality uses multimedia content. Appli...

“My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!” __ Charles Baudelaire, French Poet, 1864

The above quote about sums up what the enlightenment brought with it. When Satan is no longer real then sin is no longer real as our Pope some 80 years hence proclaimed: “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin” (Pope Pius XII, Radio Message to the U.S. National Catechetical Congress in Boston, October 26, 1946).

Now some 65 years later I think we are entering a new era of the enlightenment: the era where true reality does not exist. Virtual reality is now more believed and viewed than is the actual lives and events taking place in the real world. It seems we have a generation that might ask: “what is real?” It reminds me of when Pilate said to Christ: “what is truth?”

We wring our hands about the loss of moral values and the loss of patriotism in our country. But it seems that the whole world is living in a virtual reality; completely absorbed in their virtual friends, music, texting, videos, television, movies and the like. Is it that the technology just took us there or is it that we made such a mess of the real world that the virtual world is more appealing? When our young people who grew up with this technology are watched we will notice that they do not converse so much with one another. Instead that parallel play like developing children, each involved in their own self-absorbed interests. You’ll see a table of young (and sometimes older people as well) not conversing with one another but each either listening to their mp3 players, surfing the web, texting, watching movies or updating their Facebook pages with seemingly little or no interest in the reality of the moment.

I’m not sure how this bodes for mankind socially, economically, morally or developmentally. I only know that present reality is a must for those who seek Truth. They won’t find a virtual Truth or Good. In other words, you won’t find God within some alternate universe of 0’s and 1’s. The effect of the visual horror that is portrayed by so many video games, television shows and movies has blunted the reality of the horror that exists in the real world. They have become numb or indifferent to it and need only change the channel or, as I suspect, bring their virtual reality into the world as their base of reference.

I don’t know why things like last night’s shooting at the opening of the Batman movie occur. It seems impossible to deny, however, that the world has seen an uptick in the most horrible behavior imaginable: from Columbine to kids beating up and even killing innocent people for fun or to upload the crime to Youtube. For these folks, this is their moment of fame. This gives them purpose in life. It is a tragedy to say the least.

Obviously not all of our youth are affected to this degree, in fact, it is a small percentage. I only maintain that it is on the rise and that its growth is creating unforeseen problems, both mentally and physically. Many try to use the new mediums to reach the kids and give them better answers for life than they are presently finding and I praise them for it. I hope and pray that we start finding ways of reaching these people who are so self-absorbed and live and breathe virtual reality on a daily basis. Otherwise, how will they ever discover meaning and purpose of life? How can they find a successful path to the everlasting peace and joy to which we are each called?

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.