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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why can't Catholics just read the Bible and be guided by the Holy Spirit?

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

Short answerwe can.  We must.  Catholics are mandated to contemplate and study the Bible--it is the Word of God!  We must "ponder and treasure these things" in our hearts. (Dei Verbum)

We are most certainly free--indeed obligated--to meditate upon the Scriptures and see what God is telling us privately, personally. For example, if I am prayerfully asking for direction as to how to provide food for my family when I've lost my job, and then I turn to Scripture and open to the verses in which Jesus multiplies the loaves...well, I am certainly free to interpret that as God telling me, "Don't worry, my beloved! I will take care of that!"

However, the fire that lit the Protestant Reformation (PR) was the rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church to be the guardian and final interpreter of the Word of God.  What was wrought by the PR was the idea of, "me, my Bible and the Holy Spirit", and I don't need a Church to tell me what it means!  This paradigm, sadly, has led to doctrinal chaos and confusion.

It is the reason that, instead of One Church, established by Jesus,  delivered to His Apostles, handed on to bishops through 2000 years of apostolic succession, we now have the obscenity of tens of thousands of different Christian denominations, each claiming that their interpretations of Scripture are the correct ones.  It has led to the doctrinal chaos and confusion that now leads millions of folks to a multitude of differing beliefs, each from reading, curiously, the same Scripture verses! 

There are denominations that preach that baptism is an ordinance.  No!  It's one of the 2 sacraments!  It needs to be done in a river!  No!  It needs to be done by sprinkling!  And Bible verses will be quoted to support their views.

There are denominations that preach that we cannot lose our salvation once we accept Jesus into our hearts.  No! Other preachers say that the Bible clearly teaches that we can, indeed, falter and lose our way, even after becoming a Christian.  Scripture verses will be provided by both denominations, each ostensibly supporting their contradictory points of view.

There are denominations that preach that Saturday should be the day of worship. And others that profess that Sunday is the Lord's Day.  Scripture verses will be cited to support their contradictory views.

The fruit of the PR's denial of the authority of the Catholic Church to be the Bible's authentic interpreter is that every day there are churches like this one popping up on every street corner in the US. 


Each one claiming that they have the correct vision of Christ's words.  Each one answerable to no authority save that of their own fallible pastor's personal interpretations and practices.

When a person reads and studies the Bible, comes to a differing opinion than his pastor, the natural result of this type of "me, the Bible and the Holy Spirit" thinking is that this person now feels free to start his own church.  Reason tells us that this cannot be what Jesus envisioned for His Body, the Church.  It cannot be good that there is doctrinal chaos and confusion with thousands and thousands of differing understandings of what the Bible says.  That's just what the devil ordered, in my opinion. 

We need a Church that is the guardian and authentic interpreter of the Word of God, so when there are disagreements about the Scriptures (and there most certainly will be, for the Scriptures themselves say that there are things that are "hard to understand")

In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. --2 Peter 3:16
we will have the assurance that we will be guided by Christ himself, through His Body, the Church,  to the correct meaning.

"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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Praying to Saints--Dead People Can't Hear You!

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

This Sunday's Gospel proclaims the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

We will hear this passage:

And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.--Luke 9

I love this passage as far as apologetics goes, when it comes to the objection that non-Catholic Christians often pose against the Catholic practice of praying to saints. 

Here's something from an anti-Catholic website that is called "Just for Catholics" and poses many, many objections to Catholicism.  Here, the author states: 
You pray to dead saints and bow down before graven images, contrary to the second commandment.
Of course those in heaven are not dead!  They are more alive in Christ than we are.  The saints can indeed hear us!  They can do this and so much more, for "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him."--1 Cor 2:9

That's why I love this gospel so much.  It's a great example of 2 saints in heaven--Moses and Elijah--conversing with someone on earth!

And since we've established that those in heaven are not "dead" spirits, then what's wrong with asking them to pray for us?  Isn't this practice nothing more than a heavenly prayer chain?  We are asking for their intercession, in the same way that we might ask a holy friend to pray for us before surgery.  We are not worshipping them. Catholics worship God alone!  Even the most clueless Catholics don't think that we worship statues!

Incidentally, bowing down before statues does not contradict the 2nd commandment as the anti-Catholic website accuses us of doing. Worshipping idols is what contradicts the 2nd commandment, not merely bowing down before a statue. 

And bowing down is not the same as worshipping.

This photo is a great example of Protestant worshippers bowing down before a box of kleenex.  Clearly, no one here is worshipping the box of kleenex, right?  


So it's curious that Catholics get accused of worshipping statues.

Incidentally the Scriptures are full of examples of bowing as a sign of reverence, not of worship.  
See Genesis 18:2
Genesis 23:7
Numbers 22:31
2 Samuel 9:6
Luke 24:5

Despite the numerous objections we Catholics might encounter regarding the practice of the veneration of the saints, each one can be indeed be refuted!

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, February 4, 2013

What is Sacred Tradition?

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

In light of next Sunday's 2nd reading, I thought I'd address the question of Sacred Tradition.

Note what Sacred Tradition is not:  it is not customs or man-made traditions.  The Catholic Church has some of these traditions or customs, such as bowing our heads when praying,  having a church steeple, decorating the church during Christmas, flowers on the altar...

But this is not to be confused with Sacred Tradition. 

Catholics profess that the Word of God has been revealed to us through two channels:  Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition.  Thus, Sacred Tradition is the Word of God that is contained in the teachings of the Apostles, preserved for us via the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed by the Church. 

"Sacred Tradition is the living and growing truth of Christ contained, not only in Scripture, but in the common teaching, common life, and common worship of the Church......It simply acted as a lens and refocused the light of Scripture so that something which had been hidden there was now visible. For, despite appearances, the dogmatic definitions of the Church do not just pop up with absolutely no relation to Scripture. Rather, they assemble the materially sufficient revelation of Scripture using the mortar of Sacred Tradition. And that Tradition is not separate, secret and parallel to Scripture, but the common teaching, life, and worship of the Church......The biblical Council, like the modern Catholic Church, places Scripture in the context of Tradition and magisterial, apostolic authority.....The Church does not sit down and derive the dogma from the tortured reading of a few isolated texts of Scripture. Rather, it places the Scripture in the context of the Tradition handed down by the apostles and the interpretive office of the bishops they appointed." --Apologist Mark Shea

Our 2nd reading this Sunday offers examples from St. Paul of what we mean by Sacred Tradition:

I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:--1 Corinthians 15

In other words, Sacred Tradition, as St. Paul says, is the gospel preached to the early Christians, BY WORD OF MOUTH.  As the New Testament had not yet been compiled, he could not have been referencing the Bible when he talks about the "gospel" preached to them, and to hold fast to the "word" preached to them.  Rather, what he was alluding to was the paradosis--or, the Word of God orally proclaimed through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  AKA Sacred Tradition. 

Incidentally, when in dialogue with Christians who object to the Catholic view of Sacred Tradition and who hold a Sola Scriptura (or, Bible Alone) point of view, it might be helpful to show them that they do indeed believe some things NOT found in the Bible, and thus are contradicting their Sola Scriptura paradigm.

Most Christians believe these things that are not found in the Bible:

-the table of contents of the Bible.  That is, the canon of Scripture, or what books are considered inspired (or God-breathed) and what books are not inspired.  There were over 400 ancient Christian texts that the bishops of the early Church either affirmed or rejected as being inspired.  Thus, when a Christian says that he knows that the Gospel of Mark is inspired, it is because of Sacred Tradition.  Not from the Bible.  For the Bible does not say that the Gospel of Mark is inspired. (And even if an ancient text did claim inspiration, does claiming to be inspired make it so? Nope.)

-that revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.  Not in the Bible, but believed by a majority of Protestants.

-that the canon of Scripture is closed.  Christians believe that there are no further books that may be considered inspired.  This is something known by Tradition, but not found in the Bible.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Newsletter by Apologist John Martignoni on Sacred Tradition

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