Friday, December 28, 2012

Mary: Mother of God

Fundamentalists are sometimes horrified when the Virgin Mary is referred to as the Mother of God. However, their reaction often rests upon a misapprehension of not only what this particular title of Mary signifies but also who Jesus was, and what their own theological forebears, the Protestant Reformers, had to say regarding this doctrine.

A woman is a man’s mother either if she carried him in her womb or if she was the woman contributing half of his genetic matter or both. Mary was the mother of Jesus in both of these senses; because she not only carried Jesus in her womb but also supplied all of the genetic matter for his human body, since it was through her—not Joseph—that Jesus "was descended from David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3).

Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God. There is no way out of this logical syllogism, the valid form of which has been recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ.

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither. Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.

To avoid this conclusion, Fundamentalists often assert that Mary did not carry God in her womb, but only carried Christ’s human nature. This assertion reinvents a heresy from the fifth century known as Nestorianism, which runs aground on the fact that a mother does not merely carry the human nature of her child in her womb. Rather, she carries the person of her child. Women do not give birth to human natures; they give birth to persons. Mary thus carried and gave birth to the person of Jesus Christ, and the person she gave birth to was God.

The Nestorian claim that Mary did not give birth to the unified person of Jesus Christ attempts to separate Christ’s human nature from his divine nature, creating two separate and distinctpersons—one divine and one human—united in a loose affiliation. It is therefore a Christological heresy, which even the Protestant Reformers recognized. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin insisted on Mary’s divine maternity. In fact, it even appears that Nestorius himself may not have believed the heresy named after him. Further, the "Nestorian" church has now signed a joint declaration on Christology with the Catholic Church and recognizes Mary’s divine maternity, just as other Christians do.

Since denying that Mary is God’s mother implies doubt about Jesus’ divinity, it is clear why Christians (until recent times) have been unanimous in proclaiming Mary as Mother of God.


Friday, December 21, 2012

December 25

This coming Tuesday we will be celebrating Christmas, the Incarnation, His coming in the flesh and anticipating His return at the end of time.  We celebrate His birth on December 25, but why the 25th of December?  Is it because Jesus was truly born on that day of the year?

From the very first years of Christianity there’s been disagreement as to when exactly our Lord was born.  Historical documents and even Catholic tradition disagree with each other as well.  I personally believe the Church chose this date and did so for a reason.

Many individuals, even certain groups of Christians accuse the Catholic Church of setting the date in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 to accommodate the pagans of the day.  While its true that many festivals were being celebrated at, or near, Dec 25 doesn’t necessarily mean that the Church chose that date to counteract those pagan festivals or even worse to introduce pagan ideas into the Catholic religion.  It does make one wonder, doesn’t it?   

We know that December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers.  The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier December 21.

Of the three possibilities, what influenced the Church in choosing December 25 in helping newly converted Christians to remain in the Catholic Church?  In my opinion, I believe it would be all three festivals.

Isn’t Jesus Christ the utmost Ruler of the world surpassing the ‘unconquered sun’?  He is indeed the unconquered Son.  And the same applies to the “Sun of Righteousness”, isn’t Jesus the True Righteous One?  We see definite parallels here and it would therefore make sense to set the celebration of our Lord and Righteous one on that same day.

Even more striking is when we look at the celebration of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.  Pagans celebrated this day to commemorate the lengthening of the days identifying it as the beginning of a new year.  What many haven’t noticed though is that the shortest day of the year is indeed on December 21 but the days don’t begin to lengthen for another 4 days.  The start of the lengthening of days is what I believe is the most compelling reason in choosing December 25 as the day to celebrate the Incarnation because Jesus is indeed the light of the world (John 9:5).  Therefore celebrating His birth on the day of the year when the daylight hours begin lengthening seems to be a perfect choice.
Ultimately, we don’t know exactly what day of the year our Lord was born.  And His Church doesn’t need to be historically accurate in choosing a date to celebrate His birth so long as we don’t forget what we are celebrating when that day of the year arrives.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Immaculate Conception

The Marian doctrines are, for Fundamentalists, among the most bothersome of the Catholic Church’s teachings. In this tract we’ll examine briefly a Marian doctrine that Fundamentalist writers frequently object to—the Immaculate Conception.
It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter"). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind.Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.

Fundamentalists’ Objections
Fundamentalists’ chief reason for objecting to the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s consequent sinlessness is that we are told that "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Besides, they say, Mary said her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior.

Let’s take the second citation first. Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.

Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that she was "redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son" (CCC 492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!

But what about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Have all people committed actual sins? Consider a child below the age of reason. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. This is indicated by Paul later in the letter to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11).

We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So if Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the New Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the New Eve (Mary) can also be made.

Paul’s comment seems to have one of two meanings. It might be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass of mankind (which means young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out). If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception, is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for the unborn, even for Mary—but she, though due to be subject to it, was preserved by God from it and its stain.

The objection is also raised that if Mary were without sin, she would be equal to God. In the beginning, God created Adam, Eve, and the angels without sin, but none were equal to God. Most of the angels never sinned, and all souls in heaven are without sin. This does not detract from the glory of God, but manifests it by the work he has done in sanctifying his creation. Sinning does not make one human. On the contrary, it is when man is without sin that he is most fully what God intends him to be.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was "invented" at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.

Actually, doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine. In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Readings

During this Advent season I would like to point out a few things that I believe many churchgoers don’t notice.  There are four Sundays during the Advent season and then comes Christmas.  The Church has chosen readings pertaining to themes for every Sunday Mass to help us prepare for December 25th. 

In the first Gospel reading of the Advent season are words spoken to the Apostles by Jesus.  He said that people will die of fright, they’ll be dismayed and perplexed by the signs in the sea and the sky (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).  It is a message of what is to come, that the grandeur and awe-inspiring signs prior to the coming of our Savior will be frightening and perplexing.

In the second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 9, today), we see that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6) in the Gospel reading.  We know that not all flesh has yet seen the salvation of God, ie Jesus.  Therefore, we are not talking about preparing for the reminiscing of His first coming, Christmas but of Jesus’ Second Coming when He comes after the signs in the sky and the sea that will perplex and frighten.  At that time we know that everyone will know the truth of who He is and every knee shall bow (Phil 2:10).

The third Sunday of Advent, which is traditionally Gaudette Sunday, the Gospel reading is one of encouragement.  This sentiment is most clearly seen in the second reading when Paul exclaims: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  In fact, just as we feel a sentiment of fulfillment when we give of our time, effort, and belongings this is how Jesus would have us rejoicing, by sharing with others of our good fortunes, to treat others fairly and so on.  As Paul said, “Our kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.

The fourth Sunday of Advent, next week, we have the reading of the Visitation when the expecting Mary goes to visit her cousin in the hills of Judea.  Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Indeed, blessed are we all who believe that what was spoken by the Lord about His Coming will be fulfilled!

The rationale for this explanation was to show you that the Church chooses readings for a particular reason trying to make a point and to prepare us for a special day or season, Christmas in this case.  You’ll find the Church does the same thing in choosing the different readings for any given Sunday as well so that a particular Sunday will have a general theme to it.  I’ll leave it up to you to discern them for yourselves.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Miracles in the Early Church part 2

How are you to decide who is teaching the truth when competing versions are being circulated?  Who can decide whether a prophet is true or false?  Well, the answer to that question is pretty straightforward:  It’s those who are placed in the ordinary capacity as God’s teachers.


To understand how this came to be, we need to look back at John 21:15-17


Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."

A second time Jesus said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."

A third time Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" and so he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!" Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.”


“Feed my sheep.”  These words are full of profound meaning.  It has been too little commented upon, but when Jesus made the simple statement “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), He made one of His most startling claims to divinity.  Every Jew in Palestine would have been familiar with this ancient prophetic statement.


I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken.  "I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick… I will judge each of my sheep and separate the good from the bad.”  (Eze 34:15, 16, 22-24)


It was in this context that we find Jesus, the humble carpenter, saying :


I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep.  When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them.  The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep.  I am the good shepherd …And I am willing to die for them… they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”  (John 10:14-16)


But what happens to the flock once the shepherd returns to the Father? The answer, according to the testimony of the early Church, lies in these words, spoken by the Good Shepherd to Simon Peter, representative of a simple band of Galilean fishermen:    Feed my sheep.”


Jesus gave Peter, and by extension the other Apostles, the commission of feeding the sheep, to be their shepherd, and they in turn chose other men to continue this vocation (2 Tim 2:2).  But what of those who taught falsehoods?  Simon Magus is believed to be the founder of the ancient heresy called Gnosticism, Christianity’s oldest and most obstinate rival.  A former disciple of Philip the evangelist, Simon apostatized to become the first person in recorded history to teach falsehood in the holy name of Jesus. 


But how would ordinary believers have reacted to a second set of “Christian” apostles preaching on their streets?  Would it have been obvious that there was a wolf under the sheepskin?  Not necessarily because even though Jesus had said that we would know them by their fruits, by their miracles, we know that some produced counterfeit fruits.  Historical records tell us that Simon Magus had many “miracles” to his credit and a large number of converts as well.  The Apostle Paul seems to be addressing this very dilemma when he wrote: “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:15)


The predicament was very real, if the prospective shepherds all look like angels how are those seeking Truth to choose between them?  How on earth does a common Roman laymen in AD 50 – only just hearing of Jesus for the first time – supposed to know which are His true disciples and which the false?  Do not underestimate this problem, we may casually imagine that these early believers had only to pull out their pocket New Testament to send these dangerous pretenders packing, tails between their legs.  This was completely impossible; the Church had been preaching the gospel for at least 10 years before a single line of the New Testament was written.  She had been doing these things for over fifty years before the final line was completed.  And even then some may have been introduced to Matthew’s Gospel and perhaps one or two letters from Paul – but even these would have been circulating as loose individual works; over 300 years would pass before they ever came to be bound together in one authoritative canon that today we call the Bible.


The solution is quite simple.  When confronted with two conflicting stories, all one needed to do was find the “…man [that] was with Jesus of Nazareth” (Mat 26:71).  He had simply to ask to traditional question:  Which men had been with Jesus?  That fact alone, once truly established, banished all doubt. 


Jesus Christ appointed twelve apostles to teach His doctrines and exercise His authority after He ascended into heaven (Matt 28:16-20).  He gave them specific authority to speak and teach what He taught (Mat 18:15-17, Eph 2:19-20, 1 Thess 4:2, 2 Pet 3:2), and He warned all of His followers of the consequences of private teaching outside of the Church (Matt 18:16-17, 1 Cor 5:5, 1 Tim 2:20, 2 Pet 1:20-21).  Most importantly, however, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles in truth (John 14:16-17), which would distinguish them from the false prophets who would later introduce false doctrines and heresies (2 Pet 2:1).  This is the reason why St Paul described the Church as the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ (1 Tim 3:15), and not the bible which can be twisted by the untaught and unstable (2 Pet 3:16).  The only way that any group can claim to have the truth is if they teach what the Apostles taught, either written or oral (2 Thess 2:15).


Jesus established His Church in an hierarchical structure.  If Jesus’ words were not meant eternally and were to be understood simply in His time, then the authority of the Apostles which Christ gave to them would have died with the last Apostle.  This would leave the Church without leadership and in total confusion when serious doctrinal questions and problems occurred (no point in relying on Scripture since many of the heretics used Scripture to defend their positions.)  The other option, the much more likely and divinely consistent one, is that the Apostles would choose successors, passing on to them what they learned from the Lord, and in turn giving them not only the authority to teach but also the divine promise to correctly interpret God’s written and inspired word when speaking for the whole Church as a group in communion with the one directly appointed to lead Jesus’ Church, Peter and then his successors which we call ‘Pope’.


So why so few miracles through today’s teachers of the faith?  Because so long as one can find who are the rightful successors of the Apostles there is no need of miracles to determine what is the Truth.  The Truth is readily found in the rightful successors because Jesus promised them that they would be lead into ALL truth (John 16:13)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Miracles in the Early Church

I’ve heard the verse on Romans 10 used a few times to explain that Protestant ministers are sent by God to preach the Gospel, verse 14 says: “how shall they hear without a preacher?” showing the need for preachers.  But the question remains of who can be a preacher because it also says in the next verse:How shall they preach unless they be sent?


My question to those preaching is, ‘who sent you?’  Who does the sending of those called to preach the Good News?  Is it the ministers?  If so, which Protestant ministers can send?  Lutherans, Calvinist, Amish, Anglicans, Methodist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Quakers, Episcopalian, Salvation Army, Adventis, Presbytarian, Shakers, Wesleyan, Brethren, Church of Nazarene, or one of hundreds of splinter denominations from these?  The splintering of so many different denominations believing differently on issues involving our salvation is an important factor in showing the most obvious problems of finding the one who is truly speaking God’s Word (Issues like “what kind of faith saves? Is baptism necessary? Needed? Is baptism for infants? Must baptism be by immersion only? Can one lose salvation? How? Can it be gotten back? How? Is the Real Presence true? Are spiritual gifts like tongues and healing for today? For everyone? What about predestination? What about free will?). 


One possible solution to this dilemma entails the individual to be sent by God personally and directly.  Seeing as there is a definite possibility that many will mistakenly believe they were sent by God and thereby quite possibly teach falsehoods, there must be a way to verify their ‘pedigree’.    Since we know that Jesus is the ‘way, the TRUTH, and the life’ then finding the preacher truly preaching the truth is rather important because to listen and accept the truth is to listen and accept Jesus Himself. 


How are you to decide who is preaching the True Gospel Message?  Scripture tells us that those preaching God’s Word performed miracles as proof of the veracity of their message.  Indeed, the one sent was often asked by his listeners to prove that he has indeed been sent by God by giving ‘signs’, ie miracles.  (Exo 8:16-19; 13:7-16; 1 King 18:36-39; 2 Kings 4:15-17; Acts 13:6-11; Acts 3:5…).  Most notably in John (3:2; 9:16; 11:47; 12:37), even Jesus admittedDo not believe me, then, if I am not doing the things my Father wants me to do.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, you should at least believe my deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in me and that I am in the Father." (John 10:37-38)


All through His Passion and up to His Ascension, Jesus seems to be acutely concerned of the future of His fragile little flock. On the night of His betrayal we find Jesus “deeply troubled”, He lifted His eyes to heaven and called out a great high-priestly prayer for this ragged band of working men: “While I was with them, I kept them in thy name…But now I am coming to thee…Sanctify them in the truth.” (John 17:13a, 17)


Sanctify them in the truth.  Jesus has come to give humanity the words of truth given to Him by His Father.  But now that the Son is going back to the Father, how will the world know that He was ever here?  And that He really was sent by God?  How will His work be preserved and continued?  What happens to the flock once the shepherd returns to the Father? “I did come from the Father, and I came into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (John 16:28).  As we wondered before, how will Christ’s work be continued?  If God’s sheep starved for truth at the hands of false religious teachers under the Old Covenant, will not His New Testament flock again be defenseless after the Shepherd ascends back “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17)


One possible answer is to follow those who performed miracles to prove that they were truly sent by God.  The Apostles themselves were sent by God directly since Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).  And a few years down the road, when there were wolves in sheep’s clothing preaching a different Gospel in Jesus’ name, all we need to do to know who speaking the truth is by verifying that one’s message is indeed from God, that is to find those who performed miracles in His Name, which would be the Apostles.  And we find them because of the authentication of their message through their miracles (Luke 9:1-6).


But what about false teachers?  They too will perform miracles.  There’s the problem, how can we discriminate between a true prophet and a false one?  And why no miracles through their successors, the bishops of the kind we saw performed by the Apostles?  Tune in next week for the answer.





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Friday, November 16, 2012

Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation or Penance)


In the Gospel of John, we see the power to forgive sins conferred by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles.  The power to forgive sins conferred upon priests validly ordained by a bishop would play a prominent role in the life and miracles of Padre Pio.  From 1918 to 1923, Padre Pio heard confessions fifteen to nineteen hours every day.  In the 1940s and 1950s, he generally heard confessions somewhat less than that, but still five to eight hours every day.

So many people wanted Padre Pio to hear their confessions that they generally had to wait two or three weeks before their turn came.  A numbering system began to be implemented in January, 1950.  There was also a rule instituted that you couldn’t go to confession to Padre Pio more than once every eight days.

One man from Padua, who had gone to confession to Padre Pio, tried to go to confession again before the eight-day waiting period had elapsed.  In order to circumvent the waiting-period, he lied about the amount of days that had passed since his last confession to Padre Pio.  When he entered the confessional, Padre Pio sent him out and forcefully accused him of his lie.  After being kicked out, the man said with tears, “I’ve told many lies during my lifetime, and I thought I could deceive Padre Pio too.” But Padre Pio had a supernatural knowledge of his action.

Padre Pio demanded that each confession be a true conversion.  He didn’t tolerate a lack of honesty in the explanation of sins.  He was very hard on those who made excuses, spoke insincerely, or lacked a firm resolution to change.  He demanded frankness and total honesty from the penitent.  He also required a true and sincere sorrow of heart, and an absolute firmness in a person’s resolutions for the future.

If the penitent wasn’t honest, or just read through the list of his or her sins without the firm resolution to change, Padre Pio would often growl “get out.”

One man who was thrown out of the confessional by Padre Pio stated: “What kind of blackguardly monk is that?  He did not give me time to say a word, but straightway called me an old pig and told me to get out!”  Another person said to this man that Padre Pio probably had good reasons for calling him an old pig and treating him in this way.  “I can’t think why,” said the man who had been thrown out of the confessional; and then, after a pause, the man said: “unless it is because I happen to be living with a woman who is not my wife.”

There are too many such stories to recount them all but I’ll share with you one more extraordinary anecdote and refer you to go do your own internet search or simply go to

Frederick Abresch was one of those penitents who had been converted after going to Padre Pio for confession. Here are some of the things he described about the story of his incredible conversion:

“In November of 1928, when I went to see Padre Pio for the first time, it had been a few years since I had passed from Protestantism to Catholicism, which I did out of social convenience.  I did not have the faith; at least now I understand that I was merely under the illusion of having it.  Having been raised in a highly anti-Catholic family and imbued with prejudices against dogmas to such a degree that a hasty instruction was unable to wipe out, I was always avid for secret and mysterious things.

“I found a friend who introduced me into the mysteries of spiritism.  Quite quickly, however, I got tired of these inconclusive messages from beyond the grave; I went fervently into the field of the occult, magic of all sorts, etc.  Then I met a man who declared, with a mysterious air, that he was in possession of the only truth: ‘theosophy’.  I quickly became his disciple, and on our nightstands we began accumulating books with the most enticing and attractive titles.  With self-assurance and self-importance, I used words like Reincarnation, Logos, Brahma, Maja, anxiously awaiting some great and new reality that was supposed to happen.

"I do not know why, although I believe it was above all to please my wife, but from time to time I still continued to approach the holy Sacraments.  This was my state of soul when, for the first time, I heard of that Capuchin Father who had been described to me as a living crucifix, working continual miracles.

 “Growing curious… I decided to go and see with my own eyes… I knelt down at the confessional [and told Padre Pio that]… I considered confession to be a good social and educational institution, but that I did not believe in the divinity of the Sacrament at all… The Padre, however, said with expressions of great sorrow, ‘Heresy!  Then all your Communions were sacrilegious… you must make a general confession.  Examine your conscience and remember when you last made a good confession.  Jesus has been more merciful with you than with Judas.’

 “Then, looking over my head with a stern eye, he said in a strong voice, ‘Praised be Jesus and Mary!’ and went over to the church to hear the women’s confessions, while I stayed in the sacristy, deeply moved and impressed.  My head was spinning and I could not concentrate.  I still heard in my ears: ‘Remember when you last made a good confession!’  With difficulty I managed to reach the following decision: I would tell Padre Pio that I had been a Protestant, and that although after the abjuration I was rebaptized (conditionally), and all the sins of my past life were wiped out by virtue of holy Baptism, nevertheless, for my tranquility I wanted to begin the confession from my childhood.

 “When the Padre returned to the confessional, he repeated the question to me: ‘So when was the last time you made a good confession?’ I answered, ‘Father, as I was…’ but at that point the Padre interrupted me, saying, ‘…you last made a good confession when you were coming back from your honeymoon, let’s leave everything else aside and begin from there!’

 “I remained speechless, shaken with a stupor, and I understood that I had touched the supernatural.  The Padre, however, did not leave me time to reflect.  Concealing his knowledge of my entire past, and in the form of questions, he listed all my faults with precision and clarity… After the Padre had brought all my mortal sins to light, with impressive words he made me understand the gravity of these faults, adding in an unforgettable tone of voice, ‘You have sung a hymn to Satan, while Jesus in His ardent love has broken His neck for you.’  Then he gave me my penance and absolved me… I believe not only in the dogmas of the Catholic Church, but also in the least of its ceremonies… to take away this faith, one would have to take away my life as well.’’

 Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 and carrying the stigmata for 50 years.  His legacy included 726 prayer groups with 68,000 members.  There are also twenty-two Padre Pio centers for handicapped children and one center for the blind.  As an example of the profound influence of his life, in 1997 six and a half million people visited Padre Pio’s tomb.

Padre Pio said what he would do after he died.  “I have made a pact with the Lord: when my soul has been purified in the flames of purgatory and deemed worthy to be admitted to the presence of God, I will take my place at the gate to paradise, but I shall not enter until I have seen the last of my spiritual children enter.”

Let us take advantage of such a gift of God by going to confession, to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as possible.



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Prepared by a St.Denis parishioner

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Communion of Saints

Paul calls all his fellow believers “saints” or “holy ones” and not just the notably exceptional Christian.  We see an example of this in Phillipians 4, verse 21 and 22.  It says: “Salute ye every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me salute you. All the saints salute you: especially they that are of Caesar's household.”  Paul also uses the term for both those who are living and for those who are dead. We find this very clearly in 2 Thess 1:9-10 and also in Jude 14-15:

2 Thess 1says:
“These (who do not acknowledge God nor heed the good news) will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes to be glorified among his holy ones and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, for our testimony to you was believed.”

And Jude 14-15 says:
“Enoch, of the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied also about them when he said, ‘Behold, the Lord has come with his countless holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone for all the godless deeds that they committed…”

This practice of Paul corresponds to one of the earliest creedal statements of Christian faith: The Apostles Creed: “I believe in the communion of saints.”  Communion of saints refers to the bond of unity among all believers, both living and dead, who are or have been committed followers of Jesus Christ.  In the eyes of God, in eternity, the distinction between His People who are ‘living’ or who are ‘dead’ is not at all important as we can see by the following Scripture verses:

Mk 9:4    “Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.”
Mk 12:26-27  “As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, (the) God of Isaac, and (the) God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead but of the living.  You are greatly misled.”

Rom 12:5   " …so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another."

Rom 8:38-9  "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This one body in Christ is called by the Catholic Church as The Mystical Body of Christ.  This concept, as seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is explained as: “The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.” (par. 1474)

Since we are “members of one another,” we can, in Christ and only in Christ, seek the prayers and help of fellow members of the Body, both here and in Heaven.  Seeing as all believers as a whole make up the one body in Christ, we are all connected to each other with Christ at the head.  But are those who are in heaven aware of what is happening here on earth that they could pray to God on our behalf?

What would be the point of asking for intercessory prayers if the people we are asking are not aware of us or of our prayers?  Well we can find that they ARE aware of us in:

Heb 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

 Mt 17:3   "Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus."

(If Jesus didn’t want any contact between saints on earth and saints in heaven, why did our Lord make a special point of appearing to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration in the company of Moses and Elijah, two ‘dead’ saints? (Patrick Madrid))

Rev 6:9-10  "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"

Luke 15:10  "…There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

We have just learned that the ‘dead saints’ are indeed aware of earthly doings, but can they do anything about it?  Are there intercessory prayers effective?  Of course there are.  Prayers of the righteous availeth much (Jas 5:16).  Who are more righteous than those who are in heaven?

I feel I must make clear that Jesus alone is our mediator, John Henry Cardinal Newman pointed out:
The Catholic Church allows no…Saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself, to come between the soul and its Creator…The devotions then to angels and saints as little interfered with the incommunicable glory of the Eternal, as the love which we bear our friends and relations, our tender human sympathies, are inconsistent with that supreme homage of the heart to the Unseen.  (Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, p.284-285)

We can therefore see that asking saints to pray for us (whether they are ‘living’ or ‘dead’) is acceptable, approved by God, and availeth much.  The communion of the Saints is nothing more that the recognition that saints after death (and angels) are more alive than us, aware of happenings on earth, desirous of aiding us, and able to be asked for help to assist us with their prayers of intercessions, always through Jesus, just as saints who are still ‘alive’ here on earth are able to do for us.

[Text adapted from ]

Friday, November 2, 2012

Voting Like a Catholic

In a few days, most of us will go vote for our next president of the United States.  So how do we choose between candidates?  What are the criteria that we are to use in determining who is best for the job?  Our leaders in the faith answer…

Archbishop of Baltimore mentioned what we are to ask ourselves when deciding.  He said: “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances?”

“If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person

We find in the words of another Archbishop that people “who are practicing Catholics cannot have alternate views on abortion.  Such foundational issues have a huge impact, and it’s important that Catholics make those distinctions.  A person may be right on a lot of secondary issues but wrong on the foundational issues.  And if that’s the case, it would be very difficult for a Catholic to vote for someone who, for example, favors unlimited access to abortion… undermines the meaning of marriage or supports policies that really undermine the foundation of our culture.

Archbishop Chaput also tells us “So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics—people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite - not because of - their pro-choice views.  But [Catholics who support ‘pro-choice’ candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it."

The passage following that sentence continued, "What is a ‘proportionate’ reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life - which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed."

And for this reason archbishop Chaput says:  I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.

If the only two candidates to vote for can both be labeled pro-abortion then Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican's highest court) said : “You may in some circumstances, where you don’t have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country.”

In fact, in a recent letter Bishop Ricken of Green Bay stated that the church has a responsibility to speak out regarding moral issues, especially on those issues that impact the “common good” and the “dignity of the human person.”

The bishop identified abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual “marriage” as non-negotiables.   The Bishop then stated:

 To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally complicit with these choices which are intrinsically evil,” the bishop warned. “This could put your own soul in jeopardy.”

Prepared by a St. Denis parishioner

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Vote for Evil?

Posted by Scott at 8/11/2012 08:30:00 AM
Re-printed with permission.


Catholic voters cannot support any candidate whose position is intrinsically evil. Baltimore's Archbishop Lori preached recently. Anyone who supports abortion is supporting murder, an intrinsic evil and no Catholic can, in good conscience or in good faith, vote for such a candidate. Likewise, a candidate who does not uphold THE definition of marriage as being the union of a man and a woman and supports homosexual "marriage" - with homosexuality being an intrinsic evil and an abomination to the Lord - cannot be supported in good conscience or faith. This really narrows the field for you!

Vote your conscience - vote your faith! What good is your faith if you don't LIVE it and EXPRESS it? Such would be known as a faith without works. You can express yourself as a Catholic all you want, but when it comes to actually LIVING your faith, do you? When you enter the privacy of that voting booth, do you pull the lever or fill in the blank for the candidate who supports the killing of innocent children in the womb? Will you vote for the candidate who supports marriage or the one who supports the dissolution of the first Sacrament God instituted which is specifically for a man and a woman? If you are not LIVING your faith, then you do not have a LIVING faith!

James 2:14 What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?

The simple answer to St. James' question is NO! That faith cannot and will not save him. If you exercise your freedom to vote in such a manner that you're voting for someone who supports values contrary to your faith - that would be even worse than the "dead faith" St. James speaks of, for YOUR works actually become EVIL WORKS when you stand in support of a candidate who supports such intrinsic evils.  [Blog site address:]


As Catholics we are obliged to vote pro-life but if the only two candidates to vote for can both be labeled pro-abortion then Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican's highest court) said : “You may in some circumstances, where you don’t have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why Homosexual Unions are not Marriages

Why should society sanction marriage at all?  Isn’t it the couple’s business and nobody else’s?

In fact, it is in society’s interest to recognize marriage, and that is why societies all over the world, throughout history, have done so.  The reason why is obvious:  In order to survive and prosper, societies need new members.

They constantly lose members – whether through illness, accident,  crime or simply old age.  One way or another, at some point, every single member of a society will die, and if these deaths are not offset by births, then the society will die.

Marriage, by its very nature, is the institution that brings new human beings into the world and raises them to be productive members of society.  If a society wants to survive and prosper, then, it is in its interest to recognize and help marriage in a special way.

Where marriage and families are threatened, society is threatened, and where marriage and families are strong, society is strong.

Society should not treat homosexual unions as marriages because they are not marriages.  Such unions are incapable, by their very nature, of producing children.  The parties do not complement each other the way that a man and a woman do.  A homosexual union is a fundamentally different thing than a marriage.  It isn’t a question of whether society should allow homosexual marriage.  It can’t.  No one can.


Since before recorded history, men and women have united to care for each other and to bring up children.  That happens in every culture, no matter where in the world.  In fact, a culture would die without those unions of men and women.  Marriage is thus a human universal, an institution that is built into human nature and that manifests itself in all societies.

But procreation is not the only issue.  Men and women are different in ways that go beyond reproduction.  Both physically and psychologically, they complement and complete each other in a manner that two people of the same sex do not.  These differences play an important role in raising children.  By setting examples of true fatherhood and motherhood, a husband and wife provide the kind of environment that helps children grow and develop properly.

You see, society is not denying marriage to homosexuals.  Instead, homosexual activists are asking society to redefine marriage so that the term applies to things that are not, in fact, marriages.

Even apart from procreation and raising children – as in the case of marriages which do not result in children due to infertility – the physical and psychological differences between men and women enable them to unite and thrive in a way two people of the same sex cannot.


When a country bases its policies on false premises, society suffers.  It does not matter what the policy is.  If its army misjudges the enemy’s position, it may suffer a crushing defeat.  If its economic policy is out of touch with reality, hard times will result.  And if a state becomes delusional about the nature of men and women, disaster is bound to follow.

This would be a further blow to marriage – beyond those it has already suffered from easy divorce, out-of-wedlock births, abortion, and contraception.

Any children being brought up by homosexual “parents” would also be harmed.  Whether the children were acquired by adoption, surrogacy, or

through a previous, heterosexual union, they would be raised with a false view of human sexuality and a defective set of moral values, as well as being denied the example of proper fatherhood and motherhood.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would lead to even further distortions of marriage.  If two people of the same sex can be married then there is no logical reason why other unions are not possible as well.  Polygamous unions with multiple spouses, of any combination of sexes, could follow.  Adult-child unions would be up for discussion.

There is the related question of nonsexual unions:  elderly friends, college roommates, etc.  If two people of the same sex can marry to obtain the legal benefits of marriage, then on what grounds would these people be denied them?

Applying the term “marriage” to unions other than those of a man and a woman ends up robbing marriage of meaning.  The logical end point of marriage redefinition would have to be recognizing unions of infinitely variable combinations of persons as marriages – otherwise you would be discriminating against some combinations.  When that happens, marriage – having become whatever you want it to be – has lost all meaning.


Taken from the booklet: 
Catholic Answers, Why Homosexual Unions Are Not Marriages, 27 pp., 2012

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