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Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Immaculate Conception

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37


December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception!  It is the day in which we honor the fact that Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin.  She was, from the very moment of her existence, a pure vessel, created to be the "tabernacle" of the Second Person of the Trinity.

Not sure why the Church, in her wisdom, always proclaims the Gospel reading in which the angel announces to Mary that she will conceive a Son.

That seems to confuse us into thinking that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception concerns how Mary conceived Jesus "immaculately" in her womb.

This is an incorrect explication of the Catholic view on sex.  If it were true that Mary conceived Jesus "immaculately", that would suggest that Catholics view the other way to conceive (that is, the normal way) as not immaculate...or dirty.  And, of course, that is NOT how Catholicism views sex.  It is not dirty.  It is holy.  So for Catholics to proclaim that Mary conceived Jesus immaculately is to promote a falsehood:  that the Church views sex as dirty.

So the correct understanding is that God set aside a special person to be a fitting vessel for His Son.  And doesn't it make sense that the vessel which contains the Holy of Holies would be created to look, symbolically like this:  (that is, pure, undefiled, beautiful and for one purpose only: to hold the Numinous.  Not to hold any other thing)


 300px-ChurchTabernacle.jpg

rather than to look like this:
 stock-photo-15885725-still-life-of-a-dirty-crushed-plastic-water-bottle.jpg

which is how all the rest of creation (human creation, that is) looks, symbolically, due to Original Sin.   And each time we sin we become an unfitting vessel for Our Lord.

A non-Catholic who objected to the Church's teaching on the IC once posted this:
 "hmmm...please tell me how exactly this works (in your mind). At your Eucharist you believe that the body of the Lord is taken entirely into your mouth...you are then the alleged vessel of the Lord, just as Mary was the vessel of the Lord (though the womb is perhaps a more "honorable" location than the mouth, esophagus, and gut). You are not sinless and the millions of other Catholics all over the world that participate in your Eucharist aren't sinless (and some are extremely depraved)....Let's say that, on average, one out of a hundred Catholics participates in the Eucharist each day and that the Lord's body persists for a minute in each case....we then have the Lord's body (cumulatively) residing in a non-sinless person 10 million minutes/day...as opposed to 400,000 minutes for Mary's pregnancy...so what gives? How is it so impossible for Jesus to spend about 400,000 minutes in the womb of a sinner and yet spend far, far more time in the mouths and guts of sinners each and every day?
In other words, this non-Catholic is saying:  if you say that it was fitting that Mary was sinless because she was the vessel which carried Our Lord, then how can Catholics, sinners all, claim to be receiving Him in the Eucharist?

The Catholic response is this:  we indeed ought to be sinless, pure and undefiled, when we receive Him in the Eucharist.  No one with mortal sin ought to approach the altar and receive Him.  That's why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered every Saturday before Masses.  And all of us with venial sins have our sins cleansed during the Penitential Rite at Mass. 

So the Catholic Church is nothing if not consistent in her teachings. 

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholics Come Home



"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jesus is the Firstborn? Doesn't that imply that Mary had other children?


“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

In other words, why do Catholic proclaim Mary to be a Perpetual Virgin?  If Jesus was the firstborn, then the must have been other children of Mary and Joseph.   And why are Catholics so hung up on what Mary and Joseph did AFTER Jesus was born?  Isn't the important part that Mary was a virgin BEFORE she gave birth to Jesus?  Who cares what happened after?

In light of this Sunday's reading I thought I'd re-visit the above questions that are often posed to Catholics.

From this Sunday's 2nd reading:

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.--Rev 1:5
Fundamentalist Christians like to point out that the term "firstborn" implies that there were subsequent children.  And thus the Catholic Church's teaching on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is another Catholic teaching that contradicts Scripture.

However, the term “firstborn” refers to the Mosaic law, and can reference the eldest of several, but also can be applicable to an only son.
The firstborn sons of Israel received the inheritance.  If he were an only child, he would not be excluded from the inheritance because he is not, literally, a firstborn, but actually an only born.  Rather, it was understood that firstborn sons referred to both eldest AND only sons.



In this verse,  "The Lord said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and beast, is mine.’"--Exodus 13: 1-2   The Hebrews did not only present to God those children who were the eldest of many, but any child (son) who was born first.  Including only sons.

In Exodus 34:20 the Israelites are commanded to "redeem" their firstborn:  "The firstling of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. The firstborn among your sons you shall redeem.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed." They did not wait until a second child was born before presenting their firstborn child.  He was a firstborn even if no further children were conceived.

The "firstborn" were not given this designation when there became a "second-born." They were deemed "firstborn" at their birth. Jesus being "firstborn" does not require that more siblings be born after him. 

As for why Catholics seem to be so focused on Mary's Perpetual Virginity, the response is this:  any doctrine/teaching on Mary only serves to enhance and highlight our understanding of Jesus.  An impoverished understanding of Mary leads to an impoverished understanding of her Son.

Because the womb which contained He Who Could Not Be Contained was especially set apart, we know that what was contained in Mary's womb was like no other.  If this womb held other sinful creatures, how special could that first "creature" have been?

It's like the Ark of the Covenant, when it was through carrying the Divine Presence, later carrying some pretty desert pebbles. That wouldn't make sense, would it?

Imagine trying to evangelize a Muslim. He could validly say to a Christian: "You believe Mary had other children? Hmmm....if Jesus were divine, how could the womb which carried him also carry other sinful creatures? I don't think Jesus could have been God if the womb which carried him also carried mere humans?"

So Catholics are better equipped to proclaim the Divinity of Christ, when we proclaim the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Apologist Mark Shea on Mary's Perpetual Virginity

Catholics Come Home
 
 
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, October 29, 2012

Isn't Praying to the Saints Un-Biblical?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

In light of our Church's celebration of the Feast of All Saints, I thought it was important to address this question that is often posed to Catholics.

The objections to praying to the saints are many and look like this:

  1. Saints are dead.  How can they hear us?
  2. Jesus is the ONLY mediator.  So why do Catholics elevate saints to mediators?
  3. How can people in heaven hear all the simultaneous prayers of billions of people? 
  4. Where in the Bible does it say we're supposed to pray to saints?
  5. Why not go directly to Jesus?
Regarding objection #1 that saints are dead, that is easily refuted by John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  This verse proclaims that those in heaven have not "perished", but rather have "eternal life". Thus, the saints in heaven are not dead but are ALIVE in Christ.  Even more ALIVE than we are here on earth!


Regarding #2, the objection that Jesus is the ONLY mediator is actually not found in the Bible. What the Bible actually says is that Jesus is the ONE mediator.  For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human-1 Tim 2:5.  That's a distinction that's important.  Jesus is, indeed, the ONE mediator, but through our union with him, we are all participants in this mediation.  Thus, Jesus is not the ONLY mediator.  We are ALL mediators, including the saints in heaven, who intercede for us eternally before the throne of heaven.

Incidentally, non-Catholics like to bring up that verse in 1 Timothy about Jesus being the One Mediator, but what's interesting is just a few verses earlier St. Paul tells us this:  First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone--1 Timothy 2:1, which is a request for us to be mediators for each other, isn't it?

Regarding #3 asking how they could hear a multitude of prayers simultaneously, we know that Scripture tells us, Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him--1 Cor 2:9.  What those who are rejoicing with God in heaven, joined eternally as the Body of Christ, can do is not limited by our finite and limited reasoning. 

Regarding #4 which asks where it can be found in the Bible, there's the standard response:  why do we have to find everything we believe in the pages of the Bible? Where does the Bible state that?  (Answer:  no where. That's a man-made tradition that many have been duped into believing).  Also, we can ask the non-Catholic, "Where does it say in the Bible that we can't pray to saints in heaven?" 

Objection #4 segues nicely into a question that I like to pose to Protestants who ask me, "Where is Doctrine X  in the Bible?"  The question I pose is this:  "If it's not in the Bible does that mean it's allowed, or does that mean it's prohibited?"

The question is troubling for most Bible-alone Christians because they will see their inconsistency.  On the one hand, they will say, for things such as praying to the saints,  "Well, if it's not in the Bible then it's not allowed. You can't pray to saints because it's not in the Bible."  But on the other hand, they will say, for things such as contraception, "Well, if it's not in the Bible then it is allowed.  So you can use the Pill because it doesn't say you can't in the Bible."

In other words, the Bible-alone Christian needs to be consistent.  Either follow this paradigm: "Where the Bible is silent on an issue, it is forbidden."  OR!  follow this paradigm, "Where the Bible is silent on an issue it is permissible."  But they ought not pick and choose when to apply these paradigms. 

Finally, regarding objection #5 on why not go to Jesus Directly.  2 words:  Prayer Chains.

In other words, almost all non-Catholic Christians who object to praying to the saints because they believe we should go to Jesus Directly also have Prayer Chains.  If they really believed that we should go to Jesus Directly then they wouldn't have prayer chains.  They would simply, individually, pray for their own private intentions directly to Jesus.  But they understand the power of the prayers of a righteous man and thus ask for the intercession of others through the Prayer Chain.

Praying to the saints is nothing more than a Prayer Chain, extended to the Heavenly Body of Christ!

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Any Friend of God's is a Friend of Mine
 


"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Did the Catholic Church support slavery at one time?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer:  nope.

Long answer:  that the Bible mentions slavery (Ephesians 6:5, for example) and does not specifically refer to it as an inherently evil institution is true.  That is because slavery in the ancient world was a different animal, so to speak, than the relatively modern form of racial slavery that we're familiar with.  Slaves in Roman and Biblical times could own property, run businesses, earn their freedom, and were considered to be inherently worthy of human rights.  It was a form of indentured servitude that, while restricting the liberty of individuals, was of a different quality than that which we think of today. 

Today, when we discuss slavery we mean enslaving an individual who is regarded as nothing more than the property of another, and as a being without inherent human dignity; in other words, as an object rather than a human person. Under this definition, slavery is intrinsically evil, since no person ought to be reduced to the status of a mere object and property of another person.

A common objection to Catholicism that is presented is that the Church did nothing to condemn racial slavery.

However, there are popes who made scathing indictments of slavery.  To wit:  Pope Paul III, who demanded that Christians stop enslaving Indians in Sublimus Dei.

The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved;
Also, Pope Eugene issued a papal bull, Sicut Dudum, which condemned the enslavement of the people of the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa.
And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands, and made captives since the time of their capture, and who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free, and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of money. If this is not done when the fifteen days have passed, they incur the sentence of excommunication by the act itself, from which they cannot be absolved, except at the point of death, even by the Holy See, or by any Spanish bishop, or by the aforementioned Ferdinand, unless they have first given freedom to these captive persons and restored their goods. We will that like sentence of excommunication be incurred by one and all who attempt to capture, sell, or subject to slavery, baptized residents of the Canary Islands, or those who are freely seeking Baptism, from which excommunication cannot be absolved except as was stated above.
Despite this evidence, some critics of the Catholic Church persist in their claim that the Church was silent on slavery.

It is crucial, when considering the Church's history with slavery, to always distinguish between our current concepts of racial slavery, and the "indentured servitude" that often was described as "slavery". The Church condemned unjust enslavement of peoples from the very beginning but it also acknowledged  "indentured servitude."

And just to add some interesting history to the mix, here's a troubling fact I discovered: one of our popes, Pope Innocent VII, apparently accepted the gift of 100 slaves from Ferdinand II of Aragon, and distributed those slaves to his cardinals and the Roman nobility http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_slavery

Eek!

I suppose one must understand that there have been many vile, repulsive popes in the history of our Church.  Some murdered.  Some were adulterers.  Some, according to the wiki article, also accepted and distributed slaves.  It is troubling, indeed, to read the stories of these men who shepherded the Church, but we must always keep in mind that none of these men ever led the Church astray in their teachings.  That their lives did not reflect the beauty and majesty of the Truths of Christ is shameful, but one ought not confuse the men with the Office of the Papacy.


For more in-depth study visit these websites:

The Popes and Slavery

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's the Catholic response to this Atheist cartoon?



AtheistDogma-b.jpg AtheistDogma-b
source

My response as a Catholic is:  that's ree-DANK-u-lous!  Religious truth is not a preference, or an opinion, as one's favorite color is.  It's a truth in the same arena as mathematical truth, or grammatical truth, or philosophical truth.

That is, we as parents provide our children with truth; indeed, it is our OBLIGATION to give them truth!  

I wish I could draw cartoons because this conversation is what I would draw in response:

Child: I love spelling ATHEIST "E-P-H-I-E-S-T!"

Parent:  Sure, sweetheart.  You spell words any way that you believe your heart tells you to spell! How do YOU want to spell it?  Follow your heart in spelling!  And in math!  And in grammar!  I'll speak to those mean old teachers that tell you that "It don't matter" is incorrect grammar, and who give you an F for saying 2 + 2 = 5.  And when that bridge collapses that you try to build as an engineer because you went with what your heart told you to do, rather than with those dogmatic, dictatorial, intolerant, bigoted mathematical and physics laws, well, I'll be there for you, sweetie!

So, yeah, it's true that parents ought not dictate to our children what their preferences are. 
But religious truth, just like mathematical truth, is not quite the same category as whether butter pecan is better than mint chip ice cream.  (My preference:  neither.  Both are icky, IMHO!)




"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, July 9, 2012

Doesn't the Bible specifically mention Jesus' brothers and sisters? So how can the Catholic Church proclaim that Mary was ever-virgin?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The above question is a common one posed to Catholics, especially in light of today's Gospel, which states:
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,

and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?"--Mark 6
And yet the Catholic Church proclaims that Mary was Perpetual Virgin.  Isn't this another example of the Church thinking it's above the Scriptures and can contradict God's Word?

Firstly,
Brothers and Sisters, you will note that while the Scripture does mention that Jesus had brothers and sisters, the Bible--NOWHERE--ever describes them as "sons of Mary."  We can search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and will not find a single reference to anyone being a son of Mary except Jesus. 
Thus, the Scriptures describe "brothers of the Lord", but never "sons of Mary".

Secondly,
Brothers and Sisters, the Scripture do indeed give us hints as to who these "brothers" of Jesus actually were *(see below).

Thirdly, Brothers and Sisters, you will indeed note in numerous places that the inspired writers do indeed call lots of people "brothers and sisters" while it doesn't necessarily mean they actually shared the same womb.  It could mean a multitude of things:  spiritual brothers and sisters (as in the reference I use today to you, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ), cousins (ancient culture often had a concept that all relatives were, essentially, as close to you as your family of origin), step brothers, adopted brothers, half brothers...

Fourthly, the Church's teachings can never contradict Scripture.  Both come from the same source:  Jesus Christ, and thus truth cannot contradict truth.  The deposit of faith comes to us from Christ through the Apostles and their successors (our Bishops), and the Scriptures reflect this faith. 

(Incidentally,
the Catholic Church is not the only Christian church that proclaims that Mary was ever-virgin.  Lutherans, Episcopalians, and, of course, the Orthodox churches also believe this.)

Finally, many will ask:  who cares if Mary was Perpetually a Virgin?  All that's important is that we know she was a virgin prior to Jesus, so we know that Jesus is the son of God and not the son of another man.  The Catholic answer is:  all doctrines/dogmas/teachings about Mary only serve to enhance and affirm our understanding of Jesus. 

In other words:  All things about Mary point to Jesus and His Divinity.  An impoverished understanding of Mary leads to an impoverished understanding of Our Lord.



*Explanation of who the Brothers of Jesus were:

1. Jesus had a “brother” named James.
2. There is an apostle named James, identified as the Lord's brother.

“Then, after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother.-Galatians 1:18-19

3. Two apostles are named James.

“When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”-Luke 6:13-16
One James (the brother of John) is not the womb brother of Jesus; his father is Zebedee.

            “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)”--Mark 3:17

The other apostle named James is not the uterine brother of Jesus; his father is Alpheus.

“And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he called apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter and Andrew his brother, and James and John and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew and James the son of Alpheus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”--Luke 6:13-16

Therefore, neither apostle named James was a womb brother of Jesus.

4. The man named Joses is not the womb brother of Jesus; his mother is Mary and his brother is James. Therefore, this Mary is the wife of Alphaeus.
“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.” --Matthew 27:55-56

5. Judas is not a womb brother of Jesus because he is the son of James.
“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.” --Acts 1:13

6. Regarding Simon, not much is known, but suffice it to say that if the above "brothers" have been dismissed as possibilities as sons of Mary, we can assume that Simon, too, in association with those listed, is also not a womb brother.
Thus, while this Sunday's gospel declares James, Joses and Judas to be the “brothers” of Jesus, it has been demonstrated that they are NOT womb brothers of Jesus. From this, it is apparent that scripture must be using the term “brothers” to mean relatives other than sons of Mary. Adapted from here
 
I apologize for the multicolored, oddly spaced text today. Not sure why it's not following my text commands!
 
For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Answers Tract:  The Case for Mary's Perpetual Virginity
 
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15