This Catholic Journey
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Name: Amber
Location: Reno, Nevada, United States

I am a 34-year-old single mother of three. I am a convert to Catholicism and came into the Church on April 7, 2007. This blog is a collection of thoughts and things I learn in my journey of faith. All comments are welcome!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Following God

Well, those last few posts turned out to be a lot of "work" but I learned a lot from them! By the end of the first response, my friend no longer wanted to discuss it and prefers to just agree to disagree. I sent two more after that anyway because I simply want to clear up the misconceptions about the Catholic Church. My purpose was not to convert him but to show that this website where he's getting his information about "those Catholics" is completely faulty. In fact, I saw some horrible comments made about the Catholic Church. The writer indicated that God speaks to her and that He wants her to deliver people from Catholicism, which He [God] "hates". While they may have been "kind" in their approach, they took everything out of context and argued against the typical straw man attacks...

*shrug*

I am amazed at how my faith grows and I become more certain of the direction God has taken me every time I research these topics. But in the midst, I came to a realization that I have a difficult time with.

It seems that non-Catholic Christians don't "believe" that God is leading me into the Catholic Church. They have no trouble believing that God leads them but they indicate indirectly that they don't believe He is leading me. Perhaps they believe I'm simply being ensnared in a trap of the "lie of Catholicism". I believe that God knows what He's doing. I believe that God is possibly NOT going to lead people into the Catholic Church and I believe that our all-powerful God uses all denominations to speak to people. He meets us where we're at and loves us. He's taken the "wrongness" in the disunity and used it for His purpose and His good. So, I don't need to worry about convincing or converting others, because that's God's job, but I cannot just sit back and allow people to continue to believe and propagate the lies!

Perhaps those of us who are led by God to leave non-Catholic Christianity are to be the little bridges of unity... called to shed light on the truth of Catholicism, to be examples of "those Catholics" who are truly Christians so that we can start a process of unity! And in the process, we will provide the seeds needed for those who God IS calling to the Catholic faith.

I have purposely avoided tell many people for fear of rejection and to save my parents from all the questions. I have no idea how many people my parents have told and I never know how much their friends "know" when I see them... but I've decided I'm ready to tell the world. I am convinced that I am moving in the direction that God has called me and I'm not going to keep it to myself anymore. I am ready to give an explanation for the hope that is in me, regardless of the cost.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Salvation through the church?

*This post is refuting an attack on the Catholic Church posted on a website that was forwared to me by a friend, who wanted to know my thoughts. This was my response to him via email.*

Admittedly, this one was a bit of a concern for me when I read it. I had heard it before but was confident that this idea has been taken out of context. I was correct... and like many times before, examination of this topic has further affirmed the direction God has been taking me.

First, the website quotes the catechism (816): "The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained." (Again, this is only a partial quote of this paragraph...)

We have to take careful notice here that this says that the "fullness of the means of salvation is obtained". This is not saying that those outside the Catholic Church are damned.

I will explain this in more detail after I examine the next argument from this website.

The website also quotes the catechism (846): "...all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation..."

Unfortunately, it leaves out some other essential parts that bring greater understanding to what the catechism is staying and what the Church means by this. In full it reads:

CCC 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.


Wouldn't you agree that the body of Christ is made of up believers who have a saving faith? Is it necessary to be a member of the body of Christ in order to be saved? Absolutely! So, how do we know that the body is the Church? Scripture tells us!

Colossians 1:18
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Ephesians 5:29-30
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

Romans 12:4-5
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

1 Corinthians 6:15
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?...


So, I'm sure we can agree that those outside the body of Christ are not saved. And according to Scripture, we know that the body of Christ is the church. Therefore, those outside the "church" are not saved. How is this read in light of the first point that those outside the Catholic Church do not have the "fullness"?

Those outside the Catholic Church who have a saving faith in Christ are joined to the Catholic Church through baptism and faith, since there is only ONE body of Christ, and are not considered damned.

The Church spells this out in the catechism:

CCC 838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."324

I heard a wonderful explanation of this yesterday on the radio:

It's as if Christ put us all on a big ship (Catholicism) destined for heaven. At some point (1500 years after the time of Christ), some people decided to leave the ship and ride in a raft along-side the ship (Protestants). Everything good they have on the raft, they got from the ship originally (like the Bible!), but they do not have the full benefits of being on the ship (like the sacraments and the Eucharist). However, they are all still destined for heaven!

Those outside the body of Christ, or the church, are not destined for heaven. But those inside the body of Christ, though they may not be fully united to the Catholic Church, receive God's grace and forgiveness due to the blood Christ shed on the cross! But, we must remember that we are called to be united: one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:4-6). We must also remember that if Christ established ONE body, and the body is the church, then he only established ONE church. Which church? Look at all the division within Protestantism... How can this be when it is so contrary to Scripture (Rom 16:17, Phil 2:2)? If the church is the "pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15)", which Protestant church fits this? Or could it be the one church that can trace its beginning to the time of Christ?

Many argue that "the church" is just the invisible body of Christ... believers all over the world regardless of denomination... But this is not a fair characterization of the church.

The church is not merely an invisible (spiritual only) church but one that is quite visible (Mt 16:18-19, Mt 18:17). A body is a physical thing, just as Christ was a physical being... you cannot separate the body from the spirit (James 2:26)... the physical from the spiritual. If Christ is physical and spiritual, and the body is physical and spiritual, then the Church is physical and spiritual - visible and invisible!

But I think, at this point, I'm leading into a completely new topic!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Salvation through baptism?

First off, it is the teaching of the Church that those who are not baptized are not automatically damned... This would include those who die for the faith, who are preparing to be baptized or those of other faith traditions, who have a saving faith but do not understand the necessity of baptism:

CCC 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

CCC 1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

CCC 1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." 62 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

CCC 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," 63 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Of course, all of this is a bit pointless if baptismal regeneration is false. So let's take a look at what the Bible says about it and what early Christians thought about it.

Another thing I noticed is that this website only quotes PARTS of paragraphs of the catechism. Doing such makes it much easier to take things out of context... but what I'll do is quote them as it is written on their website and then give a response.

The website quotes the catechism [1257]: "The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation."

This claim is true. Jesus said in John 3:5, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Additional verses show that baptism is not merely a symbol but that it actually does something.

1 Peter 3:21
21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Acts 2:38
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 22:16
16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'


In the verse above, what washes sin away if not baptism?

Romans 6:3-4
3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.


This does not sound like it's merely symbolic but that it also raises us from the dead and gives us new life.

Colossians 2:11-12
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Titus 3:5
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

1 Corinthians 6:11
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


What other "washing" is there other than baptism?

Hebrews 10:22
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.


Early Christians also believed in baptismal regeneration. I can quote MANY of them but for the sake of this response, I'll only use a few. Let me know if you want more.

Justin Martyr
"As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly . . . are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, 'Except you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven' [John 3:3]" ( First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

Tertullian
"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . [But] a viper of the [Gnostic] Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism-which is quite in accordance with nature, for vipers and asps . . . themselves generally do live in arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes-by taking them away from the water!" ( Baptism 1 [A.D. 203]).

"Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none" (ibid., 12).

Cyril of Jerusalem
"If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who even without water will receive the kingdom.
. . . For the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism, saying, 'Can you drink the cup which I drink and be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized [Mark 10:38]?' Indeed, the martyrs too confess, by being made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men [1 Cor. 4:9]" ( Catechetical Lectures 3:10 [A.D. 350]).


In addition, Martin Luther even believed in baptismal regeneration.

In his Large Catechism (1529), Luther writes:

Expressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare [of Mark 16:16], that he may be saved. But to be saved, we know very well, is to be delivered from sin, death, and Satan, and to enter Christ's kingdom and live forever with him . . . Through the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . Faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life . . .

When sin and conscience oppress us . . . you may say: It is a fact that I am baptized, but, being baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and obtain eternal life for both soul and body . . . Hence, no greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism; for through it perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us . . .

(From ed. by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis: 1935, sections 223-224,230, pages 162, 165)

The Bible makes this claim all over the place. Why is it that Protestants today deny this? If baptism IS merely a symbol, why would we bother with it at all? And why would Protestants care if it were by immersion or sprinkling like they so often like to debate? I believe that God is very clear on this issue.

Of course, it also must be understood that without the work of the Holy Spirit through baptism, it would have no saving effect. The water itself does not save but the work of the Holy Spirit in the act of baptism, which we do in obedience to our Lord, cleanses us of sin and makes us new in Christ. With this, it cannot be forgotten that without the shedding of Christ's blood on the cross, we would not be saved at all. God's grace is given to us through baptism because of Christ's work on the cross.

Amen!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Salvation through good works?

A very dear friend of mine, a Protestant, has asked me to respond to the "Salvation" section of a website used to show the errors of Catholicism. I will be posting my response to these four main attacks on Catholicism regarding salvation for anyone else who may seek the answer to these questions. The four main points are salvation through: good works, baptism, Mary, and the Church. I have already explained Mary to some degree but further clarification will likely be necessary.

Here is my explanation on "salvation through good works". Keep in mind that the original response was via email:

One thing I notice when talking apologetics is one topic can generally lead right into another. This makes it difficult, at times, to stay on topic. Sometimes, in order to understand the Catholic teaching on one thing, it is essential to understand the Catholic teaching on something else.

Based on the four main points of salvation that you sent me, I am going to have to begin with the "good works" part. This brings us to the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. Before I begin, I want to make it very clear that Catholics do not believe in "faith alone" or "works alone" or that we earn our way to heaven by our good deeds (whether works of the law or works of faith). We believe, and I'm sure you'll agree, that without Christ's work on the cross and the blood he shed for our sins and without his grace given to us, that we would not be saved at all. It is a gift:

CCC 1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

We will also both agree that in order to receive the gift we must do something. First, we must have faith. The Catholic Church teaches this:

CCC 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

Protestants claim that salvation is by "faith alone" and there are several scriptures used to back up this viewpoint:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 6:28-29
Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

Acts 16:31
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.

Acts 26:18
...that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me...

Romans 1:17-18
Therefore the just shall live by faith. The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Romans 3:28
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.


Notice here that he says deeds of the "law". Catholics agreed completely!

Romans 4:5
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Romans 5:1
...having been justified by faith...

Romans 10:9
That if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.

Romans 11:6
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Romans 14:23
...and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

WAIT! First works are condemned but then we are created in Christ to do good works? (More on this below)

Philippians 3:9
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."

Galatians 2:16
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Again, a distinction made to "works of the law".

Galatians 2:21
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

I say, "AMEN!" to all of these verses. Catholics believe all of these 100% and do not disagree with them at all. BUT, none of these verses say faith "alone". Catholics believe that salvation comes first from God's grace and that we are saved by cooperating with this grace with faith AND works. (It is important to note here, that Catholics are NOT talking about works of the law as often spoken of by Paul. Paul condemned the Pharisees for observing the law but not showing love. Catholics are speaking of works of "faith" such as obedience to God, love, service, etc.)

1 Corinthians 13:13
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Notice here that the greatest is not faith, but LOVE...

Galatians 5:6
6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


Works of the law have no value. But works of faith (love) is the only thing that counts.

1 Corinthians 13:2
2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

John 14:15
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command.


Matthew 19:16-17
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

1 Timothy 5:8
8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


Matthew 7:21
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Ephesians 2:10
10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

James 2:14-26
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[
d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

WOW. The only place in the Bible where "faith alone" appears is to say "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." And note the parallel drawn between the body and spirit and between faith and deeds? Just as you cannot separate the body from the spirit, you cannot separate faith from deeds!

This is why Catholics believe that you cannot separate faith and works. They MUST go together or your faith is a dead faith. We are not talking about our own works or that our works EARN us eternal life... but that, by the grace of God, we act in faith working through love to cooperate with the gift of grace and gain eternal life.

In the link you sent me, it quotes from the catechism (837): "...Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved."

I'd have to agree with this in light of Scripture because one who is not charitable or does not show love, according to the Bible, does not have a saving faith and does not inherit the gift of eternal life.

In addition there are several verses that tell us we are judged according to our deeds.

2 Corinthians 5:10
10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 11:15
15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

1 Peter 1:17
17If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

Colossians 3:24-25
24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

Revelation 20:12-13
12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

Note that none of these verses indicate we are judged based on our level of faith? So, in short, it is not faith alone, nor works alone (as many *think* Catholics teach) but faith AND works, as the Bible clearly teaches.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Through Mary to Jesus?

This entry is in response to the question posed in comments. The answer is so lengthy, I felt it best to simply reply in an entry.

"What is the gospel that the Catholic Church proclaims? I don't recall ever reading in the Bible that we go through Mary to Jesus and this is exactly what Catholicism teaches."

First off, the gospel that the Catholic Church proclaims in no different than what Protestant churches proclaim. Of course, the gospel is much more in-depth than a few sentences, but I'm going to limit my response to the basics.

The gospel is the "good news" and is the message about Jesus... that He came to suffer and die for the sins of the world, so that whoever believes in Him, will receive forgiveness and eternal life... By Christ's blood shed on the cross, we are saved.

In regards to the phrase, "through Mary to Jesus", we must take a reasonable look at what is meant by this:

  • Through Mary's voluntary consent we have received Jesus.

When God became man, He came to us through Mary's body because Mary, acting on her free will, agreed to conceive the baby Jesus and her consent allowed His divine will to be completed.

  • Through Mary's example we are better able to imitate Jesus.

Due to her circumstances, Mary had to have an extreme measure of faith. God in his infinite wisdom and holiness would have chosen a virtuous woman in which to carry him... and Jesus respected and adored her. She gave credit where credit was due and remained true to the Lord her whole life! This is an example we should follow Christ...

  • Through Mary's intercession we obtain graces from Jesus.

Mary is, like the rest of those in heaven and here on earth, a part of the body of Christ. No doubt, she is held in a place of honor in the kingdom of heaven for her role and obedience to the Lord. The holier a person, and the closer they are to Christ, the more effective that person's prayer is. Mary could not have been closer to Jesus as she carried Him for nine months, gave birth to Him, and nurtured Him to manhood, for the Redemption of the world.

We ask the body of Christ on earth to pray for us (as instructed in 1 Tim 2:1-4) and also ask the saints and angels in heaven to pray for us. This is scriptural (Rev 5:8, Rev 8:3-4). In fact, the prayers of the righteous are powerful (James 5:16) and who are more righteous than Mary and the Saints, who have been perfected from every stain of sin while they praise our God in heaven?

Let us not forget that Christ gave her to us (and us to her) on the cross (John 19:26-17)! And considering these were some of His dying words, they MUST have been important!

Catholics are in no way saying that salvation comes from Mary but that because of her obedience, Christ was able to complete His work. Could He have done it another way? Of course! He's God! But through Mary, His divine will was carried out.

Jesus loves His mother. And the Bible does not downplay her, ignore her or make her less than who she really is. She is the Mother of God. Catholics understand her role and they love her as Christ loved her.

But, Catholics also understand the gospel. Without the blood of Christ shed for us, there would be no salvation. Salvation is from Christ alone!

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Burning Desire

I listened to this on the radio this morning and it made me realize that this is why it has been so easy for Catholics to be lured out of the Catholic Church...

With a Compelling Desire

Could it be that poor catechesis could cause Catholics to be easily lured into Protestantism? Almost every Catholic I've ever heard who converted to Protestantism, has done so because they claim they never heard the truth about Christ and what he did for them until they met a Protestant who boldly claimed the gospel. Once they heard the gospel and began a real relationship with Christ, they were convinced that this does not happen in the Catholic Church... and every other aspect of Catholic teaching was misrepresented, causing them to believe that everything about the Church must be wrong... Their ears were tickled with the falsehoods propagated by good intentions and ignorance.

This is exactly how I used to speak to Catholics... "Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?" or "Have you ever accepted Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Savior?"

Catholics should be able to answer this with an emphatic, "Yes!" If any Christian is doubting the answer to these questions, there is something wrong... Faith is deeper than attending church on Sunday. It's not just something you do because you've always done it. It has to be done with purpose and understanding, growing in your relationship with the living Christ.

We must speak the gospel of Christ to all people...our friends, our family, our children... at work, in our homes, in our churches. We cannot assume that everyone has a vital relationship with Christ just because they are sitting in the pew next to us.

Even within the Church, we must be sure that everyone has a true understanding of the gospel and what Christ has done for us... We must be sure that Catholics (especially our children) are encouraged to have a burning desire to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength... so we are not Catholic only by name but in practice! Others must be able to see the love of Christ and the fruitfulness of our faith.

What can you do to ensure that those around you truly understand the message of the gospel?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Struggling

Have you ever learned something new, heard an amazing story, or discovered something that you just wanted to share with everyone you know?

That's how I feel about the Catholic faith and the truth I've discovered within. But disappointment has set in. Those I want to share it with the most, don't want to hear anything about it. I've been re-directed in conversations and emails have been flat out ignored. If I'm talking like a Protestant, all is well... but if I say anything about my personal faith journey and growth, they shut down.

The unity I've found within the body of Christ has brought disunity within my own family. They doubt my faith. They doubt my salvation. It's as if they never knew me at all! It's as if the faith they saw in me my whole life has been reduced to a lie in their eyes...

I want to tell them the truth! That everything they have been taught about Catholicism is inaccurate... it's just a collection of lies propagated for the last 500 years! I want to tell them that they don't have to push verses they don't understand under the rug! I want them to read John 6 and its undeniable reality that Christ is truly present in Holy Communion! I want them to understand that Catholics don't "worship" Mary, that the saints are their "very alive" brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ truly IS the bread of life present in the Eucharist that isn't merely a symbol, and that the Holy Spirit truly washed them free of sin at their baptism! How can I keep such fullness of faith a secret? How can I NOT share with them all the beauty and significance in the rituals and sacraments of the Church? How can I make them understand that Mary is their mother too and that Christ gave her to us... that they should call her blessed like the Bible says, instead of ignoring her? How can I make them see that what they view as legalism is simply a prescription given by God and the Church for healthy living?

It is so difficult to just sit quiet and to sense their disappointment when I know with my whole being that I'm following Christ into His Church!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why should we listen to the Church?

If I listen to the Church, is the Church manipulating me or am I obeying God?

On a society level, we all understand the purpose of laws. Why do we have laws? To keep people safe and healthy. We all have a sense of right and wrong and when we see something wrong, we want justice.

What I find interesting, is there are people who are perfectly willing to follow the laws of our government, but when they enter a church, they say the "rules" are trying to impose some sort of control over them. They want to be "free" from the guilt of sin and they don't want anyone telling them what they can and cannot do. But why are these rules established? To keep our souls safe and healthy.

Christians often focus on the warm-fuzzy aspects of faith while ignoring the more unpleasant aspects... or at least what they view as unpleasant. God is love. God is Truth. God forgives. The reality is that we are sinners and we do things daily that greatly grieve our Lord. The rules are not the Church's. They are God's rules. The Church has the authority to execute the rules. They are not meant to manipulate us but to bring us closer to the Lord and to keep us reconciled in the sight of God.

As Christians, we are not free to do whatever we want. Sure, we CAN. But, we are called to a higher standard of living and to fully devote ourselves to the purpose of God. We cannot just sit around. We also cannot throw out the rules we simply don't think we should have to obey for whatever reason. We have to obey God, love others, be kind, gentle, meek, practice self-control and strive to be perfect. The Church is there to help us move in the right direction... to guide us closer to God. So, do we condemn the Church for their standards? If we reject the Church, we are rejecting God. If we reject God, we are going to end up living our lives in sin. When we listen to the Church, we also listen to God and his commands. This does not take away our freedom but encourages our growth in faith and brings us in closer relationship to God.

Luke 10:16
"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Tradition

If is important to understand that nothing in Tradition contradicts Scripture.

The early church was very careful to guard against heresy. This is why we can see evidence in the Bible of writings that corrected churches that were going in the "wrong" direction. The Bible also tells us of the necessity of keeping tradition. These are not the traditions of men that Christ warns against but apostolic traditions:

1 Corinthians 11:2 (NAS)
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

2 Thess 2:15 (NAS)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.


2 Thess 3:6 (NAS)
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.


To ensure that apostolic tradition would be passed down, Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. " (2 Timothy 2:2)

Christ himself promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His church:

Matthew 16:18
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.


It is well established that the Catholic Church has its roots at the time of Christ. They have documented succession from the apostles. They were the only church (outside of the Orthodox church 1054 AD) for 1500 years until the Reformation. So, we have to ask ourselves. Did the early church screw it up? Or did Christ keep his promise to protect his church? Some claim that there was a "remnant" of truth (a protestant-type Christianity) that was "underground" and finally emerged at the Reformation, but there is not one shred of evidence for this, secular or otherwise. Also, Christ did not promise to protect a "remnant".

Christ established a visible Church... the Church is more than just the invisible body of Christ. He also gave His Church authority. For Protestants, their authority is the Bible alone but it is evident in the Bible that this profitable but not necessarily all-sufficient. The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, not the Bible:

1 Timothy 3:14-15
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.


Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.


Note above that it does not say, take it to "a" church but "the" church!

For me, what this boiled down to is: Do I believe that God would want His followers to know the truth and if He did, did He do his part to protect it for the first 1500 years or did all those people die believing they had truth when they really didn't? Can I offer you some hard evidence that the early church was fully truthful? No. But I do believe that Christ kept his promise and I do believe that the writings of the early church are very Catholic in theology. I do believe that the Catholic Church has proven through its records of succession that it is the Church established by Christ.

I believe that the Holy Spirit infallibly guided men to decide which books of the Bible were considered inspired... Why then would it be impossible for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide His Church into all truth? (John 16:13)

More verses supporting Tradition:
John 21:25
Acts 20:35
2 Timothy 1:13
2 Timothy 2:2
2 Peter 1:20
2 Peter 3:15-16
Romans 10:17
1 Corinthians 15:1-2

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Dave Armstrong's Blog

If you use Dave Armstrong's website (Cor ad cor loquitur), please consider donating to him or purchasing his books or e-books. He's put in hours upon hours building up his website in defense of the Catholic faith and maintaining a website is a lot of work!

Click here to go to Dave's site!

For the month of November, he's offering up to 91% savings on his e-books.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Faith is a Journey

"In the Book of Acts faith was for each believer a beginning, not an end; it was a journey, not a bed in which to lie while waiting for the day of our Lord's triumph. Believing was not a once-done act; it was more than an act, it was an attitude of heart and mind which inspired and enabled the believer to take up his cross and follow the Lamb whithersoever He went."
- A.W. Tozer - Born After Midnight, 16.


Not a Catholic author but definitely Catholic thinking. One thing I recently embraced is the concept that faith is a journey and that salvation is not a one-time event. Salvation may begin with a prayer and "acceptance" of Christ but the act itself without true faith and obedience, does not save. I spent the majority of my life believing that my actions had little consequence... that I could be a "basically good person" and my faith "alone" would save me. This concept was gravely unhealthy for my faith and years of this kind of thinking kept me from praying, reading my Bible and truly seeking God's will for my life.

Understanding that faith is a journey has called me to change my attitude toward God and to desire to renew my heart and mind for Him. I don't want to have a lukewarm faith. I don't want one moment in time to be "it" but rather the beginning to a growing faith in God. I want my works to be a reflection of my faith... so that others can see the hope that I have in Jesus.

Old habits are hard to break, but slowly I'm pushing myself to pray and read my Bible. I'm pushing myself to try to keep my mind focused on God instead of the things of this world. Every day, I have to ask God to help me live my day for Him and to ease the anxiety that so often invades my life. It is a struggle but we are called to work out our salvation in "fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12)... and to proclaim the love of the Lord... I can no longer think that my faith without obedience to the Lord is sufficient. He calls me to be perfect (Mt 5:48).

"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:24)

I must take up my cross daily and follow God, wherever He takes me. Christ accomplished it all on the cross, and without that, nothing would save us. We must cooperate with God's gift of grace by following Him in faith and obedience.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Purifier of Silver

My great aunt Susie shared this with me (from the back of her church bulletin). It brought tears to my eyes...

"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver..." Malachi 3:3

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."


If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His Image in you.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Thanksgiving and Prayer

Pray for a Rose by Imolly on deviantart.comPhillipians 1:1-11
Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus,
to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi,
with the bishops and deacons:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,
praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the Gospel
from the first day until now.
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right that I should think this way about all of you,
because I hold you in my heart,
you who are all partners with me in grace,
both in my imprisonment
and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel.
For God is my witness,
how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.


I love the part above that states, "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it..." This gives me encouragement that if I put my trust in God, He will help me finish the race. I am expected to increase in love and to grow for the glory and praise of God. I cannot live my life with an attitude that says, "I have faith and so I can live my life any way I see fit." I must renew my mind daily to follow Christ in obedience and to share his love with others, even if they reject me. And I must never forget to thank the Lord for his presence in my life...

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thoughts on Mary

The topic at RCIA last night was Mary and the Saints. We read several passages which included Mary and the following things spoke to me specifically...

John 19:26-27
When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.


What strikes me here is that this disciple was not actually the son of Mary and this passage makes it clear to me that Jesus is giving his mother to all of us and giving us to his mother... What other possible explanation could there be for Jesus to say this as he was dying on the cross for our sins?

Along with this is something else I never knew as a Protestant... that Mary never had other children and that the "brothers" or "brethren" of Jesus were actually cousins or step-brother (through Joseph). Christians always held, until recently, the view that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ.

Even Martin Luther believed this:

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. {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }

This view of Mary’s perpetual virginity was also held by Calvin, Zwingli and others. For more quotes you can go to Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

But even more interesting is that IF Mary had other children, she would not have gone to live with this disciple after the death of Jesus but with one of her other children... as it would have been their duty to care for her and not commit her to the care of someone else.

It also seems fitting to me that Christ would be born of a woman whose womb would be reserved only for the Son of God and no other.

It is clear that the idea of Jesus having brothers is a new idea that doesn't seem to hold true... according to Scripture and according to the beliefs of Christians held for centuries.

Another verse that struck me on a more personal level:

Luke 1:48
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.


Here, Mary states, "all generations will count me blessed". As a Protestant, I thought of Mary at Christmas only. But this passage indicates that I should give her more thought throughout the year. Contrary to what I thought before, Catholics do not worship Mary but they do honor her for the role she played in the life of Christ. I am sorry I ignored her for so long. Christ obviously has a tremendous amount of love for her. It seems only fitting that I should follow His example.

Everyone at RCIA received a miraculous medal on a chain and we learned to pray the rosary. It was an emotional time for me because I felt I had uncovered another treasure given to me by the Lord and I'm so thankful that he's brought me "home".

Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for me.

People to pray for today:
Damion
Cindy
Anna
my children

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints' Day

All Saints' DayHappy All Saints' Day!

Today we celebrate the holy day of obligation of All Saints' Day. We remember our loved ones and others who have died.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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