Choose to Remain Spiritual Heirs, Even in Crisis by KEVIN TIERNEY

Choose to Remain Spiritual Heirs, Even in Crisis by

KEVIN TIERNEY

In light of all the controversies and scandals that rocked the Church in 2018, many Catholics attempted to answer the question “why are you still Catholic?”  There is every indication that these controversies and scandals will continue and increase in 2019, so the question remains.  While it is good for Catholics to answer this question, it is also good for us to consider how strong those answers are. Are they really getting at the crux of the matter?

I believe the answer is no. First, we must consider the sources.  Most of us who are writing in public have a passion. We might not have the faith to move mountains, but we’re ardent enough about our faith to be bold (or foolish!) enough to speak in public about it. While things might trouble us, they often don’t trouble us enough into silence. Because of this, our answer might be different from someone who is experiencing a genuine crisis of faith.

For example, when asked why they are still Catholic, many orthodox Catholics will respond with one simple answer: The Holy Eucharist.

The Blessed Sacrament is a great answer. It provides immeasurable graces and is the very gift of God himself given to us freely. Yet what about those whose faith has been so shaken, they aren’t coming to Church?  What good is this gift if it is not seen and not received?

Likewise, we hear “because I put my trust in God, not in men.” Not only is this statement kind of worthless to the person in genuine crisis, it runs the risk of arrogance if one isn’t careful. This is because nobody has a perfect faith. If we had a perfect faith, grace would no longer be necessary.  Even our faith is tainted by the impact of sin in the world, and in ourselves. It will always be imperfect, there will always be a temptation to sin, and we are always going to war with that temptation. In our better days, faith wins out.  Sometimes people don’t have those better days. Can we be sure we will always be in them? Trust in God, trust in him with all your heart!  Yet try to look at it from the perspective of someone struggling.

Answering in Love

When I’ve gone through those struggles, I have taken comfort in three things.  Obviously, this goes for me, Kevin Tierney, and only Kevin Tierney.  What I suggest here might mean the world to the one who struggles, it might mean nothing.  Yet first and foremost, I am a Catholic because of love.  I am a Catholic because God loves me, and because I love God, and because God has given me something.

When I say God loves me, I say that I believe in a God who created the heavens, the earth, and all the conditions that cause the earth to operate the way it does.  That means everything around me was created by something more powerful than those things.  When I see powerful forces arrayed against the Church, I am reminded that there is a God who loves us, who is infinitely more powerful than those forces.

When Christ gave the parable of how valuable the sparrows were (to where God provided everything for them), he made clear that even the lowliest of us was more important than many sparrows.  Christ was emphatically telling us “I have provided for every need for the lesser creatures of the world.  You are way more important than them.  What do you think I have done for you?” Christ wants us to ask that question, yes, even demand that question of him.  When in times of trial and tribulation, Christ wants us to ask him what He will do, if we let Him.

But Love is Messy

When I say that I love God, I mean that love is messy.  Love is messy because it is tested in conflict.  Everyone can feel love in the best of situations.  How about the worst?  That’s why Christ is so emphatic in the parables about having a good foundation. We need a solid and rich foundation upon which that love can not only rest but be nurtured and grow.  Therefore, when the storms hit, we aren’t swept away.

We should also remember that love is messy in that we stick with those who we love, even when nothing makes sense. Even when we might be angry with them. Find me someone who has not expressed outrage towards God because of this crisis, and I will show you someone who isn’t being real about their love. Find me someone who thinks all of this makes sense, and I will show you a stoic, not a Christian. Love doesn’t say we have all the answers. Love doesn’t even say we’re happy at that moment. Love says we give somebody a chance.  If God is who He is, and I love God, I’m going to give him a chance. I might be surprised.

When I say God has given me something, I mean it in a different sense than “he gives us the Eucharist.”  Even before He gives us the Eucharist, He gives us something greater. Through our baptism, God makes us a co-heir.  The Apostles Paul tells us:

It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  (Romans 8:17-18)

Great Heirs

What I find interesting is that when St. Paul says we are joint heirs with Christ, he doesn’t point out a caste system.  The pope is not a greater heir than I am.  The learned theologian is just as much a joint heir as someone who hasn’t had a day of religious education in their life.  We may serve Christ in different ways, but we share in that office of heir equally.

There is something else we have equally: the obligation to endure suffering. Unfortunately, we were warned that this was going to happen. We were warned that being a Christian would be tough. We were warned that this calling wasn’t easy.  I say this not to wag the finger at the person experiencing doubt, but to remind them of the full promise.  To put it bluntly:  if we are suffering in our faith, then we are living out the role of heir.

While that might seem not very comforting at all, in a certain sense, it can be.  Are you angry with the clergy?  Are you angry with your bishop?  Indeed, are you angry at the pope?  Perhaps that anger is even justified!  Just remember that when you were baptized, Christ was saying “This is your Church. You are a member of this Church not because of them, but because of me.” If they are deserving of that anger, remember that while they can do a lot of things, they cannot take your place in the Church. They cannot take away your role of heir, if you suffer this crisis faithfully. After giving that promise, St. Paul lists that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing except your choice.

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and a curse.” So God tells the Israelites, and so he tells us today. God, through His son, sets before us a choice. That choice is not contingent upon who the pope is, if we like him, or how good of a job he is doing. God gave us that choice before we really had any understanding about all that ecclesiological stuff. If we make the choice for life, we live as a Catholic. That life has certain responsibilities towards those in authority, but our identity as Catholics is not bound up in their identity. It is bound up in God’s call, made possible by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I understand the impulse to leave the Church. Before you do, think about why you came to the Church, or why you were a member during brighter times. Focus on that call.

By Kevin Tierney

Kevin Tierney is the Associate Editor of the Learn and Live the Faith Section at Catholic Lane. He and his family live in Brighton, MI. Connect with him via FB  or on twitter @CatholicSmark.

When in doubt; Don’t! Sir 2:1-11

When in doubt; Don’t!

Sir 2:1-11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way
;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

Unpracticed Faith is Functional Atheism by REGIS NICOLL

I pondered and prayers before sharing this; there is much work to be done by all of us in our Lord’s vineyard {Patrick}

Unpracticed Faith is Functional Atheism

REGIS NICOLL

In “Is Grace Amazing or Appalling,” some readers felt I was advocating the cheap grace of faith without works. Although I should have been more clear, it was not my intent to suggest that human effort has no role in coming to Grace, and afterward. Rather, my point was that our works do not merit us grace or obligate God toward us.

So, then, what is the role and purpose of works in justification and our response to Grace?

Works and “Works”
Although the oft-quoted Pauline verse, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith,” discounts salvific works—that is, human projects motivated and directed to move Heaven—it presumes a requisite “work.” Our Lord stands at the door and knocks, but we must open the door and bid him in to receive the sacramental grace of his Presence.

In the verse immediately following, St. Paul teaches that while we are not saved byworks, we are saved for works: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The works he is referring to are not machinations to gain Divine favor, but responses to it, done in service of Christ to build up his Body with members who are undergoing a lifelong process of transformation into his image.

When Paul teaches that “righteousness is from faith to faith,” he is inferring that the Christian life, which begins with the “work” of opening the door and receiving our Guest, is a life of obedience (“works”) to all Christ commands as revealed in Scripture and passed down through Sacred Tradition. Fittingly, he instructed the church in Philippi, “to work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”

Functional Unbelief
Unpracticed faith—that is, faith without works—St. James writes, is dead. It has no transformative or sanctifying power; it is intellectual assent that descends into paralyzing doubt (or worse), which is no faith at all. That’s because faith is revealed, confirmed, and made perfect by our actions not affirmations (for by their fruits you will know them).

Consider a child, standing nervously at the edge of the pool, coaxed by his father to dive into the water. He has a choice: plunge headlong into the pool where the able arms of dad are ready to receive him, or remain at water’s edge frozen in fear, dithering in doubt. He may sincerely believe that his father won’t let harm come to him, but until he jumps, fear holds him captive in functional unbelief, revealing that his faith is in a danger that his father cannot save him from.

When the “rubber” of belief meets the “road” of decision, a choice has to be made. There is no middle road other than doubt, which defaults to unbelief and tosses us to and fro on the agnostic waves of uncertainty. Indeed, we will never walk on the troubled waters of life until faith moves us to get out of the boat!

Functional Atheists
Behavioral studies by various pollsters suggest that the vast majority of Americans who self-identify as Christian are functional non-Christians, if not atheists, with rates of divorce, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and other behaviors on par with those of their non-Christian neighbors. (By their fruits you will know them.)

In his 2001 book Growing True Disciples, George Barna reported, “To the naked eye, the thoughts and deeds (and even many of the religious beliefs) of Christians are virtually indistinguishable from those of nonbelievers.” Six years later he similarly reported, “born again Christians are statistically indistinguishable from non-born again adults on most of the behaviors studied.” The studied behaviors included lying, substance abuse, and extra-marital sex. (By their fruits you will know them.)

For example, although the Church teaches that sex is reserved within the marital bond of one man and one woman, 94 percent of adults admit to having had non—marital sex. Considering that roughly 70 percent of the U.S. populace is Christian, it is safe to say that a lot of Christians—very likely, the majority—are guilty of sexual sin. (By their fruits you will know them.)

A Christian I’ll call “Kurt” is a case in point.

Over breakfast one morning, as Kurt was telling me about his girlfriend, I was taken aback when he breezily insinuated the sexual nature of their relationship. When I asked how he squared that with Church teaching, his jaw went slack as if I’d asked about the burial rites of the Inuit.

After an awkward pregnant pause, he replied, “I’m committed to her!” as if that would resolve any biblical difficulty I might bring up. I brought up a few. He was unmoved. A few months later I heard that he was in another “committed” relationship.

On the issue of abortion, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that in 2014, 54 percent of women who chose abortion were Christian (24 percent Catholic and 30 percent Protestant) compared to 46 percent who were non-Christian. That finding led the Jesuit publication, America, to report that Catholics are just as likely to get an abortion as anyone else. What’s more, although the Catholic Church stands resolutely against abortion, more Catholics favor its legality than oppose it. Every Sunday morning at the Catholic church I attend, I’ve noticed a car in the parking lot with a bumper sticker stating, “STOP the GOP war on women!”

Many of these people most likely would consider themselves good Christians. They are active in church, perhaps theologically conservative, even espousing conventional Church teaching. Yet, when it comes to the way they actually live they have cultivated, what Mary Eberstadt has called, the “will to disbelieve” what the Church plainly teaches.

By their words, they profess faith in Christ, but by their actions they reveal that their faith is in their instincts, urges, feelings, and the secular sirens of culture: Dear Abby, Oprah, Joel Osteen. (By their fruits you will know them.)

Barna’s research suggests some underlying causes here.

From surveys taken between 2005 to 2010, Barna found that less than 20 percent of Christians are committed to spiritual formation. What’s more, says Barna, “less than one out of ten have talked about their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, and had an extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week.”

He goes on to report that among self-identified Christians, less than 3 percent “have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people.”

Just think—70 percent of Americans profess to be Christians, and yet as few as 3 percent could be called disciples—that is, believers who have dedicated their lives to become more like Jesus by learning to do the things he commanded us to do. The rest are people of unpracticed faith who, if church members, are in effect “belonging-non-believers.”

In result, we have Christians who are exuding more the stench of death than the aroma of life and a Church that is losing its social and moral capital in an ever-increasingly secularized world. Lord have mercy!

By Regis Nicoll

Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. His new book is titled Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

The THREE Crosses by Patrick Miron

The THREE Crosses

by Patrick Miron

 There were historically THREE crosses.

 One for the Perfect Christ

One for the repentant sinner who is Promised Salvation

One for the unrepentant sinner who chooses for himself; eternal hell.

 What are the possible lessons for us here?

 We catholics have a beautiful and meaningful Traditional Prayer that the Bishop; Priest or Deacon say’s before Proclaiming the Gospel Message [THE GOOD NEWS] at every Mass. While making three small signs of the Cross on his forehead, lips and heart and silently proclaiming with each action: Lord please BLESS [which means to: Sanctify, Purify and Guide my] Mind, my Lips, and my Heart. [As I share your Sacred WORD.]

 This practice has been picked up over the years by much of the laity; some of whom may not know exactly why or what the prelude to the proclamation of the Gospel [THE GOOD NEWS] signs represent. It signifies that we too, prudently seek God’s direct intervention by asking Him to Open our minds, our lips and hearts; so that we be enabled to fully understand; then share and be truly- grateful for what we are BLESSED to hear, and have taught to us. The end- effect of hearing Gods WORDS depends on our response and cooperation to God‘s Grace and His granting us the ability to understand what He is trying to share with us in the present moment.

 Matthew 4:4 “Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” … Rom.10: 17 “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” …2nd. Peter 1: 16-21 “You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

 Gospel, John 12:44-50 Jesus declared publicly: Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as light, to prevent anyone who believes in me from staying in the dark any more. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully, it is not I who shall judge such a person, since I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world: anyone who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken of my own accord; but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and what to speak, and I know that his commands mean eternal life. And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak. “

 One of the critical Lessons of the Crosses comes with the necessary understanding that it is always man’s; it is our individual response to God’s grace that is “AN OFFER” not a command that will determine its effect upon our lives.

 God’s grace is sufficient for our needs.

 We can freely choose to accept it; reject it, apply it fully and correctly; or partially and or incorrectly. It is MAN”S freewill choice. We can also deny it, ignore it, or misunderstand it. Again; man’s freewill choice. Our pride; our egos can and do block God’s grace.

 God’s intent for:

Only One TRUE God

With Only One TRUE Faith

 In His One TRUE [guided and protected] Church is clearly biblical and God s WORDS; and God’s Perfect Will.

 Mark 16: 14-15 “At length he appeared to the eleven [Apostles] as they were at table: and he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen him after he was risen again. And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

 Matthew 28:16-20 “And the eleven disciples [Apostles] went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.  Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

 My dear friends in Christ; do not permit “false prophets and teachers” to lead you astray. The WORDS of Christ are Perfect, Precise and Clear: ONLY today’s Catholic Church can [and does actually have the Mandate from Christ as well as His PERSONAL Protection …] John 17:16-20 “They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me” … AMEN!

To Jesus THROUGH 

Patrick

The Bible Leads Me to the Church by PETER KREEFT

The Bible Leads Me to the Church

PETER KREEFT

All Christians trust the Bible, including (especially) the New Testament. But the Bible leads me to the Church.

This happens in two ways. First, the Bible tells me that Christ established a Church and gave her His authority to teach in His name.

So, the Bible sends me forward to the Church, from Christ to His Church as His invention. The Bible also sends me backward to the Church, for the Church is its cause.

It is a historical fact that it was the Church (the apostles) that wrote the New Testament. It was also the Church that defined its contents, its canon — that told us which books did and which books did not belong in the sacred canon, the books that were divinely inspired and religiously infallible and authoritative. How else does any Christian know that the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas are not part of the Bible, part of infallible divine revelation, and that James and Jude and Revelation are?

There is one and only one clear answer to that question: by the authority of the Church.

In other words, the Church was both the efficient cause (the author) and the formal cause (the definer) of the New Testament. That is historical data. Let that be premise 1.

But no effect can be greater than its cause (that is logically self-evident and indubitable), and the infallible is greater than the fallible; therefore, the infallible cannot be caused by the fallible. That is also logically evident. Let that be premise 2.

Either the Church is fallible or infallible. That is also logically self-evident. Let that be premise 3.

Therefore, if the New Testament is infallible, the Church must be infallible, and if the Church is not infallible, then the New Testament is not either. Logically, those are the only two possibilities, unless we deny either the historical data (premise 1) or one of the self-evident assumptions (2 or 3).

Go through it again. If the Church is fallible, as Protestants say, she cannot produce an infallible effect in the Bible. And therefore, if the Church is fallible, then the New Testament is also fallible, like its cause. On the other hand, if the New Testament is infallible, as both Protestants and Catholics say, then the Church, which was its cause, must also be infallible. Only if she is infallible can she produce an infallible effect.

Thus, we see in history what we would logically expect: that most of the “mainline” Protestant denominations have eventually abandoned the claim of infallibility for the New Testament and embraced modernist or liberal theology, for that is the logical conclusion of the denial of the infallibility of the Church. But never has the Catholic Church done so.

So, if I want to be an orthodox Christian and believe that the Bible is infallible, I have to be a Catholic and believe that the Church also has that divine gift. Church and Scripture go together, like body and soul.

I have probably offended modernist or liberal Christians in what I have said above about the Bible. I will now probably offend Fundamentalist Christians in what I will say below about the Bible. That’s fine with me. Jesus also offended opposite extremes, opposite parties — the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Fundamentalism denies the human nature of the Bible, and Modernism denies its divine nature, just as Docetism denies the human nature of Christ and Arianism denies His divine nature. That parallel is more than a coincidence, for both the Bible and Christ are called “the Word of God.”

The Bible is infallible in its religious teachings (and that includes morality, which is an essential part of religion for Jews and Christians), but not in its grammar or science or math. God did not give us the Bible to teach us grammar or science or math. The infallibility of the Bible does not extend to these things. It’s simply a fact that there are some grammatical, scientific, and mathematical contradictions and errors in the Bible.

Bible and Church

Now here’s the point, the parallel between the Bible and the Church. The Church too is fallible in everything except her authoritative religious dogmas. The Church has taught some things, such as geocentrism, and done some pretty bad things, such as the Inquisition, but not infallibly, not authoritatively, not as Magisterium, or religious teacher. Popes have made mistakes, but not ex cathedra.

So once again the Bible and the Church are together. They are in the same boat. Each one sends you to the other one. If you want either one, you need the other. It’s not sola scriptura.

 

Even after I figured out the logic of this argument, it was still hard for me to overcome either of my Protestant beliefs (1) that the Church was fallible and (2) that the Bible was not. But I knew, by reason, that I had to abandon one. So which was more certain to me: that the Church was fallible or that the Bible was not?

Was my faith more fundamentally anti–Catholic Church or pro-Bible? Once the question appeared that way, the answer was clear. When my faith and my reason thus married, they produced a Catholic baby.

This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Kreeft’s Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic, which is available from Sophia Institute Press as a paperback or ebook.

 

By Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and also at the King’s College (Empire State Building) in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 55 books. Dr. Kreeft is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He has received several honors for achievements in the field of philosophy, including the Woodrow Wilson Award, Yale-Sterling Fellowship, Newman Alumni Scholarship, Danforth Asian Religions Fellowship, and a Weathersfield Homeland Foundation Fellowship.

When we want to hear from God, what are we listening for? … Another brief reflection offered by Patrick

 

When we want to hear from God, what are we listening for?

Another brief reflection offered by Patrick

 “A strong wind, an earthquake and a fire passed by Elijah, but God was not in any one of them.”

 1 Kings 19: INTRODUCTION … “Elias, fleeing from Jezabel, is fed by an angel in the desert; and by the strength of that food walketh forty days, till he cometh to Horeb, where he hath a vision of Go”

[11] And he said to him: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord: and behold the Lord passeth, and a great and strong wind before the Lord over throwing the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces: the Lord is not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake: the Lord is not in the earthquake.[12] And after the earthquake a fire: the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air[13] And when Elias heard it, he covered his face with his mantle, and coming forth stood in the entering in of the cave, and behold a voice unto him, saying: What dost thou here, Elias? And he answered:[14] With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have destroyed thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away. [15] And the Lord said to him: Go, and return on thy way through the desert to Damascus: and when thou art come thither, thou shalt anoint Hazael to be king over Syria

This “visit” is the same call God has for each and every-one of us; GO!!!!

But not all of us; indeed few of us are called with the specificity that GOD gave personally to His Prophet Elias. Why? I suspect that it is mostly because me and you don’t have {yet at least} the same degree of self-giving; turning over our very life’s to Jesus; taking into our heats literally His teaching US to pray {Luke 11:1-4} “thy Will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.” 

It is therefore critically important for each of us to grasp that not knowing the specifics of what Jesus expects of us is a test our OUR personal Faith, our Hope and Our Love.

Our Faith: Do we really accept our reason for being created?

Isaiah 43: 7 & 21

[7] And every one that calleth upon my name, I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, and made him. & [21] This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise. “

Matthew 21:21-22 “[21] And Jesus answering, said to them: Amen, I say to you, if you shall have faith, and stagger {Doubt}not, not only this of the fig tree shall you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done. [22] And in all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive

The question my friends we need ask ourselves are this: Do I; do I act as if I do; and do I share the Faith of Jesus written on our heas?

Our Hope:

Proverbs 24:14, Romans 8:24-25

 [14]So also is the doctrine of wisdom to thy soul: which when thou hast found, thou shalt have hope in the end, and thy hope shall not perish.; & Romans [24] For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? [25] But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.

To hope is to not permit ourselves to allow Satan to tempt us to despair.

Life is literally, a / THEE “God Test.”

We exist with the Offer of “sufficient grace” that every human soul can {has the means and the potential} to Know of God; then once known to choose freely to love and serve Him. That grace can be, and all too often is declined; refused. Because once one actually knows GOD {not simply knowing of Him}, one incurres the grave moral obligation to actively serve Him. This entails living our life’s in full accord of His Commandments, precepts and ordinances as taught by His One True Church; todays Roman Catholic churches, who after 2,000 years still hold to the same One True Faith. {Eph. 4: 5}. It also mandates sharing our faith with all those God places into our life’s sphere of influence beginning with our own families. Not forced upon them {after they leave home}, but by our modeling the true Catholic Life-Style in humility and with charity. This is NOT easy, nor does God expect it to be. “Life is Short and Eternity is forever.”    

Our Love:

Jesus in person did not invent “love of neighbor”

Leviticus 19:9-18

[9] When thou reapest the corn of thy land, thou shalt not cut down all that is on the face of the earth to the very ground: nor shalt thou gather the ears that remain. [10] Neither shalt thou gather the bunches and grapes that fall down in thy vineyard, but shalt leave them to the poor and the strangers to take. I am the Lord your God.

[11] You shall not steal. You shall not lie, neither shall any man deceive his neighbour. [12] Thou shalt not swear falsely by my name, nor profane the name of thy God. I am the Lord. [13] Thou shalt not calumniate thy neighbour, nor oppress him by violence. The wages of him that hath been hired by thee shall not abide with thee until the morning. [14] Thou shalt not speak evil of the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind: but thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, because I am the Lord. [15] Thou shalt not do that which is unjust, nor judge unjustly. Respect not the person of the poor, nor honour the countenance of the mighty. But judge thy neighbour according to justice.

[16] Thou shalt not be a detractor nor a whisperer among the people. Thou shalt not stand against the blood of thy neighbour. I am the Lord[17] Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, but reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him. [18] Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord.

John 3:35, 14:23, 15:12

[35] By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another[23] Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love me, he will keep my word, {what I teach} and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him; [12] This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

Many years ago now when Karen and I were teaching youth CCD and preconfirmation classes, I was asked if it were possible to describe the entire Bible is a single word. … After some thought I replied. “To ME that word would have to be “LOVE.” Love defines God; our relationship with God and summarizes everything we need to comprehend about God and life on earth.

There is a prayer; “The Serenity Prayer” that summarizes how we are to condition ourselves to hear God when He speaks to us.

God give me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The Courage to change the things that I can

And the Wisdom to know the difference”

In other words to be enabled to hear God, we must first be seeking God.

While God has talked to me often over the years; I can’t ever recall a time when He first smacked me upside the head to get my attention; to listen up. No God has spoken to me in the quiet of my mind and heart. When in humility I have turned to Him, begging for assistance, it most often comes as an idea, a fleeting- thought, or an answer to my present question just seemingly coming to me out of the blue.

It has taken me many years to condition myself to be at least subconsciously expecting it. I’ve been out of the classroom for many years now, though I still maintain a very active internet ministry I would regularly spend 5 to 6 hours in prepping for our one hour CCD classes. And then also attend daily Mass the day of class seeking the Holy Spirit’s assistance. On top of that I would spend more hours familiarizing myself with the material so that I didn’t have to overly rely on my notes.

Quite often I could “feel” the presence of the Holy Spirit taking over and moving the material I had so painstakingly prepared in a different direction. I became only a conduit for the Holy Spirit, and so long as I followed the promptings the class would go very smoothly. I was sure to thank God after every such class. I came to understand just how personally involved in our mundane lives God TRULY desires to be, if and when we are humble enough to permit ourselves to be “GOD-lead.”   

Here’s another example of this. I’m presently 74 and getting cataracts, which make it hard for me to find where my “on scree mouse” is, so I just pray “Jesus please help me”, and every time He does. What an Incredible God we have!

Remain in the state of grace with no unconfessed, unforgiven Mortal sins {1 John 5:16-17}; develop a disciplined and meaningful prayer-life; pray the Rosary daily, attend daily Mass as often as you can; even if you have to suffer to do so. I did this for many years, but in recent years I can no-longer drive. When you strive to remain close to God, GOD will be close to you.  

Be looking for God’s assistance, ask for it and expect it. Then when you receive it be sure to thank God for it. God’s on our side, especially when we are also on His. But God is more a “nudger” than a “pusher.” God is subtle in order to TEST our Faith in Him. Never lose hope, and one can never love too much.

Douay Catholic Bible: 2 Cor. 3: 2-3

[2] You are our epistle, written in our hearts, which is known and {being} read by all men: [3] Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.

It has been stated that “the ONLY Bible most folks will ever read, is HOW you evidence you’re Faith in daily practice.”

Luke 11:9

[9] And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. [10] For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Come Holy Spirit COME!

Love and prayers,

Patrick

What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic” by Steve Ray

 

What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic”

by STEVE RAY 

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a distinct desire to distance ourself from its heresy and man-made traditions.

I assumed that early on Catholics deviated from “biblical Christianity” so they simply invented a new word to describe their new society. Since we Evangelicals were supposedly the ones faithful to the Bible we had no interest in the word catholic since it was found nowhere between the covers of the Bible. It was a biased word loaded with negative baggage so we removed it from the Creed.

I should have asked myself “Where did the word catholic come from, and what does it mean?” Was I right to assume that Roman Catholics invented the word to set themselves apart from biblical Christianity?

A short and interesting investigation will turn up some valuable information. Let’s start with an understanding of doctrinal development and the definition of catholic, then  let’s “interview” the very first Christians to see what they thought of the Church and the word catholic and then we will study the Bible itself. How Doctrines and Words Develop

The development of doctrine is not just a Catholic phenomenon. It is also a fact among Protestants and all religions or theological traditions. Over time, theological words develop to help explain the deeper understanding of the faith. As Christians ponder the revelation passed on by the apostles and deposited in his Church the Church mulls over God’s Word, thinking deeper and deeper. It is not unlike peeling the layers away from an onion as one goes deeper to the heart.

Development of doctrine defines, sharpens, and interprets the deposit of faith. The Bible is not a theological textbook or a detailed church manual, such as say a catechism or study guide. The Bible’s meaning is not always clear as St. Peter tells us (2 Pet 3:15?16). Thirty-three thousand competing Protestant denominations also make this fact apparent as they fail to agree on what the Bible says. It takes the authority of a universal Church and the successors of the apostles to formulate the doctrines of the faith. As an Evangelical, I was naïve enough to think I could recreate the “theological” wheel for myself.

To illustrate doctrinal development, let’s look at the word trinity. The word trinity never appears in the Bible, nor does the Bible give explicit formulas for the nature of the Trinity as commonly used today, such as “one God is three persons,” or “three persons, one nature.”  Yet, the word Trinity, as developed within the Catholic Church, is an essential belief for nearly every Protestant denomination. The first recorded use of the word trinity (trias) was in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch around the year a.d. 180.  Although not found in the Bible, the early Church developed words such as Trinity, which are used to define and explain basic, essential Christian doctrines.

Interestingly, while many Protestants object to the idea of development of doctrine within the Catholic Church, they seem to have no problem with developments in their own camp—even novelties and inventions. Take for example the Rapture, another word not found in the Bible and not used in any theological circles until the mid-19th century. After a prophetic utterance from two women at a Scottish revival meeting, the new doctrine of the Rapture spread like wildfire through England and America.

It was the Catholic Church that defined the Blessed Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ—the hypostatic union of two natures in the one divine person of Jesus—, salvation, baptism, the Blessed Eucharist, and all the other doctrines that have been the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is also the Catholic Church that gave birth to the New Testament—collecting, canonizing, preserving, distributing, and interpreting them.

As a Protestant I was quite willing to unknowingly accept the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the closed canon of the  New Testament, etc., but I willfully rejected the full teaching of the Catholic Church. I now realize that it is in the Catholic Church that we find the fulness of the faith and the visible, universal body of Christ.

The Word “Catholic” Defined
However, we have yet to define the word catholic. It comes from the Greek katholikos, the combination of two words: kata-concerning, and holos- whole. Thus, concerning the whole. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word catholic comes from a Greek word meaning “regarding the whole,” or more simply, “universal” or “general.” Universal comes from two Greek words: uni- one, and vertere- turning. In other words, a “one turning”, “revolving around one,” or “turned into one”. The word church comes from the Greek ecclesia which means “those called out,” as in those summoned out of the world at large to form a distinct society. So the Catholic Church is made up of those called out and gathered into the universal visible society founded by Christ.

In its early years, the Church was small, both in geographically and numerically. For roughly the first decade the Church was made up exclusively of Jews in the area of Jerusalem. The word catholic hardly seemed to apply. But as the Church grew and spread across the Roman Empire, it incorporated Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, Romans, freemen, and even slaves—men and women from every tribe and tongue. But by the third century, oneout of ten people in the Roman Empire was a Catholic. Just as the word Trinity was appropriated to describe the nature of God, so the term catholic was appropriated to describe the nature of Christ’s body, the Church.

But let’s get back to the history of the word catholic. The first recorded use of the word is found very early in Christian literature. We find the first instance the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch who was a young man during the time of the apostles and the second bishop of Antioch following Peter. Ignatius was immersed in the living tradition of the local church in Antioch where the believers in Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). He was alive early enough to know the apostles and was taught and ordained directly by the apostles.

From the apostles St. Ignatius learned what the church was from the apostles themselves. From them he learned how it was to function, grow, and be governed. History informs us that St. Peter was the Bishop of Antioch at the time; in fact, Church Fathers claim that St. Ignatiuis was ordained by St. Peter himself.Ignatius must have worshiped with Peter and Paul and John. He lived with or near them, and was an understudy of these special apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch is known and revered as an authentic witness to the tradition and practice of the apostles.

In the existing  documents that have come down to us, St. Ignatius is the first to use the word catholic in reference to the Church. On his way to Rome, under military escort to the Coliseum where he would be devoured by lions for his faith, he wrote, “You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8).

Another early instance of the word catholic is associated with St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who used the word many times. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John just as St. John was a disciple of Jesus. Like Ignatius, Polycarp also suffered the martyr’s death in a coliseum in a.d. 155. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written at the time of Polycarp’s death, we read, “The Church of God which sojourns in Smyrna, to the Church of God which sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the dioceses of the holy and Catholic Church in every place” (Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam, Preface)

Later in the same book it says, “When Polycarp had finished his prayer, in which he remembered everyone with whom he had ever been acquainted . . . and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world.” They then gave him up to wild beasts, fire and finally, the sword. The epistle then concludes, “Now with the Apostles and all the just [Polycarp] is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world” (8).

So we clearly see that early in the second century Christians regularly use the word catholic as an established description of the Church.  From the second century on we see the term catholic being used consistently by the theologians and writers. One can easily conclude that catholic was a very early description of the Church, probably used by the apostles themselves

St. Augustine in the  fourth century, relaying the tradition of the early Church, minces no words asserting the importance and wide-spread use of the term catholic. He writes, “We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church which is Catholic, and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies” (The True Religion, 7, 12). And again, “[T]he very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called Catholic, when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani called “The Foundation”, 4, 5).

The early usage and importance of the word can also be seen by its use in both the Apostles and the Nicene Creeds. If you were a Christian in the first mellenia you were a Catholic, and if you were a Catholic you recited the Creeds affirming the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Unhappily, some people today try to make a distinction between Catholicwith a capital “C” and catholic with a small “c”, but such a distinction is a recent development and unheard of in the early Church.

Biblical Understanding of the word “Catholic”

Jesus commissioned his apostles with the words “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:1920). As Frank Sheed reminds us, “Notice first the threefold ‘all’—all nations, all things, all days. Catholic, we say, means ‘universal.’ Examining the word ‘universal,’ we see that it contains two ideas, the idea of all, the idea of one. But all what? All nations, all teachings, all times. So our Lord says. It is not an exaggerated description of the Catholic Church. Not by the wildest exaggeration could it be advanced as a description of any other” (Theology and Sanity [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1993], 284).

Jesus used the word church twice in the gospels, both in Matthew. He said, “I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). He didn’t say churches as though he were building a subdivision; nor did he imply it would be an invisible church made up of competing groups. He was going to build a visible, recognizable church. And in Matthew 18:17 Jesus said that if one brother offends another they were to take it to “the Church”. Notice the article “the” referring to a specific entity. Not “churches” but one visible, recognizable church that can be expected to have a recognizable leadership with universal authority.

One can see the sad state of “Christendom” today by comparing Jesus’ words about “the Church” with the current situation. If a Methodist offends a Baptist, or a Presbyterian offends a Pentecostal, which “church” do they take it to for adjudication? This alone demonstrates the problem when 33,000 plus denominations exist outside the physical bounds of the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Jesus expected there to be one universal, authoritative, visible and Catholic Church to represent him on earth until his return.

Just before he was crucified, Jesus prayed not only for the universality and catholicity of the Church, but for her visible unity:

“[T]hat they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that  You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me” Jn 17:21?23 NASB).

The early Church understood Jesus’ words. What good was an invisible, theoretical, impractical unity? For the world to see a catholic unity, the oneness of the Church must be a visible, real, physical, and visible reality. All of this the Catholic Church is. Since the earliest centuries Christians have confessed that the Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” One because there is only one, visible, organic, and unified Church; holy because she is called out of the world to be the Bride of Christ, righteous and sanctified; catholic because she is universal, unified, and covers the whole world; apostolic because Christ founded her (Mt. 16:18) through his apostles, and the apostles’ authority are carried on through the bishops. Through the centuries, this creed has been the statement of the Church.

In these last days, Christians need to stand confident and obedient in heart of the Catholic Church. She has been our faithful Mother, steadfastly carrying out the mandate of Jesus Christ for 2,000 years. As an Evangelical Protestant I thought I could ignore the creeds and councils of our Mother, the Church. I was sadly mistaken. I now understand that Jesus requires us to listen to His Church, the Church to which he gave the authority to bind and to loose (Mt 16:1918:17)—the Catholic Church, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

Steve Ray is the author of Crossing the TiberUpon this Rock, and St. John’s Gospel. You can contact him at his website at www.CatholicConvert.com.