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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 Prepared by a St.Denis parishioner

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