Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Time to Wake Up

Time to Wake Up

          Many Christians have been pathetically duped by the homosexual “marriage” lobby.  Because as Christians they believe in the equal dignity of every person, they have bought the lie that homosexual “marriage” will not, and is not meant to, damage marriage as an institution.
          Recently, an activist showed some refreshing candor and honesty on the subject, for which she should be commended.  This should be a reminder to all of us that being naïve is not a virtue.  As Christians we need to demonstrate Christian charity, not false compassion.  Authentic love can not be separated from Truth.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why do we Pray to Saints?

Why Do We Pray to Saints?

I was asked by a Baptist friend recently a question that many of us have fielded from our Protestant friends and neighbors: “Why do Catholics pray to Saints, instead of just going directly to Jesus?”  First it must be pointed out that we Catholics do pray directly to Jesus, all the time.  Sometimes our friends don’t realize that.  But even if they do, oftentimes they have a concern that by praying to Saints, we are violating 1Tim 2:5, which states that “there is also one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human.”  Other times we may even be scorned as idolators.
Whatever the context of the question, if the inquirer is asking with sincerity, it provides a wonderful opportunity for us to witness to one of the great treasures of our Faith: the Communion of Saints.  And since our first pope admonishes us to be prepared to explain our Faith (1 Pet. 3:15), I thought I would share my answer here.
My friend, though charitable, clearly disapproved of the practice of praying to Saints.  The first thing I pointed out to her is that she asks me to pray for her all the time.  When Catholics pray to Saints, that is exactly what we are doing.  In fact, sometimes she even asks me to ask others to pray for her intentions.  (I have never asked St. Francis to ask St. Joseph to pray for me.)  The response to every invocation of a Saint is, “Pray for us.”  We use the word “pray” in the traditional sense of “to ask.”  We ask the Saints to pray to God for us, just as my friend asks me to pray for her.
Why does she do that?  She certainly prays for her own intentions.  Why does she want me to pray for her?  Because she understands the power of prayer.  Am I challenging Jesus’s role as Mediator because I intercede for her with my prayers?  No, because I approach that one Mediator, just as she does on her own behalf.  She is following the guidance of St. Paul, who repeatedly asks us to pray for each other.  That is exactly what we do as Catholics when we ask the Saints to pray for us.  Scripture tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful (James 5:16).  If my prayers are worthwhile, how much more powerful are those of the Saints, in glory, beholding the Face of God?
Most of our Protestant friends, if they are honest, will acknowledge, once they understand it, that when we “pray” to Saints, we are not violating 1Tim 2:5.  But most likely, objections will still remain.  The most common is, “But the Saints are dead.  They can’t hear you, and we are not supposed to communicate with the dead.”
Jesus answered this objection when confronted by the Sadducees.  He reminded them that God told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  “He is God not of the dead, but of the living,” Jesus said (Mt. 22:32).  He used it as a proof of the resurrection.  St. Paul also teaches us that death can not separate us from the Love of God (Rom. 8:39).  We remain part of the Body of Christ.  The Saints in Heaven are more alive than you or I, and in Christ’s Body, we are united to them.
It is also important to point out that the necromancy condemned in the Old Testament refers to conjuring up the spirits of the dead, as in séances.  This is absolutely forbidden to Catholics and has no relation to the prayer, “St. Therese, pray for us!”
But do the Saints care?  Are they invested in or aware of, our lives?  And do they pray for us?  Why do we assume that?  These are questions we may still be asked, even once our friends are convinced that we don’t practice necromancy after all.
The Saints do hear us; they do care; and they do pray for us.  How do we know that?  There are three main sources we can use to demonstrate this truth.
The first is Sacred Tradition.  Our non-Catholic friends won’t be interested in the Magisterium of the Church, but many are interested in the practice of the early Christians.  We have records of prayers to the early Saints and martyrs that date to the first century.  That is a powerful witness.
The second witness is that of miracles.  There have been countless verified miracles attributed to the intercession of the Saints.  The Saints, of course, don’t do miracles by their power, but God clearly uses them as channels of His miraculous Power.
Third, we hit ‘em where it hurts: the Scripture.  In Hebrews 12:1, after listing many of the heroes of the Old Testament, the author tells us that we are surrounded by this “cloud of witnesses.”  The Saints are aware of our lives.  In Luke 15:7, Jesus tells us there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner than ninety-nine righteous men.  The Saints care.  And finally, in Revelation 5:8, St. John sees Saints offering bowls of incense to God, “which are the prayers of the holy ones.”  The Saints are offering our prayers to God, just as I do when I pray for someone else’s intentions.
If the conversation has gotten this far, chances are you’ve cleared up a lot of misconceptions, and bridged the intolerable gap, just a little, that separates Christian from Christian.
A Word About Devotion
Most likely, our Protestant brothers and sisters, when they understand what is meant by “praying to the Saints,” and have learned the basis for why we do it, will have no serious objections to it.  But they may still be put off by the devotion we have to the Saints.  Why do we do that?  Aren’t we giving them honor that is due to God alone?
No we are not.  If we are, then our devotion is disordered, and not what the Church recommends.  We do not “worship” the Saints.  We worship God alone.  The Saints are human beings, and not God.
Note:  We must not be put off by older texts that use words slightly differently.  “Worship” comes from “worth-ship,” to show the worth of.  In the past, a man would be expected to worship his wife, but adoration was for God alone.  Today, we speak of adoring our wives, but worshiping God alone.  The semantics have changed; the concepts have not.
We are devoted to the Saints.  We have statues and pictures of them, and we love them.  Guess what?  I’m devoted to my wife.  I have more pictures of her in my house than any Saint, and I can see her in person by just turning my head to look at her.  On my computer at work, the desktop is a picture of my kids.  I can’t open a file or send an email without looking at their image.  Talk about idolatry!
No Protestant would have a problem with that.  They are my family and I love them.  I like having their pictures around to call them to my mind and my heart.  None of this challenges the place that God has in my heart.  This is the exact reason we have images of the Saints, our family in Christ, in our houses and in our churches.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Playing Both Sides of the Coin

Playing Both Sides of the Coin

G.K. Chesterton famously said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  He was right.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen often reported that when he came across an avowed atheist, that person, in truth, didn’t really have a problem with the Creed; it was a problem with the Commandments.
          The phenomenon of atheism, by and large, is not an intellectual problem; it is a moral problem.  I know that there are very intellectual sounding arguments against God, and that many people have never been trained in philosophy or theology, so that, even though atheistic arguments have simple answers, many people simply don’t know how to respond when a professor, for example, starts to attack their faith.
          But culturally, our problem is not with the Creed, in belief in God; it is with the Commandments, in obedience to God.  A case in point: you will often hear from an atheist that there could not be an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God because if that God existed, evil could not exist.  The problem of evil, this objection is called.  Yet, that same atheist will also complain because the Church tells people how they ought to live, even [gasp!] in the bedroom!
          On the one hand, because God has granted Man a free will, which could be used for evil, He must not exist.  On the other hand, because the Church dares even prescribe (not enforce) a moral way of living, God must not respect Man’s freedom.  Therefore He must be a tyrant.  These incongruous arguments will come out of the mouth of the same skeptic.
          The one thing that God never does is take away our freedom.  He has given us a free will and it is a gift which will not be revoked.  All evil and all sin could have been avoided by the absence of this one characteristic of human beings.  But then we would not have been sons and daughters.  And we would not have been able to love.  The quote at the top of this blog, by Pope John Paul II reminds us that, as human beings, we are made for love, perfect love, Divine Love.
          We can not attain that without free will.  Man is not free to choose to love if he is not free to choose to hate.  God has become one of us, has suffered the wrath of human evil, and He has promised that, though sin has brought suffering into the world, we never have to suffer alone.
          At the same time, He calls us to be people of love, and like any father, He teaches us how to love; like any mother, the Church does the same.  He will not take away our freedom; we are free to obey or to disobey.  And He will be cursed for the consequences of our disobedience; and He will be cursed for asking for our obedience.  That is the world in which we live.
          That is the world in which He died.  As Christians, we do not belong to this world any more than He did.  But we must try to sanctify it, as He did.  And perhaps Christianity will be left untried by most people for the rest of human history.  But we are called to live it; to share it; to be the Hands and Feet of Christ in this world; and to lead the world to Heaven, one soul at a time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

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