We all know Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ around 2,000 years ago. This is a very important celebration for Christians, because this is when Christ came into the world to save the human race. Therefore, we praise and worship during this time, and have festivals, and so on. But where does the tradition of giving gifts to one another come from? There are other very important Christian celebrations, such as Easter, Pentecost, Good Friday, etc. but during these people do not customarily give gifts. Easter is a possible exception, but until recently, people only gave chocolates during this time. This is a topic for another day (probably around Easter). Back to Christmas. You may notice that St. Nicholas is always intrisic to Christmas, and this is the main clue. St. Nicholas is famous for helping out 3 women in Turkey who could not get married because they didn't have enough money. So St. Nicholas, threw bags of gold into their houses so that they would have enough to be married. This helped them greatly. St. Nicholas was a very famous saint for many other reasons as well. He was instrumental during the ecumenical council of Nicea for proclaiming Christ's divinity. St. Nicholas was a very holy man from the moment of his birth. Legend has it that St. Nicholas would not nurse from his mother on Wednesdays and Fridays, traditional Christian fast days. It is also said that after his death, many people received miracles from his grave. A large following developed around St. Nicholas and devotions to him grew substantially. During the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas had one of the greatest number of devotees of any saint at the time. In order to celebrate their devotion, people gave gifts to each other on December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. This became a tradition. Eventually, Christians felt there was too much emphasis on St. Nicholas day and not enough of Chritmas Day, so the date of giving gifts was changed to Christmas.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
During Christmas there are many signs around saying, “Keep Christ in Christmas”. These have a good intention, and often times it is very justified and necessary for such a message, especially in this day and age. Christmas is the reason for the season, but the act of giving gifts during Christmas is not something which was always associated with it, nor is it necessary. Often, people’s reason for saying Keep Christ in Christmas is to remind people that Christmas is not there just as a material celebration and reason to give and receive gifts, but that it is meant to celebrate and worship the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is our Lord and Savior.
Where does the term X-mas originate? Some may say it’s a way of shortening the word Christmas because it can’t fit on a lot of signs. A sign might have 50 words on it, and be 10 meters across and 5 meters high, but someone might need to save 3 inches by putting X instead of Christ. This sounds a bit fishy. Well, many (including those putting X-Mas on their signs) will be surprised to know that X-Mas goes back a long way, hundreds of years ago. The first two letters of the name of Jesus in Greek is spelled XP, and the X came to represent Christ. XP is a famous Catholic symbol, and is often used on vestments of priests and places around Churches.
So now that I've established the original meaning of X-mas, in my next post, I will find out where the idea of giving gifts during Christmas comes from.
There are many interesting facts about the Catholic Church of which many are not aware. As this blog continues, I will continue to add more facts in future posts.
1. St. Peter's Basilica is the largest Church in the world. It was designed by many famous people including Michelangelo, Bernini and others. It was completed in the 1500s, but ever since Peter, there has been a church located there.
2. St. Peter is buried directly beneath the altar in St. Peter's Basilica.
3. St. Paul is also buried in the Vatican City.
4. The number of Christians was well into the many millions before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In fact, Constantine's convertion was heavily influenced by the sheer number of Christians at the time. This huge number developed despite Christianity being illegal and punishable by death. One of the reasons for this, besides divine intervention, was that Christians cared for their sick and dying, which allowed many to get better during plagues and outbreaks. Most Romans at the time were too afraid to catch something so they avoided caring for the sick, but Christians, not afraid of death, helped millions live. New evidence shows a series of plagues at the time of the Roman Empire, after each of which the proportion of Christians in the population grew substantially.
5. Popes, for centuries, have customarily taken a new name once elected. It has been a Catholic tradition since 1009, and the first pope to take a new name was John II in 533. However, this is not a requirement.
There will be more amazing facts later. Stay tuned!
Posted by Philip Lynch at 12:00 pm
Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. At Mass every week, we say that we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are waiting for Christ to return. Remember, Christ was already here. He came to Earth about 2,000 years ago, born of the Virgin Mary. When the Angel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, he told he she would bear the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Mary was completely faithful to God, no matter how hard his teachings were to accept. Mary was completely obedient to God, whereas Eve disobeyed God. Eve's no was Mary's yes. In fact, Mary is the reverse of Eve. Eve in Latin is Eva, Eva is reversed to form Ave, from which we say Ave Maria, or Hail Mary in English. Adam brought death into the world by disobeying God, but Jesus, the new Adam brought life into the world, and opened the gates of Heaven. We celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, from the moment of his conception. Jesus, just a few cells minutes after his conception, was the Son of God Incarnate. Mary is the mother of God.
Now, during Advent, we also wait for the coming of Jesus Christ, but now we wait with a double meaning. We not only anticipate Christ's first coming, but also his second. We marvel at the past, and rejoice in the future. For the gift of God's son to Mankind is an eternal gift, shared by our generation as well as hundreds of generations before us. Jesus, though God, gave himself completely to mankind, so that they might see that the greatest of kings is the lowliest of servants.
God is a God of paradox, but the wisdom of man is the folly of God. God's ways are so much above our own. While some Jews and Gentiles waited for a King fit for human standards, a ruler who would cast off his enemies with great armies, others were ready to hear God's voice, however it were to appear. Mary accepted Jesus as he was. She followed God, no matter what her human mind may have told her. She opened herself to all possibility which God has revealed. Jesus, the Son of God, was born in the lowliest place, the feeding trough of animals. And Jesus suffered the most humiliating death, a crucifixion fit for criminals. As we wait for Christ to be born, we remember that true faith, hope, and love are not found in countless armies, but in the hearts of everyone, even the lowliest servant.
As we prepare for the coming of the Messiah, both his first and his next appearance, let us remember all those around us. Remember the lowly, for whatever you do to the least of your brethren, you do onto God.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
One of the main issues non-religious people have with religion has to do with their perceived conflict between religion and science. This may come from non-believers or people who hold non-Christian views. Of the topics related to science and religion, the top one would be the subject of evolution.
Evoluation is a concept which was most fully developed in the writings of Charles Darwin. It concerns species' adaptation to their environments in various ways. I will not go into the subject very deeply here, because I am not a scientist. One thing I think everyone should keep in mind is that this is the "theory" of evolution, not the law of evolution, therefore, assuming science itself knows what it is talking about, they do not consider this a law, they consider it a theory.
I find people put more trust in science than science puts in itself. Science is constantly changing and theories are constantly evolving (excuse the pun). Scientists of old were convinced the Earth was flat, and that some insects came from mud or from nothing. These theories were widely accepted. Most people nowadays who are adherents of the theory of evolution have not done any firsthand experiments to determine its validity, yet would not hestitate to accuse someone of just blindly following a belief, even though they are doing this very thing. Many scientists are questioning the theory of evolution in its present form. No one disagrees that animals evolve in order to adapt to their environment and people are not denying the existence of dinosaurs and animals that have gone extinct, etc. But scientists are re-evaluating long-held beliefs about evolution. One thing which comes to mind is the missing link. Some evolutionists hold that human beings evolved from apes. This is a theory. Yet there are significant problems with this theory, especially concerning the missing link. Scientists so far have been unable to find a link between humans and monkeys, the gap is simply too wide. These are evolutionary scientists who are experts in this area, and even they are questioning many of its tenets.
I would now like to explain the position of the Catholic Church with regards to evolution. The most important thing about anything related to the Christian faith is that the Catholic Church does not teach science. The job of the church is not to make pronouncements concerning science. For that matter, it does not make pronouncements on literature, arts, math, or sports for that matter either. The Church's function is to be a guide for faith and morals. Therefore, the Catholic Church does not accept any scientific theory, including that of evolution. Catholics are free to believe in any theory of evolution they feel is most plausible. If people want to believe that God directly created Adam and Eve and from there all humans came into existence, they are free to do so. People are also free to believe that human beings evolved from animals if they would like. Catholics can believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or so, or they can believe it is billions of years old. The Church simply does not make any specific pronouncements in these areas.
Having said this, the Catholic Church of course makes statements about morality and faith that Catholics in full communion with the Catholic Church are obliged to follow. The first is that there were two first human beings. This means that there were two first people, a man and a woman who were the first to have a human soul. Perhaps God created them on the spot, perhaps they came from an evolutionary chain, but they were the first with human rational souls. We are, as Catholics, obliged to believe that these two original human beings sinned against God in some way. The most accepted theory in theological circles is that the sin of Adam and Eve was pride. They were proud because they wanted to be equal with God, they did not wish to serve him. This is a problem which we continue to see in our world. Some people reject God, and by doing so, reject humanity. They become self-absorbed and proud, only concerned for themselves. It was the sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents, which sent them from a land of complete obedience to God, to one where they were infected by pride, pride in themselves.
Do not be stuck on the names Adam and Eve, either. The purpose of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is not to be an historical record of what happened during the creation of the world. Again, this is an area the Church does not teach in. “Adam” and “Eve” simply mean first man and first woman. These are not necessarily the given names of Adam and Eve.
The Catholic Church is in no way in contention with the findings of science, and in fact welcomes them, knowing full well that “truth cannot contradict truth”. John Paul II speaks about evolution by saying: “Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical [referring to an encyclical by Pope Pius XII on evolution], new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”
Pope Benedict XVI shows that evolution and God are two aspects of the same thing: “In freely willing to create and conserve the universe, God wills to activate and to sustain in act all those secondary causes whose activity contributes to the unfolding of the natural order which he intends to produce. Through the activity of natural causes, God causes to arise those conditions required for the emergence and support of living organisms, and, furthermore, for their reproduction and differentiation.”
In conclusion, I would like to say that those who accept evolution are not at odds with the Catholic Church, but they should not rely too heavily on this theory. Remember, the Church teaches faith and morals, not science.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Protestant Reformers are known for their disagreements with the Catholic Church, but many Protestants nowadays have thrown the baby out with the bath water, by thinking that the Protestant Reformers disagreed with every single practice of the Catholic Church, despite possibly its use of the Bible and love of Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Trinity. In this essay, I will explore some things the reformers had to say which were in keeping with Catholic beliefs, to show that Protestants today have gone much further from the originial Church than they think.
(Special thanks to Dave Armstrong for this information):
Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God):
Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)
He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.
God says . . . : "Mary's Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God.
Luther, in general, had a great devotion to Mary. Something many protestants have lost, unfortunately.
Martin Luther praised the saying of the Rosary to those who understood what they were doing, and were not equating Mary with God, which the Catholic Church condemns as well.
On the Bible:
Martin Luther makes a pertinent observation in the sixteenth chapter of his Commentary on St. John "We are obliged to yield many things to the papists [Catholics]—that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it."
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Eucharist is the most important part of a Christian's life. It is the pinnacle of the Christian experience. It involves receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ into our own bodies. It is a sacred act which was established by Christ at the Last Supper. Just read John 6, around verse 40. He told his disciples to eat his blood and drink his flesh. Then to make himself clear, he said his flesh and blood are true food and true drink. Many of the people there had a hard time accepting this teaching, but he said to do it anyway. And then he told future generations to do it in his memory, and if they didn't, they would have no life in them. Obviously, people would not be offended if Christ said drink grape juice and eat crackers in remembrance of me, so it was definitely his body and blood. Also, we note that he did not say he was being symbolic or anything, so he was being literal. Protestants, who like to think they read the Bible literally, have no choice but to accept at face value what Jesus is saying here.
The word "Eucharist" comes from the greek verb for to give thanks. This is appropriate since we receive the Eucharist in memory of Jesus Christ and to give him thanks for what he has done for us.
Because Jesus continually gives himself to us in this eternal and perfect sacrifice, it is fitting that we as Christians partake in this truly amazing gift, in a way which is appropriate for what is happening. We are receiving God Himself into our bodies. I fear that many, even among Catholics, do not treat this event with the honor and respect that it is due.
To correctly receive the Eucharist, one should line up when their turn comes, and peacefully move toward the Minister of Communion, whether it's the Priest or an Extraordinary Minister of Communion. There are two options for taking the Eucharist: by hand or directly into the mouth. If one receives on the tongue, simply open the mouth, slightly move out the tongue, and respectfully receive the Eucharist when it is laid upon the tongue. If receiving by hand, place the right hand under the left hand, and present your hands horizontally so that the Eucharist can be placed upon your left hand. While it is being placed on your hand, the Eucharistic Minister will say, "Body of Christ", at which time you respond with "Amen." Then with your thumb and forefinger of your right hand, lift the Eucharist and place it in your mouth. Do not chew the Eucharist, let it melt in your mouth. You should make the sign of the cross at this point also. Then silently return to your pew, to say prays, whether kneeling or sitting for several minutes.
People who do not understand the significance, or do not believe the significance of the Eucharist should not receive the Eucharist. There is too much danger of blasphemy and sacrilege. Also, if a person has not reached a certain level of maturity, they too should not receive the Eucharist. Only someone in the right state of mind should partake in this gift. People who are aware of mortal sin they have not yet repented for, should also avoid the Eucharist until they have received absolution.
Another point is that people who exhibit disagreement with the Catholic Church on dogmatic issues should also not receive the Eucharist. This is different than to be struggling with a doctrine or dogma. Many people struggle with faith from time to time. That is ok, and the person may continue to receive the Eucharist. It only becomes an issue if someone is vociferously against a Church teaching. People who support abortion, for example, should not receive Eucharist, until they've amended their thinking to suit a culture of life. To summarize this point, people not in communion with the Church should not receive Communion.
Maltreatment of the Eucharist is the ultimate blasphemy, and we should our best to prevent it. Let's take care as Christians to properly receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a matter that is fitting for the Source and Summit of the Christian Life.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
There's a famous line that says there are not enough vocations to the priesthood, but plenty of vocations to the papacy. So many Catholics in our modern day openly share their "disagreements" with the Catholic Church, as if they had some say in it. In this blog, I will address what the Catholic Church is, under what authority it operates, and the proper role of members within the Church.
Today, more than ever, people enjoy freedom and democracy in many parts of their lives. In the past, people were less free to make decisions about themselves, how they lived, their behaviors, rituals, and customs, and various other aspects of their lives. This changed dramatically as countries became more modern and the idea that everyone is equal evolved. Women's rights, freedom of slaves, and laws against discrimination all contributed to a society were individual rights were more highly regarded than ever before. This, although greatly beneficial, has led to certain opinions which are not correct.
One of the strongest advocates for the rights of humanity has been the Catholic Church. In fact, one could argue, the Catholic Church has had a greater role in protecting peoples' rights than any other organization on Earth. Read any encyclical, Vatican document, or other text from the Catholic Church, and you will see its unending campaign for human dignity and freedom. This freedom incorporates all freedoms, including employment, equality of men and women, freedom of education, freedom to live, and freedom of religion. I will focus on freedom of religion in this essay.
Many people our Christian culture have been so influenced by personal freedom, that they believe it belongs in every aspect of our lives, but this simply cannot be the case. If a law is made in a country, we are not "free" to make our own law concerning this. For example, if murder is a serious crime, we cannot say we think it shouldn't be serious, therefore it isn't. It is not our place to decide this. The same is true of the Catholic faith. The Universal Christian Church was entrusted to Peter by Jesus Christ who said that upon him, he would build his church. He gave Peter the keys to the gates of heaven, an ancient symbol meaning he gave Peter the right to rule on Earth. Jesus did not give this right to everyone to decide all rules for themselves. But an interesting thing to note is that the Catholic Church does not give the Pope the right to simply invent things.
The Pope's role within the Church is the head and final say within the Catholic Church, but his role is not to make up rules wherever he wants, and just disregard others. The Pope is held to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church just like anyone else. The priest remains celibate, as the discipline requires. The Pope goes to confession, he receives the sacraments, etc. The role of the Church is to seek and find the Truth, and then to share this Truth with others. Unfortunately, many think this "truth" is subjective and personal. However, these truths are objective, based on natural law, reason, and revelation by God. The magisterium of the Church is in charge of promulgating these truths. The magisterium is not the source of all truth, but its role is to enunciate it.
Everything the Church teaches on has its basis in Scripture and Tradition. A good way of looking at these is to think, oral and written sources, oral being tradition, and written being scripture. The teachings of Jesus can be implicitly found in all teachings of the Church. They are not based on desires of individuals, but on universal truths. In fact, Catholic means universal, because it is for everyone, not each individual. It is not called the Individual Church. We must submit our will to the teachings of Christ and the Church. It is very easy for people to think a want is actually a right. Perhaps something people want is not the best for them.
The Catholic Church is Christ's Church, not Bob's Church, or Joanne's Church. It is also not a democracy. It is not "your" church, it is everyone's church, it is humanity's church. The Catholic Church believes that two ideas which are opposed to each other cannot be both true. The Church makes definitive statements on issues, such as abortion is morally wrong, and homosexual marriage is not valid, legal, or even possible. If you say either of these things are good or possible, then you are in disagreement with the Catholic Church.
There is also an important difference between being opposed to a belief and finding it hard to believe. If you struggle with a belief or teaching, you can still consider yourself fully Catholic, and a devout one if you wish. However, if you make a position which is in opposition to a Catholic dogma or doctrine, you cannot consider yourself a Catholic. If a soldier did not agree with his superior and took a stand against him, that soldier could not continue to be a part of that group. If he did, he would simply cause conflict within the group. Sometimes if a member is outspoken in his or her opposition to the Church, he may be excommunicated. However, the Church only recognizes the excommunication. The actions of the individual make it so.
In conclusion, the Catholic Church has a moral stand on many issues, and its role is to reveal truth to the human race. It is not an individual organization, but an organization for all of humanity. Because many have been trained with a "have it your way" mentality, they think they can believe in or act however they want and still call themselves Catholic. But their views will not be expressed. Only because it is willing to stand up and declare its beliefs despite opposition, can the Church's teachings be viewed with respect. Many times throughout its history, including its first hundreds of years and to a large extent our own time, the Catholic Church has been attacked by many groups. It stood firm however, and because of this, shines as a moral beacon in a world of relative morality. The Church shines bright with the light of Christ, a light that cannot be extinguished, so that whoever earnestly seeks the Truth will find it, and be filled to overflowing.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Mardi Gras is the french for fat Tuesday. It comes directly before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent, a period of fasting and penance before Easter. In ancient times, and to some extent, today, Christians would refrain from eating meat and fat during Lent, so they had to make sure it was all gone the day before Lent, which is Mardi Gras. That's the day they ate all the fat and meat that was left over, before they began a long period of fasting and penance. Then, of course, on Easter Sunday, there would be an enormous feast, celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, at which time people would resume eating fat and meat again. If you would like information on any Catholic issue, please email me at email@example.com and I will gladly answer your question in a polite and friendly way. Thank you.
There are 8 books which are in the Catholic Bible, which are not in the Protestant Bible. The books, known by Protestants as the Apocrypha, have been part of the official canon of books of the Bible since the Canon was created hundreds of years ago, around the year 380. This is when the councils of the early church decided definitively which books belonged in the Bible, ie were inspired by God, and which did not. It was during the Protestant reformation that Martin Luther and others removed these 8 books, which all Christians up until that point considered part of the Bible, and which 80% today consider part of the Bible.The correct term for these books is the deuterocanonical books, and the other books in the Old Testament are known as the protocanonical books. Luther removed these books because they were in opposition to his new theology, which he and some other people invented around this time. However, despite removing this portion of the True Bible, Catholic teaching can be fully supported using Protestant Bibles, including the King James Version.By the way, the Bible nowhere teaches sola scriptura, or Bible alone. This was also invented around the time of Luther. It says hold fast to the traditions which you have been taught. Also, the Bible says the Church is the foundation and bulwark of the Truth, not the Bible. Plus, the canon, or collection, of books which are in the Bible, was decided by the Church. The Bible does not contain a list of books that belong in it, therefore it relies on an outside authority to declare this. Catholics believe in the authority of Scripture and Tradition, which is a fully Biblical way of look at things.If you would like more information on this or other topics related to Christianity or Catholicism, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to holymotherchurch.blogspot.com Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Friday, October 27, 2006
The Catholic position on the Eucharist is the only one that makes sense, Biblically, historically, religiously, etc. In this quick essay, I want to look at some of the reasons to believe.
First of all, read John chapter 6, probably starting around verse 50. If you continue to read, you will notice many things. I do not have the exact Biblical reference, so this is from memory, so you may want to check for the exact verses. First of all, when explaining what he is doing, Jesus says eat my body, drink my blood. Then he says, for my body is true food, and my blood is true drink. How can true food and true drink be symbolic? They can't.
Secondly, Jesus says, unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you will have no life in you. Another thing to remember is that this is the only time in the Bible when Jesus makes a teaching, then even when people walk away, he does not explain it. A lot of times, people misunderstood what Jesus meant, and he would then proceed to explain it to them, but this time, even though dozens of people left saying they could not accept this hard teaching, Jesus did not stop them, he just let them go. The message is that this was essential, and must be accepted.
Now, let's consider something. The disciples who followed Christ, saw many unblievable things. Turning water into wine, multiplying the loaves and the fishes, Jesus walking on water, the list goes on. It is not possible that after witnessing these things, disciples would leave because Jesus said to eat grape juice and crackers in memory of him. This makes no sense. The only way it makes sense is if this teaching is real, and Jesus really meant his body and blood, which Christians celebrate. Even the apostles had trouble with this, but ultimately none of them left. They accepted this. Jesus also said, do this in memory of me. You can't do something in memory of someone if they're not there. So Jesus was talking about when he was gone. Therefore, we still do this today.
The doctrine of the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is something that was accepted by all the church founders and fathers, including all the apostles, but dont take my word for it. Read what they wrote. Also, it was accepted by all Christians, until a couple of hundred years ago, when more "found it too hard to accept", just as some early disciples who left because of it. Many thing were not accepted when Protestantism reared its head. We, however, must persevere in our beliefs which have been handed down from Christ.
Posted by Philip Lynch at 7:57 am
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
If you have a real relationship with Christ, you should not reject his church. Christ only founded one church, and he said it would be a visible one for everyone to see.
I would like to point out that your belief system, commonly known as Protestantism, dates to only a few hundred years ago. Even today, 80% of Christians believe in asking for the intercessions of Mary and the Saints. This is fully Biblical. You dont have a problem with asking friends to help pray with you, so we dont mind asking Mary and the Saints who are also members of the Body of Christ, yet in Heaven.
I'd also like to note that Martin Luther had a great devotion to Mary, and in his last few sermons taught the virtues of praying the rosary. Martin, who was the founder of Protestantism thanked the Catholic Church, for compiling, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible. Martin himself said this.
In the Bible, Mary says, "From this day all generations will call me blessed". And also, Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, filled with the Holy Spirit, cries out, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" Wow, Mary is called blessed among women by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she says all generations will call her blessed. These phrases are totally Biblical. Therefore, we are obligied to listen to the Word of God. Also, Jesus had a great love for his mother, so shouldn't we?
In Revelation, we are told saints come to God with prayers from holy people on Earth. All of this is totally Biblical.
If you would like more information on how the Catholic Church is the most fully Biblical Christian Church, I'd be more than happy to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com Thank you.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The Catholic Church is organized and structured in a way which allows it to be most effective in the world in which we live. This is no surprise, considering the fact that it was established by Jesus Christ and is maintained by the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The organization allows unity among believers, while at the same time enabling anyone to avail of personal help. The model is based on a unified vision of creating a force of good in the world. Just like the saying, "United we stand, divided we fall". Any great organization, company, or group in the world makes use of a hierarchy and structure. The Catholic Church's hierarchy is apparant and visible. Certain groups and organizations which do not have an explicit hierarchy actually possess an implicit or invisible hierarchy. Although the structure of the Catholic Church has allowed it to be a force of good in the world, many remain skeptical or uncertain about it. In this brief essay, I will outline the structure of the Catholic, explain its function, explain what it does and what it does not do, and why it is good and necessary.
The Catholic Church is by far the oldest organization on Earth, having existed for almost 2000 years. Since its establishment by Christ, the Church has faced many challenges, and hostilities towards it. Right from the beginning, Jesus Christ knew there would be those who would set themselves against the Catholic Church, so he built his church on a man, namely, Peter, whose name means rock. Jesus said, Peter, you are the rock upon which I will build my church. After this point, whenever there was a dispute in the Christian community, the people would go to the Apostles, and the final say would be with Peter. Apostolic authority has worked very well throughout the centuries. The authority of the Apostles is conferred by the holy spirit, and through succession, the bishops of today retain that power.
The pope of today is the successor of a long line of popes going all the way back to Peter. It is very important to understand the role of the pope. One of the pope's titles is the Servant of the Servants of God. This title in no way suggests any form of domination over others, but rather a role of pastor and caretaker. The role of the pope is to guide people in the ways of truth and light. Some possess the misconception that the pope "makes up rules". This is a false statement, for no pope has ever invented a rule. All teachings which come from the pope address specific questions of today, using the wisdom of the ages, wisdom which ultimately stems from the teachings of Christ. Bishops then take these messages and spread them to their congregation as well. Bishops may find it necessary to address regional issues which the pope did not specifically mention, because they did not have a worldwide importance.
A friend of mine once objected to a hierarchy, present in a religious organization because she felt it is a hindrance to the "natural evolution" of religion. I would object to this statement in several ways. First of all, anyone is eligible to become a leader within the Church, man or woman. Secondly, the purpose of the Church's hierarchy is not to be an exclusive source for theology or belief. Thirdly, many decisions about religious activities are left up to individuals. Fourthly, I would say that all religious organizations have a form of hierarchy, whether formal or informal, visible or invisible. And finally, I would say the Church is a universal entity, available and created for everyone. It is not a personal tool to be used however one wishes, but rather a system of beliefs and morals shared by a group, and as such requires unity, which is achieved through a hierarchy. I will elaborate on these issues.
The first point is that anyone is eligible to become a leader in the Church. First, it is important to realize what is meant by leader. It is not meant as a temporal leader, or someone who governs such as a president, or premier, but rather a spiritual guide. As a spiritual guide, an individual is responsible for being a pastor to the people, in other words, a shepherd. They are there to take care of the spiritual needs of the people. Priests, for example, devote themselves entire for the sake of others. They are available 24 hours per day to give support and guidance. If someone is ill, they are there to comfort them, if someone dies, the priest is there to comfort the family. The role of the priest is also the administration of the sacrements, which bring people closer to God. Any man can become a priest, given he is not married, for marriage is another path which one can freely choose. A priest forgoes his biological fatherhood, to become a spiritual father to many. It is crucial to understand that this is the primary purpose of clergy and others in leadership positions, a pastoral role. Bishops also take on this role, however, they also concern themselves with ecclesiastical matters. These matter pertain to the proper performance and organization of many things. I will discuss this role more closely later.
Women, too, very much take part in the life of the Church. Throughout the centuries, women have devoted their lives to religious orders, and live as nuns. These nuns have done immeasurable good in the world. In fact, until recently most teachers and nurses were in fact nuns, who had devoted themselves to caring for the sick and educating people. They were answering the question of Jesus of when you saw someone sick, did you help them, etc. Women also form integral parts of the Church and are often decision-makers. There have been many women theologians and saints as well who have helped increase our understanding of many religious and theological issues. There are a certain group of saints called Doctors of the Church. This title is given very rarely and currently, of the thousands of saints declared, only 33 are called Doctors of the Church. Three of these individuals are women, one of whom is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She died at the age of 24, and contributed greatly to the Church. The leadership of the Church is certainly not confined to an exclusive group, but rather is open to any with the proper disposition.
The next point I would like to make is that the growth of a religion is in no way hindered by there being a hierarchy, in fact, I would argue the opposite is true. The Catholic faith has grown in its understanding of many issues throughout the centuries. It has grown with the help of writings and teachings of saints and theologians throughout history. Most of our understandings of faith and morals comes not from popes, but from saints from around the world, in every circumstance and position. Some of our most important contributors to the faith include St. Augustin, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Gospel Writers, none of whom were popes. St. Thomas Aquinas for example, was not even a bishop or a priest.
Thirdly, many issues or morality are not strictly defined by the Catholic Church, but are left up to the individual to decide. We believe God created man, and Adam and Eve were the first two people, however, we are free to theorize as to exactly how this came about. Basically, there are certain tenets of our faith, which are necessary to claim membership, but various areas contain freedom in our own personal interpretation.
My next point is that all religions have a form of hierarchy, whether visible or invisible, whether formally defined or informally defined. People in religions are not free to simply invent their own philosophies or thoughts, especially if they are in contrast to the official teaching of that religion. Religions all have teachers and leaders, again, whether or not they are formally defined. Take Hinduism for example. There are certain beliefs which are fundamental to Hinduism, and without believing them, a person would not belong to the mainstream group of Hindus. A Hindu, for example, could not claim that God does not exist and have their teachings accepted by other Hindus. Also, gurus within the Hindu religion are often sought out as leaders and their thoughts and words are followed by great numbers of people. These gurus are not rejected or just considered to have one opinion among many equal opinions, but rather this person is seen as very wise and good to listen to. People will follow their teachings, even if they themselves to not fully understand or even accept them yet. This is the same with priests, bishops and popes. They act as spiritual guides, which are present in every religion.
My final point on this issue is to state the purpose of having a shared set of beliefs and why uniformity on certain issues is crucial. The Catholic Church is not a buffet from which each individual picks his or her favorite parts and discards the rest. Also, to use a similar analogy, the Catholic Church does not give a list of possible options, from which you make your own creations. The Catholic Church is, from its very name, a universal church, not a personal tool. It was created by Jesus Christ as a set of beliefs from which people live their lives. We must accept the pleasing as well as the difficult teachings in order to follow this religion. As a universal religion, a religion of community, a system of beliefs shared by all believers, it is not fitting that it be a personal religion of one's choosing. As Christians, we walk together, sharing in a vision, focused on a mission, to bring the words of redemption.
The unity of the Catholic Church has led to developments which have become hallmarks of the Western world, to fields including medicine, astronomy, geometry, literature, and almost every other field. They created a world which values charitable works, helping each other, and feeding the hungry, unlike any other group the world has ever seen. These developments have been possible because of the unity and hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Posted by Philip Lynch at 7:22 am
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Many people these days speak of there being many denominations within Christianity. This opinion represents a lack of information concerning the true nature of Christianity, the true nature which Jesus Christ founded nearly 2,000 years ago. In this short essay, I will explain some of the fundamental truths about Christianity and I will hopefully clear up many of the misconceptions surrounding this area.
Before his death and resurrection, Jesus spoke often of the church he would establish on Earth. He spoke about how this Church would look. It would be visible and universal. And so it was. The name Peter means "rock", and we know that Jesus said, it is upon this rock that I build my church. Peter's name used to be Simon bar Jonah. Jesus changed that when he named him Peter. This was to make completely clear the fact that Jesus would build his church upon Peter. Throughout the Bible, especially in the acts of the apostles after this point, Peter is always mentioned first among the apostles. It is also quite clear that Peter always has the final say in all matters of faith and morals. His role in the early church is exactly the same role as today's Pope. This point is crucial in understanding how Christianity is meant to be organized.
Much of the practices of the church have been handed down through the Apostles and orginally from Jesus himself. Not everything was written in the Bible concerning our beliefs. Consider for a moment the nature of the Church during its first decades and centuries before the canon of the Bible was authoritatively established. Matters of faith could not be referred to the Bible as we know it today, because it simply did not exist. The method to discern truth used then is the same as it is now, and rests on the authority of the church and its leaders or Magisterium. Magisterium comes from the Latin word meaning to teach. The church fulfills the role of teacher of the faithful. This is clearly evidenced in the Acts of the Apostles, because disputes are always brought to the apostles.
A note must be made here. Nothing in Sacred Tradition can or will ever contradict what is in the Bible, nor vice verse. It can, however, elaborate on what is said in the Bible or give teachings which, although not in the Bible, work in harmony with it. This is very necessary, especially in today's age, which is much different from the age in which the Bible was written. We face many social issues today which simply did not exist in those times.
The authority of the Pope is something that went without question for around 1500 years. That is when the reformation occurred. This is a very sad time for the church, for it marks the time when many left the Church and splinter it into many groups. Of course, at first, there were only three or four new churches, however, the bad genes which these churches had, its children would acquire as well. The children of course are the dozens of churches which splintered from these original three or four splinter groups. Needless to say, the next generation would be even more numerous, until today when there are thousands of splinter churches, each with its own doctrines and philosophies. As is clearly evident, the system established by Christ, which has a leader, and a Magisterium, is the only effective system.
To conclude, the idea of denominations is actually a false one. There is only one true church on Earth, established by Jesus Christ himself, and that is the Roman Catholic Church. Any other organization that calls itself a church is a man-made organization, and each one has a different set of values and beliefs.
Note: Some may be wondering why the church is called the Roman Catholic Church. It is called Roman, because Rome is where the Pope resides, and it is the home of Christianity. It is where Peter established the church and where he died (by being crucified upside-down). The Church is called Catholic because catholic is a word meaning universal. The earliest Christian writing attest to the practice of referring to the Church Christ established as universal. This was done in order to distinguish the Church from Judaism, for Jews believed they were a chosen people and that only they were chosen. Jesus Christ came to preach that everyone is called to follow him and his teachings and to become Christian, and that rather than being exclusive, the Church is universal, in other words, open to all.
Posted by Philip Lynch at 1:55 pm
Friday, August 04, 2006
In all its history, since its creation by Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, there has been opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. This is not surprising, since every great and honorable institution, along with every great and honorable man or woman face opposition from those who would oppose them. Jesus Himself was often opposed by Jewish leaders, nay-sayers, persecutors, the Romans, and many other groups at the time. Eventually he was savagely scouraged at the pillar and crucified by those who "knew not what they were doing". Christ established his Church on Earth to keep his message and commands. The first Christians suffered atrocious deaths and sacrifices at the hands of opposition. These martyrs gave their lives in defense of the truth.
Today, the Church again faces foes and opposition as it steadfastly proclaims the message of Christ. In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns us of false prophets when he says, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves." It is easy to see the wrong of organizations that are obviously opposed to Catholic Teaching, such as the pro-abortion movement, the pro-euthanasia movement, atheism, and anti-catholicism, but we must be very vigilant to see the forces which are opposed to the Catholic Church, but may, through ignorance, seem to offer an alternative. These groups offer more danger to the faithful, for they are just what Christ cautioned against. He did not say beware of false prophets who are obviously ravenous wolves and who explicitly state their evil intentions, he said to beware of false prophets, who come in sheep's clothing, in other words someone disguised as one of Christ's sheep, but who underneath is a creature that seeks to destroy his sheep.
This is the case with Traditionalist Catholics and Sedevacantists. They try to appear as sheep, but with any investigation, it is obvious they are but ravenous wolves. The only purpose they can effectively serve is to cause more faithful to leave the flock. How sad is this? Heed the words of Christ, and beware of these people. A real Catholic is one who is obediant to the laws given him. Jesus appointed Peter to carry on his message, and through the apostolic powers confered on the apostles by Christ, there has been a succession of popes, from the beginning of the Church to this very day. Anyone who rejects this authority is rejecting the authority set up by Jesus Christ himself.
Since her beginning, the Church has been attacked from many groups, on every one of its doctrines and dogmas. It continues to stand and will do so until the end of the age, just as Jesus promised. Falsehoods will never find a place in the Church ever, for it will remain a beacon of truth, beaconing home her lost sheep to Christ's flock. Our Shepherd will be there, waiting, with arms outstretched, and there the lost sheep will come home and find peace.
Posted by Philip Lynch at 5:14 am
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Jesus Christ established one true church on Earth. He certainly didn't create hundreds of denominations so that they would fight amongst themselves, but instead he created a solid foundation and a system that worked in order to carry out the Great Commission. The Great Commission is to go around the world and baptize nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To do this, there has to be a clear and unambiguous mission. Jesus definitely did not intend to have his church involved in a civil war, or even battle. That's why he set up his true church the way he did. Every great organization has a structure, otherwise it cannot be unified. Such is the case with the Catholic Church. It is unified and strong, together as one it progresses.
The reason Chrisitanity is so big is because of Jesus Christ and because of the Church he founded. It would not have gotten to where it is today without the unity of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has stood from the time of Jesus, and still stands. Of course, all other "denominations" (besides Eastern Orthodox which came around about 1000ad) have come around in the last several hundred years. Their existence can all be traced back to some human who didn't like something about the True Church, or instead of trying to learn something for themselves, they broke away because of a misconception they held. The only church that can truly trace its history all the way back to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior is the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, uncomfortable with this fact which proves their illegimacy, some Protestants have tried unsucessfully to show that their churches are somehow connected to the beginnings of Christianity. I laugh at their stories, which are far more preposterous than any science fiction novel, or even a comedic book intended to create humour through absurdity.
If you want to find out for yourself, just read what the Church Fathers say back in the first and second centuries. These people were most definitely Catholic, in everything they believed. We have the unbroken chain, no one else does. If you want something funny to laugh at, just think about something some Protestants say. They say their religion survived underground or something for thousands of years and then suddenly emerged about fifty years ago or something. Now, these emergences usually occur after a particular individual decides he doesn't want to be Catholic anymore. After he has long decided to break off from the True Church, maybe decades later, someone from his new religion tries to connect his church to the original church. You might as well try to jump up and touch the sun, that's about how close Protestantism is connected to the Church the Savior of the World established. There is absolutely not a speck of evidence to show that there was some strange, mysterious underground church through several centuries. There's innumerable pieces of evidence that Catholicism existed since Jesus, and there's even evidence left by the worst and most outrageous heretics from throughout history.
To find out what the Bible says, and other information, I quote Catholic Answers (http://www.catholic.com):
Jesus said his Church would be "the light of the world." He then noted that "a city set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization. It must have characteristics that clearly identify it and that distinguish it from other churches. Jesus promised, "I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). This means that his Church will never be destroyed and will never fall away from him. His Church will survive until his return.
I think that pretty much says it.
As usual, I am very interested in feedback, and would love to receive your questions or comments. Please email me at philinaberdeen at gmail.com (change the format first).
Posted by Philip Lynch at 6:46 am
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
There is nothing on this Earth as beautiful as the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, however, there are many misrepresentations of the Catholic Church in the world, and that an anti-catholic opinion can be especially garnered by individuals who have been taught to think of the Catholic church in a certain way from youth. Because the truth of the Catholic Church is so solid, most (or all) anti-catholic literature and accusations use falsehoods to proclaim their message. Another way anti-catholics convey their message is by using a false basis and lack of understanding on many issues. Because they start with an incorrect premise, the rest of the argument may appear valid at first glance, however, because of its foundation, it is not. As the first message of this web log, I would like to cite the words of the famous Bishop Fulton J. Sheen:
- "There are not over a hundred people...who hate the Roman Catholic Church.There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church" - Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Posted by Philip Lynch at 9:36 am