Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lenten Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival contains many posts surrounding the season of Lent, including my liturgical celebration of the Stations of the Cross. Make sure you check it out:

Catholic Carnival 108: Season of Lent

Pax Christi,

Jesus: The Anointed Priest, Prophet, and King

"eyesofphaith" asked the following questions in the General Theology board at HCR:
What was the form or shape of Jesus before He came to earth. Scripture references how Jesus claimed a body was prepared for Him. Did he have a heavenly "body" before he came to earth?
No. Before the Word took on flesh, He existed as the second Person of the Trinity, which is Spirit. "God is Spirit" (Jn 4:24), He has no flesh or bones (cf. Lk 24:39). It is He "whom no man has ever seen or can see" (1 Tim 6:16). He is "the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God" (1 Tim 1:17). The Word did not have flesh until he was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.
Also, since Christ means Messiah or The Annointed One and scripture refers to the Holy Spirit as the anointing (1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you), does this denote that only the body was anointed because the Spirit that put on flesh was The Anointing.
No. He is anointed who God chooses to represent Him or to lead His people. According to the Old Law, priests (cf. Exo 28:41; Num 3:2-3; 35:25), kings (cf. 1 Sam 10:1; 16:12-13; 2 Sam 19:10; 1 Ki 1:39), and sometimes even prophets (cf. 1 Ki 19:16; 1 Chron 16:21-22; Isa 61:1) were anointed for their respective offices. Similarly, when we say that Jesus is the Christ (which means "anointed"), we mean that He is The Chosen One, the Messiah that the Jews were anticipating, the person in whom all of these anointed offices are present.

Jesus is the Christ, the great:
  • Priest (cf. Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5,10; 6:20; 7:17,26; 8:1; 9:11),
  • Prophet (cf. Deut 18:15,18; Mt 13:57; 21:11, 46; Lk 7:16; 13:33; 24:19; Jn 4:19; 6:14; 7:40; 9:17; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37), and
  • King (cf. Psa 24:7-10; Zech 14:9; Mt 2:2; 21:5; Jn 1:49; 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 15:3; 17:14).
Thus, the title "Christ" refers to His status as the Messiah, the Anointed Priest, Prophet, and King -- not to His body that was conceived by the Holy Spirit. For more on Jesus as "the Christ", go here.

When 1 John 2:27 mentions the "anointing" we have received from Jesus, what this is referring to is the grace we receive when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, a grace that sets us apart and makes us his chosen people.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What to Do When You're in Love with a Protestant

A student from Texas A&M emailed me the following question. I'm going to break it up into parts:
How in the world do you tell someone who is so strong in their faith that she is wrong (or better yet, "in error") and, has, in essence, been duped by the "Reformers"?
Very carefully ;)
I really find this particularly frustrating and somewhat discouraging. I don’t want to say something that I’m going to regret, nor to I wish to state something, however innocent, incorrectly.
I understand. It's tough when you know the Truth but someone you dearly love does not, and no matter what you do, you can't convince them otherwise. AND, every time you try, you have to make sure that you don't insult the person you love and that you state everything correctly. Yes, all of this is very frustrating indeed! However, with prayer, patience, persistence, and the grace of God, it can be done. The more educated you become in your faith, and the more experience you obtain in talking with non-Catholic Christians, the easier this will become.
Have you ever walked up to a Protestant and told them that they are in error? I guess I’m looking for a point of reference from where I can begin.
Well, I've certainly never started a conversation that way. If you do, you'll just turn the person off at the onset and there won't be much hope for a frutiful exchange. I think the best thing to do is to LISTEN. Don't collect rejoinders in your mind as you watch the person's mouth move. It is important to actually listen to what he (or she) is saying. You have to get to the very heart of what he believes before you can effectively respond to him, and this only happens by listening closely to him.

Secondly, be calm. Once you raise your voice, he will raise his voice still more, and before you know it you're in a shouting match. Plus, it's harder to think logically and to understand the other person when you are filled with passion and anger. Staying calm will also defuse his anger when he begins to escalate, and if there are any witnesses present (for example, in a public debate or an online debate) your arguments will be taken more seriously than his.

Thirdly, it's crucial that you be soaked in Scripture and the teaching of the Church. This has taken on increased importance to me since my reading of Sheed. You have to know what you're talking about, and you have to be able to express yourself with words that are precise, and clear, and not prone to misinterpretation.

Finally, you must pray hard for her conversion. You can't do this on your own. Jesus Christ and the saints must play an integral role in this process. Devote an hour of Eucharistic adoration to her. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to say. Pray that her heart will be softened and all obstacles removed that keep her from full membership in the Church. Pray for the grace to be an effective witness to your faith in the way you live your life. Pray, pray, pray. This is so important.
I think the problem really gets messy in my case, for two reasons: 1. I like this girl a lot (intelligent, charming, loves God, virtuous, beautiful, I mean, everything I would ever dream to have in a wife…with the exception that she’s not Catholic); and 2. My comfort level with the Bible…is…well…OK, but it still leaves something to be desired.
Yes, I understand what you are going through. One of my ex-girlfriends was Pentecostal. I basically would have said everything about her that you just said about your girlfriend. But, eventually our religious differences became too great.

At any rate, when the dialogue is with someone that you already love, it is all the more important to listen, and stay calm, and present the orthodox teaching. A loving relationship demands this sort of thing. Of course, this can make the pressure and anxiety you feel about this even greater, since so much is on the line (e.g., your relationship, her soul, your sanity, etc.). But, you can do it. It has certainly been done before.
I mean, my impression, is, and I think Keating talked about it, that, in order to talk to a Bible Christian, and help them to realize their error, you have to make your points using the Bible alone, in spite of the fact that we know that Sola Scriptura is completely wrong, and, in and of itself, completely contradictory to Scripture, for various reasons (as you obviously know).
Yes, this is correct. Scripture is his only authority. Thus, if you wish to persuade him on religious matters, you must use his authoritative source. Eventually, you may be able to persuade him that the early Church fathers and the authoritative statements of the Magisterium are important too. But, until then, you have to use the Bible.

Now, this doesn't mean that you have to be a Bible scholar before you can talk to people about your faith. But, I think that, at the very least you must know the story of salvation (how God has interacted with man throughout human history), the basic teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, and at least a handful of verses that you can use to defend Catholic doctrines. For example, for the Eucharist you would need to be able to recall and explain the Eucharisitc Discourse in Jn 6 and the Institution Narratives in the synoptic Gospels. For the authority of the Pope, you would need to know Mt 16:13-21; Lk 22:31-32; and Jn 21:15-17. For the necessity of Baptism, you would need to know Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:16; and Jn 3:3-5. You get the idea. Try to accomplish this much at first, and then gradually you can come to acquire a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.

It's difficult to say what you should do if your apologetic efforts don't work. It all depends on how her differing views effect your relationship and your possible future together. A mixed relationship/marriage can work, it's just difficult. This will take much discernment and possibly the advice of a spiritual director.

I hope this helps.

Pax Christi,

Monday, February 26, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #4

I've decided to make every Monday "Poll-Release Monday." So, every Monday you can expect a new poll in the sidebar. This week's poll asks the following question:
  • Which one of these warrior saints is your favorite?
It should go without saying which one of these saints gets my vote! For information on each one of your choices, see the following:As for the previous poll ("Which Catholic belief is the most difficult for you to defend?"), the results were interesting. It appears that you all have the most difficulty with the Marian doctrines:

Mary's assumption into heaven, her perpetual virginity, and her perfect sinlessess can all be difficult to prove at first. I remember that when I first began learning more about my faith, these were the ones I had the most questions about. But, there is a solid defense for all three of these doctrines.

I've made a few blog posts in the past that may be of help: There are also the following entries in the Directory: I hope this will help to further equip you all in your defense of Marian doctrine. It is important that we know these doctrines well, and that we can defend them well. These are, after all, the Catholic doctrines most assailed by anti-Catholics, and there are many erroneous beliefs and misconceptions regarding them. People usually find Catholicism to be much more agreeable once they come to finally understand the Church's teaching on Mary.

It was also interesting to see the number of people who had difficulty defending the ministerial priesthood (6 votes, the second most votes). I would not have guessed that this doctrine would score so high, considering that there is so much more biblical evidence for the ministerial priesthood than there is for the Marian doctrines. At any rate, I have made a few blog posts on this subject as well: There are also the following entries from the Directory: For more information on the priesthood, see Holy Orders and the Priesthood. Of course, if you ever have questions about anything Catholics believe, just let me know. I live to serve.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More on Doing Homework on Sunday

Some of you may recall my earlier post on doing homework on Sunday, in which I said that, as long as:
  1. you do your homework with the intention of glorifying God with your intellectual work
  2. you have already done other things to sanctify the day (going to Mass, praying, reading a theological/mystical work)
  3. you don't dread Sunday b/c that's the day when you always do your homework, and you don't like doing your homework
.....then doing your homework on Sunday is okay. BUT, someone recently sent me a link from the Catholic Q&A section at EWTN in which Fr. Robert J. Levis answers this question in a slightly different way (in response to someone who felt that there was something not quite right about doing homework on Sunday). He says:
Dear Student, Studying is not considered a servile, manual labor and so the Church law against work is not applicable here. Most students take advantage of Sunday for make-up reading and other scholarly work. So you must not think as you do. College work is very expensive both in time and finances; you must work very hard to succeed. Surely never use religion and Faith as motive to avoid hard intellectual labor.
He is right that doing homework is not servile, manual labor, but I don't think he has taken into account the various extenuating circumstances that can make doing homework an unacceptable practice on Sunday.

As I said in my last post on this, often times it is because students always do homework on Sunday that they develop an actual dread for this day! They hate doing homework, Sunday is when they always do it, thus they cringe whenever Sunday rolls around. This sentiment is completely contrary to the regard that all Christians are supposed to have for the day when Jesus rose from the dead. I think that if doing homework on Sunday causes you to disrespect Sunday, then you should quit doing it on Sunday until you can foster a healthier perspective on this day and approach the doing of homework with a better mindset.

Also, if you have ALOT of homework, it can actually keep you from being able to devote this day to the Lord and to your own physical and spiritual growth. Some people put off 30-pg papers and major projects until Sunday, and then they are so nervous and anxious about it, and so overwhelmed by the volume of work, that they just skip Mass, or they don't do the spiritual reading that they would normally do, or don't exercise. Most importantly, they don't rest! I realize that doing homework is not servile labor, but if it keeps us from sanctifying the day, then it shouldn't be done then (or, at least, it shouldn't ALL be done then).

So, I guess my point is that, while Fr. Levis is correct, we also have to keep in mind the role that doing homework plays in the day, and we have to acknowledge the fact that doing homework can actually keep us from making Sunday the day of worship, and rest, and rejuvination that it is supposed to be.

What are your thoughts? Let me know.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are We Really Teaching Religion?

In the short booklet Are We Really Teaching Religion?, Frank Sheed provides two prerequisites for the teaching of Religion. First, the teacher must be absolutely soaked in the New Testament. Secondly, he must be similarly soaked in the dogmas of the Church. What a wonderful requirement! Yet, I am inclined to agree with Sheed when he says that most Religion teachers do not fulfill it. Of course, before any teacher can take this “soaking” seriously, he must know what it means to be so acquainted with Scripture and doctrine, and it must be impressed upon him why this is so important.

Sheed explains that a teacher who is soaked in the New Testament “knows what every key chapter in it is about, knows the line of thought of every book of it, could find her way about it blindfold.” It is not enough to pick up the New Testament whenever questions about it arise, or when you need a defense of Catholic doctrine. It is only by reading the entire New Testament, and reading it often, that you can become so familiar with it that you could “find your way about it blindfold.” Religion teachers must know Scripture like the back of their hand! That’s what it means to be soaked in Scripture.

The teacher who is soaked in the Church’s dogmas “knows them in so far as the Church has expounded them.” Furthermore, he is “possessed by them.” To be possessed by these truths is to have “an almost anguished desire” to communicate them to others. It is not enough for him to simply read from the Catechism and go home. He has to actually know with great depth of understanding what it is that he is teaching. The “possessed” teacher knows both what he believes and why he believes it, and he longs with heartfelt desire to share the beauty and the inner-coherence of the faith with others. We must teach as one initiated into divine mysteries.

Knowing now what it means to be soaked in the New Testament and in the dogmas of the Church, we must ask why these prerequisites for the teaching of Religion are so important. Sheed’s defense of the importance of being soaked in the New Testament is simply brilliant, yet I would imagine that few people are familiar with it. He says, first of all, that we must know the New Testament well because, if we give the Word only a cursory glance, then we insult the Spirit who is its author. May we never sin against the Holy Spirit! That is definitely the last thing a Religion teacher would want to do, especially considering how vital the Spirit is to the presentation and assimilation of truth.

Secondly, and as a consequence of the first, if we “snub the Holy Ghost” then we can’t very well count on His cooperation in our classroom. What follows is what I esteem to be his greatest insight on this subject. Sheed tells us that the teaching of Religion is a dialogue between “the Holy Ghost in you helping you to say the truth, and the Holy Ghost in the child helping it to understand what you are saying.” How many of us have ever thought of the teaching of Religion in this way? I dare say such insight is rare. Yet, if more teachers longed to teach as one inspired by the Spirit, and as one attempting to ignite the Spirit in each one of his students, then they would take their task much more seriously and they would consider it of utmost importance to be steeped in the Word of God that the Spirit inspired. What speaks more to the Spirit than a work of the Spirit? What better way to teach in the Spirit than by informing all that you deliver by the Spirit’s handiwork?

As for being soaked in dogma, any dialogue with a skeptic, non-believer, or inquiring mind that is more than five minutes long should reveal to us the importance of possessing a deep and mature knowledge of Catholic teaching. It is certainly good to know what it is that we believe. But, if we can’t explain why we believe it, what it means to believe it, and what the implications of this belief are for the other truths of the faith, then we stand on a precarious foundation. Our faith is liable to be crushed. It waits only for the next question to fall into pieces. If we cannot present the beauty, the inner-coherence, and the “why” of our faith, then there is no way that we can enflame in the hearts of men the desire to know God and to be with Him. Men long, with every fiber of their being, to love, to be loved, and to know the Truth. God’s revelation is meant to fulfill this longing, but it cannot achieve this purpose if it is not delivered by good and faithful men who truly know what He has revealed. “How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10:14).

Thus, it is in every way essential that anyone who presumes to teach Religion be first soaked, drenched, utterly saturated in the New Testament and in the dogmas of the Church. Yet, before we criticize another for the degree to which he meets this requirement, the question must be asked: “How well do I make the grade?” Once the teacher makes of his own life a model of what is required of a teacher of Religion, then he can inspire other teachers to live similarly and he can properly inform and cause the conversion of his students so that they too will become the high-caliber teachers of Religion that we are all called to be.

Frank Sheed on "Get Behind Me, Satan!"

I just finished reading a short booklet by F. J. Sheed entitled Are We Really Teaching Religion? In it he discusses the state of religious education in his time (the booklet was published in 1953) and what should be required of any effective teacher of Religion.

One of these requirements is for the teacher to be "soaked" in both the New Testament and the dogmas of the Church. To give an example of how important this soaking is to our catechetical and evangelistic work, he mentions the apologetic in response to Jesus' shocking words to Peter. This is what the Catholic Evidence Guild use to give when people would try to use "Get behind me Satan!" as proof against the authority of Peter. Sheed provides some excellent insight as to the root of the problem as far as these words from Jesus are concerned. I would like to provide it here:
Take again — as a sort of combination of being soaked in dogma and soaked in New Testament — the famous objection of the street corner heckler to the infallibility of the Pope, that "Christ called Peter Satan." In our early years on the platform, we gave a thoroughly unsatisfactory answer to the question, an answer we had got out of the books. Our answer was this: Christ did say to St. Peter: "Get thee behind me, Satan"; but, we said, the context explains it. Our Lord had told the Apostles that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter, out of his love for our Lord, begged Him not to do so, and our Lord then said to Peter: "Get thee behind me, Satan"; and we explained that the word Satan means tempter and that Peter, out of love of our Lord, was tempting Him not to go through His suffering. And all this was very much to Peter's credit. That was our explanation and it never satisfied the crowd. Why? Because we had explained the words, but we had not explained the violence of the words. Satan does mean a tempter, but Satan means Satan: our Lord knew it, and Peter knew it, and it was a scarifying thing for our Lord to have said to Peter. Why the vehemence, if that was all? Go forward to the Agony in the Garden and you see more profoundly. Our Lord asks His Father the very thing that Peter had suggested to Him. "Don't make Me go through with this suffering." And our Lord feels the anguish of it, so that the sweat runs off like blood. Now, that sweat as of blood is the measure of the temptation that Peter is exposing our Lord to, when he begged Him not to suffer and die. And once you see the sweat as of blood, then you understand the vehemence of "Get thee behind me, Satan."
What Sheed is telling us with this and other examples is that it is not enough to simply know what we believe about something. We have to be able to get to the heart of the teaching, and to the heart of the problem that the objector sees in the teaching. As apologists, we can't just downplay the alarm that people have over Jesus' response to Peter. We have to give that alarm the respect it deserves as a valid response and then respond honestly to it.

For further apologetics on this issue, see this article.

Pax Christi,

News and Notes

Some of you may remember my earlier post publicizing the new Balthasar reading group that my good friend Adam Janke has begun. Well, much to my delight, Carl Olson recently interviewed Adam about the reading group for Ignatius Insight! Make sure you check it out. Adam does a great job of explaining the group, the importance of Balthasar's theology, and how rewarding it can be to delve in to his works.

As for my blog, I added three new apologists to the "Pen Is Mightier than the Sword" section of my sidebar: St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas More. Make sure you check that out too. They are apologists indeed, and it was an oversight on my part to not have them included there sooner. Hopefully, that has now been sufficiently remedied :D If anyone would like to suggest another apologetical work from one of these three that I have not included, just let me know. Apologetical works by St. Thomas More are particularly rare on the internet, so it's good to have the two links I was able to find. If anyone knows of others, send me an email or leave me a comment. Also, I have an entire entry in the Directory devoted to St. Augustine, if you would like to know more about his life and thought. Of course, there is an abundance of information on all three saints at New Advent.

Pax Christi,

More on the Removal of Holy Water During Lent

In my previous post on Ash Wednesday and Lent, I mentioned why some parishes decide to remove the holy water during Lent. Fr. Daren Zehnle was gracious enough to inform me that I fell a little short when I said that this removal was not required. In fact, it is not allowed. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments addressed this issue in the following manner:
Prot. N. 569/00/L

March 14, 2000

Dear Father:

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:
  1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
  2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).
Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini
You can also read this correspondance here. Thank you for the correction, Father!

Pax Christi,

Monday, February 19, 2007

Worshipping the Holy Spirit

"JARZJR" asked the following question in the General Theology board at Holy Culture Radio:
I know this sounds like a silly question but I was wondering why i don't really hear prayers or songs directed toward worshiping the Holy Spirit. I mean i know we ask Him for wisdom, and guidance, and direction but you never hear anyone just worshiping Him. Is this just because that is His role of helper in the GodHead or does He also recieve worship when we worship The Father and The Son? I know that all three persons of the Trinity are co-equal, co-existing, and co-eternal, and I know we worship them collectively as God. But it seems like we worship The Father and Jesus seperately as well. So why not the Holy Spirit? Or do we?

Theres probably a simple answer to this, so please inform me.
It is certainly well and good to worship the Holy Spirit and to pray to Him. After all, He is a Divine Person, equal in divinity to the Father and the Son. However, it does seem as though the Spirit is the most neglected of the Persons of the Trinity. I think we can only speculate as to why that is. Personally, I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that historically, the Church spent so much time hammering out her Christological beliefs that there was little time or reason to devote much energy on the Spirit. The heresies concerning the Spirit are very few, but the Christological heresies are many.

That said, here are some prayers to the Holy Spirit: By the way, anyone can pray these prayers. Of all of them, "Come Holy Spirit" is probably the most popular. I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Sidebar Update (Poll #3)

I added the new poll for the week:
Which Catholic belief is the most difficult for you to defend?
You'll find it in the sidebar. As for the results on the previous poll, 9 people liked my Q&A's the best, followed Debates (5) and Miscellaneous (4). Leave a comment and let me know why you liked each one, particularly if you voted for "Miscellaneous." I was surprised that anyone voted for that category.

Also, I added two new badges to the bottom, from my nominations in the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards. So as not to unduly clutter things up, I only added badges for the two categories in which I had a decent showing.

Finally, I found an extremely rare book by Ronald Knox entitled "Nazi and Nazarene" over at Internet Archive. You'll find it in the section on Ronald Knox, under "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword." In order to read it, you need this browser plug-in. For more on Ronald Knox, go here or here.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wheat and Weeds in the Catholic Church

"Therese" left the following comment to my first post on Jesus Christ and the salvation of non-Christians:
Here's one for ya.

I left the Catholic Church about 25 years ago. I was sick of the hierarchical, misogynistic mess. And knowing I couldn't change a 2000 year old church, I left. Besides, my brother was raped by a priest as a kid. I just couldn't go there anymore.

Fast-forward 20 years. I'm now hooked up with a priest through volunteer work. He invites me to his parish. He offers to tutor me so I can come back to the Church. After 2 years of arguing with the guy, I decided to try it.

3 months later, he cuts off my studies, does NOT explain anything directly to me, and tells my best friend he has fallen in love with me. He then sends me a letter ordering ME to find another parish.

His reward? An eventual (2 years later) transfer and a promotion, to "Very Reverend". The Bernard Law School of Career Advancement strikes again.

I'm happily an agnostic now, and will NEVER trust "Holy Mother Church" again. NEVER.

Am I going to Hell? If so, at least I should have some company.
First of all, I want to say that I completely understand why you feel such a lack of trust in the Church. Some of her more wretched members have certainly treated your poorly, and I think it would be difficult for any of us to say with certainty what we would do if we were in the same situation as you. It's just tough.........extremely tough.

Also, I know the effect that sexual abuse by a priest can have on a person. Someone close to me was violated by a priest, and it has had devastating effects on his life. When I hear of things like this, the same sentiment wells up in me that motivated the words of our Lord when he said, "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49). We know that when He comes again, the weeds will be separated from the wheat, and cast into the fire (cf. Mt 13:30). But, until then, they must live among us.

Can it be any other way? None of us are perfect. That weeds will exist among the wheat is inevitable. We too have been weeds in the Church at one time or another. We all sin, and this has a wounding effect on the Body of Christ. We can only pray for the increase of our own personal holiness, and for this same increase in others.

Furthermore, we must not allow the scandal of the weeds to overshadow the nurturing effect of the wheat in the Church. There are sinners in the Church......but there are also saints, good and hoy men and women who love the Church and who try diligently and daily to bring the presence of Christ to everyone they meet. People like that seem rare, don't they? I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Where were the saints when Fr. So-and-So was doing this to me?" But, they are there. Seek them out and you will find them.

Remember that saints don't seek the limelight like sinners do. They don't want attention or glory from those around them. They seek only to go about humble lives in service to the Lord. This often means that they are overlooked and disrespected. No news reporters clamor to interview them or write articles about them. But, go wherever good is being done and you will find them.

The sins of Her members have caused the Church to be labeled many derogatory things. She is "misogynistic", "pedophilic", "selfish", "heavy-handed", and even "murderous". But, the representatives of any organization or group of people are the ones who are faithful to the organization. In the faithful is everything that the organization hopes to be in the world.

When they live lives of faith, hope, and charity, when they decrease so that He may increase, when they sacrfice themselves for love of neighbor, they "make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24). They build up the Church. They heal the wounds and the divisions that are caused by sin in the world. Our hope is in them and we must pray that we can be more like them.

But, Therese, I'm sure that all of this is of little solace to you now. It's difficult to hope in the merits of the saints when so much sin has effected your life. I'm sure it's difficult to imagine that any good can come from the Church, when Her priests --the very people who are supposed to represent her-- have hurt you so deeply. I simply want you to know that much good has come from the Church, and that She is in the business not of hurting people, but of leading them to Christ. Unfortunately, some people within Her do not wish to live out this mission, but She seeks every day for the conversion of their hearts.

As to your question about hell, I cannot say what your eternal reward will be. I know that the abuse you have experienced surely mitigates how guilty you are for leaving the Church. I know that it is possible to achieve healing and resolution of everything that has happened to you. I know that, as long as you have breath in your lungs, you have the opportunity to turn back to God and to take back all the good that was stolen from you by the evil in this world. I know that, as long as wheat exists with the weeds, there is hope...........and hope is what keeps us alive.

Therese, I pray that this was helpful. Perhaps you were not even looking for my help, but it was help that I desired to give. I know that this response was not perfect. Please excuse the inadequacies found therein.

Pax Christi,

Jesus Christ and the Salvation of Non-Christians: Part 2 (Sort of....)

Well, after my extensive reply to his challenge to show that Jesus is still the way in the salvation of the non-Christian, here was the response I received from "The Apologist":
this is where I will disagree with you, because you are misapplying those scriptures as well as isolating them. Rom 10:14-15 is clear on how people will be save. What you gave me is the actual roman catholic response which saddens me because according to your view the idol worshipping pagan who offends God by breaking the first commanment is going to your heaven. If we go by your view then we do better by not preaching the gospel to the good pagan.

and can you please make your responses shorter. thanks
Do I need to even justify this with a response? I thought this was supposed to be a "debate", ya know, where people provide point-by-point rebuttals?!?! I love it when I spend a lot of time giving a thorough and Scriptural defense of what I believe and all I get in return is 5 minutes worth of thought and a wave of the hand, as if that's supposed to refute everything I have written. How can I "debate" with someone if they aren't going to directly engage anything I say or try to actually prove that I'm wrong?

I'll leave it up to the reader to speculate as to why his response is as lacking as it is.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Honor Your Father and Mother

"thedude" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
When does disobeying parents become grave matter?
Whenever they ask you to do something that is for your own good and you do not do it, you sin. And, since "Honor your father and mother" is the first of the Commandments that concern love of neighbor, this sin is also quite grave. From the Catechism:
2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord" (Col 3:20; Cf. Eph 6:1). Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.

As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Any sin that directly breaks one of the Ten Commandments is typically considered grave matter (cf. CCC, 1858), and this is one of them.

Pax Christi,

Catechesis in Your Ear

It's been a while since the last time I gave a formal presentation during the RCIA sessions that I have been helping with. But, last Sunday, I gave two presentations: one was my "witness" about an encounter I had with the devil (no joke) and the other is a catechesis on the first 3 commandments, with a short summary of the last 7 (since they had already been touched upon by the previous speaker).

I was nervous about giving my witness. For one, the RCIA director pushed the date for my witness back at least 5 times. So, that prolonged my anxiety. Also, I had only told one or two people about it, and certainly never a large group. I was also worried that it wouldn't come out right and that I would forget a lot of things once I got up there. But, I felt good about it afterwards. You'll notice that I get a little choked up a few times. What happened on that night was a very overwhelming experience, and as I was telling it, some of those feelings came back to me, chief among them being the utter dependence I had upon the name of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

With the catechesis on the Ten Commandments, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to cover everything I needed to cover in just 25 minutes. I was flipping through the Catechism thinking, "How in the world am I gonna pull this off?" But, I think it was all good. I did it in a little over 26 minutes too, which made me happy. Adam Janke was supposed to do the last 7 commandments, but Rhianna accidentally covered practically his whole presentation when she was talking about sin and temptation. So, instead of belaboring all the points that she made, I just tacked on a little 5-7 minute summary of the remaining commandments after I presented the first 3.

Anyway, here are the files (to download, right click and select "save target as"): Drake has updated the FUS RCIA website, so to listen to all (or, at least, the majority) of the presentations that have been made by the team so far, go here. You can also find my witness and my presentation in the "box."

I hope you enjoy. Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Pax Christi,

Friday, February 16, 2007

Catechesis on Creation and Grace

I added two curriculum units to the "box." The title gives away the content of each one. If anyone is in the business of proclaiming the gospel, or just wants a review of what the Catechism says about creation and grace, you should find these helpful. Note however that they were made with a particular audience in mind, so you may have to adapt these units to your crowd. The first page outlines the demographic of my audience, followed by the goals for understanding and change. The second page is a sketch of the entire unit. Pages three and four are each a detailed outline of one of the lessons from the unit. The final page is a creative handout.

When I first received the requirements for these units, I was like, "Oh, 5 pages, that's not bad." Umm.............yea.........these things take forever to put together. But, I'd like to think that they could be useful somewhere down the road. These are the first curriculum units I've ever done, so there's probably room for improvement. Actually, I'm sure there's room for improvement. Comments welcome.

Pax Christi,

Better Luck Next Year.....

Well, based on the unofficial results, I didn't win any blog awards this year. I'm not gonna lie, I'm disappointed. As long as Jimmy Akin is alive, the award for "Best Apologetics Blog" is untouchable. But, to look on the bright side, some people still may see my blog among the results and come check it out. That's the only reason I wanted an award in the first place: so that more people will find my blog and be able to benefit from it. Also, I did get in the top 10 in two categories: "Best Apologetcs Blog" (6th place) and "Best Designed Blog" (8th place). I consider that a pretty decent showing.

Thank you to everyone who voted for my blog this year. Anything you can do to increase my readership would be most appreciated. I'm still going to do the best I can to make this one of the best Catholic apologetics blogs on the internet.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jesus Christ and the Salvation of Non-Christians

Someone who goes by the name "The apologist" challenged me to a debate on the following topic: "Christ as the only way." After I said that I already believed that Christ is the only way, he gave me the following clarification:
So if a budhist who never hears the gospel of Jesus dies, what happens to them? and please give me biblical proof.
I offered the following response:
- - - - -
It depends on the nature of his ignorance of Christ and the degree to which he has followed the natural law imprinted on his heart. If the Buddhist is ignorant of Christ through no fault of his own, and if he lived a good life according to the natural law, then Jesus will welcome him into the kingdom.
In Lk 12:47-48, Jesus shows us that a man is only held accountable for what has been given to him. "To whom much is given much is required." But what of the person who never has the opportunity to believe in the Gospel? "How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" (Rom 10:14). The implication is: they can't. Yet we're still going to damn them to hell for not believing in Jesus? Men cannot justly be held to a standard they have not been given.

But, this does not then mean that they are free to live lawless. Natural law is their standard. "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20). "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them" (Rom 2:14-15). Remember: to whom much is given much is required. They have not found the pearl of great price. Thus, they are held accountable to the natural law.

And what happens when they follow it? There will be "glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek [. . .] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified" (Rom 2:10,13). The Greek (and by extension all Gentiles) were not hearers of the Law. They did not have His word from the prophets, or the Ten Commandments, or any type of explicit revelation like what the Jews received. Yet, because of what is imprinted on their hearts and their obedience to it, they are considered doers of the Law and thus "glory and honor and peace" will be theirs. "He will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith" (Rom 3:30). In fact, "those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law" (Rom 2:27). This shows the veracity of the life they are called to live, even though they do not have the gospel.

Their reward is affirmed in other Scripture passages as well. The psalmist tells us that God will not despise a broken and contrite heart (cf. Psa 51:17), and this He does with no partiality (cf. Rom 2:11). Peter affirmed this very thing when he said, "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35). Jesus himself says that anyone who feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and visits the sick and imprisoned will "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Why? Because whenever they did this to the least of their brethren, they did it for Christ (cf. Mt 25:34-36,40). This leads me to my final point.

You may be asking yourself, "How can you say that Jesus is the only way to salvation if you affirm that a person who is ignorant of the gospel of Christ can still be saved?" The reason is this: everything he has and does that is good comes from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whenever the Buddhist loved his neighbor, he served Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40). Even though he is not of this flock, Jesus is still his shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16) and his God (Rom 3:29). The natural law imprinted on his heart comes from God, and it exists as the voice that he responds to when the Shepherd calls.

Most importantly, the grace that the Buddhist received so as to do good and follow this law comes from God. After all, all grace is of God (cf. 1 Pet 5:10) and no man can do good without it. Grace is likewise of the Spirit (cf. "Spirit of grace", Heb 10:29). In receiving grace and doing good by it, he is led by this Spirit and anyone who is led by the Spirit is a son of God and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:14,17).

And thus, Jesus Christ, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6), the only name under heaven by which we must be saved (cf. Acts 4:12) is vindicated and glorified, despite (and I would say most especially by) the salvation of the non-Christian.

I hope this will suffice as a Scriptural defense.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Peep the Carnival

Better than a box of chocolates!! (although, somehow, I think my girlfriend would disagree....)

Catholic Carnival #106

By the way, that ride on the left hand side of my pic seems like the last thing you would want to eat chocolate on.

Pax Christi,

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Poll (#2)

I updated the poll in my sidebar. I plan on doing this once a week, if I can.
Which category of posts on my blog do you like the most?
Let me know.

Pax Christi,

Let the Voting Begin!

Nominations have concluded for the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards. Now, the real voting begins! As a new twist for this year, everyone who was nominated can be voted on for an award. You no longer have to get a certain number of nominations to be a finalist. I'm not sure if I like that idea, but oh well. It was still good to see that my blog was nominated for several categories, including Smartest Catholic Blog, Funniest Catholic Blog, Best Individual Catholic Blog, Best Designed Catholic Blog, Best Overall Catholic Blog, Best Group Blog, Best Written Catholic Blog, Best Apologetic Blog, and Best New Catholic Blog.

Whoever nominated me for "Best Group Blog" must be a few bricks short of a load, because it's just me, people! Someone thinks I deserve "Funniest Catholic Blog" too, which is itself pretty funny. I think my best chances are in the "Best Designed Blog" and "Best New Blog" categories. Of course, the crowned jewel of awards would be "Best Apologetics Blog", but I think there's just too many bloggers who do apologetics better than me and who have blogs more popular than mine.

In my own little poll (in the sidebar), 20 of the 45 total votes went to "Best Apologetics Blog", followed by "Best Overall Blog" (8) and "Best Design" (5). So, that's somewhat promising........I guess. I dunno, we'll see what the thousands of other Catholic bloggers think at the end of the week.

Don't forget to make your vote.

Pax Christi,

Speaking of Angels....

Joan Wester Anderson has written many books on the subject, most of them comprised of real-life accounts of when people's lives have been changed by angels. I have not read them, but Anderson appears to be a good and faithful Catholic woman, and by skimming through her archive of stories, I'd imagine her books are very edifying.

Just thought I'd pass that along....

Pax Christi,

Angels and Saints: Part 3

If only more people loved the angels as much as Maria does! Here is her third series of questions to me on this topic:
In Question 7, I supposse I didn't interpret in Genesis, that God made all the angels when he made the heavens.
Yup, that's what happened. Here are the verses in question:

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

By "the host of them" is meant "all who inhabit them." This would include the angels. See also these verses:

Psa 148:2,5
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.

Col 1:16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.

Now, on to your next question:
So, my question is how did God choose the personalities of the angels?
By His divine Providence.
Are the angels listed somewhere and how many are there?
Well, we know that their are 9 offices, or orders, of angels, and these are all listed in the Bible: We only know the names of three of the angels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. As for the number of the angels, we only know that there are a great many:

Daniel 7:10 A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

Matthew 26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands

Now on to your next question:
How did God choose the personalities of the saints?
Again, by His divine Providence.
In God's plan, do you think that everything is planned out-miracles and events-or does He make things happen as we go along?
Everything is most certainly planned out!! If he just made things happen as we go along, then that would mean that he was a temporal being. But, he is outside of time. All things appear to him in an instant. He does not grow in knowledge or experience. He does not change. He is immutable and omniscient.
Also, do you think that humans will ever achieve world peace through Christ?
We can make peace more prevalent in our world, but ultimate, perfect world peace will not be established until Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, comes again in glory.
In which case, I often wonder, is it possible for life to exist without evil?
Yes. Life exists in heaven without evil. Life in the Garden of Eden before the fall was life without evil (unless you count the presence of the serpent as an "evil"). When Jesus comes again and eradicates all evil, life will continue. So, it is possible. But, we live in the span between the beginning and the end where there is evil, and it will always exist until the Second Coming. This is not entirely unfortunate, thanks to the wonderful grace of God.

For more on the problem of evil, read my paper on the subject.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More on the Ministry of Acolyte

Someone anonymously left a very helpful comment on my earlier post on the ministry of acolyte. It reads as follows:
Actually, it is still required for seminarians to receive the instituted ministries of acolyte and lector prior to their ordination to the transitional diaconate (see Canons 1035 and 1050).

Since an altar server and commissioned extraordinary minister of holy communion can fulfill many of the roles of an acolyte, it's optional for lay men (as it is reserved to men alone) to receive this formal institution prior to serving in these roles. And, in fact, since the Vatican II reforms limited the reception of this ministry to men alone, most dioceses do not make use of this ministry other than that their seminarians are instituted into it.

All this means, is that in practice, in most places, acolyte remains a "step" to the priesthood as it would have been considered before Vatican II as a minor order. This, by the way, is largely the reason why these two ministries are conferred on seminarians in their seminary rather than in their home diocese--so as to not confuse the lay faithful (all of whom are commissioned lectors and commissioned extraordinary ministers of holy communion). Of course, there some notable exceptions in the US: some dioceses do use this formal ministry outside of their seminarians.

Some months ago, the Cardinal Arinze, acting on orders from the Pope himself, refused the extension of an indult the US Church had been operating on for a number of years which allowed commissioned extraordinary ministers of holy communion to purify the vessels. Since the indult is no longer in effect, commissioned extraordinary ministers of holy communion should no longer be purifying the sacred vessels.

However, the law itself permits the instituted acolyte to assist in purifying the vessels (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 279). So I personally wonder if we will see more lay men receiving this formal ministry at the request of local bishops in order to assist their priests in purifying the vessels.

Here are the canons that were mentioned:
Can. 1035 §1 Before anyone may be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, he must have received the ministries of lector and acolyte, and have exercised them for an appropriate time.

§2 Between the conferring of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate there is to be an interval of at least six months.

Can. 1050 For a person to be promoted to sacred orders, the following documents are required:

1° a certificate of studies duly completed in accordance with can. 1032;

2" for those to be ordained to the priesthood, a certificate of the reception of the diaconate

3° for those to be promoted to the diaconate, certificates of the reception of baptism, of confirmation and of the ministries mentioned in can. 1035, and a certificate that the declaration mentioned in can. 1036 has been made, if an ordinand to be promoted to the permanent diaconate is married, a certificate of his marriage and testimony of his wife's consent.

I stand corrected. Thanks for the comment.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Angels and Saints: Part 2

I must have opened the floodgates after I answered Maria's first question about angels and saints, because she wrote back with 11 more questions! But, I am more than happy to answer them.

Question #1: Do angels sometimes inhabit a body for the purposes of being seen or are they seen as silhouettes?
Angels do not inhabit bodies because, by their nature, they are not made for that sort of thing. Angels are a type of spirit that does not reside in a body. I'm not even sure that one could even if he wanted to. So, if an angel wants to be seen by man, he simply takes on the image of a man. He appears like a man, even though he is not.

Q #2: In which case, what would be the differences in the functions of angels and saints?
Well, their functions are the same in the sense that they both live in perpetual worship of the Lord. Their functions are different in that angels have the distinct mission of "messenger." The word angel comes from the Greek word angelos which means "messenger." So, angels often have the task of delivering messages from God to His people. Human spirits were not made for this purpose.

What makes the spirits of the saints unique is that they were made to be the animating principle of a human body. In other words, they were made to give life to a human body, and to be the force of the human person that thinks and wills. Thinking things and willing things, these are actions of the spirit carried out in a human body. Angels, of course, were not made for this purpose.

Q #3: What are the differences in their miracles?
There is no difference. Also, note that no angel or saint causes a miracle to occur by his own power. Angels and saints aren't gods. Instead, whenever He wills it, God gives them a special grace or power that allows them to perform the miracle.

Q #4: Angel Gabriel, for example, provided a message. Could he have taken a human body or was he seen in silhhouette?
I'm not sure what you mean by "silhhouette" but no, he didn't take on a human body.

Q #5: What is the difference between an angel spirit and a saint spirit?
An angel spirit is was made to be pure spirit, a complete and formless being. A saint spirit is formless too, but it was made to be with a body, to give that body life, to be its animating principle. It is in a sense incomplete until it is reunited with its body again.

Q #6: Is it correct that to be a saint; one has to know their calling, create 3 miracles, and be canonized?
To be a saint, you just have to live a life of grace. You have to be holy. That's why Paul calls some of the members of his churches "saints" even though they haven't died yet.

Now, to be officially declared a saint by the Church, yes, three miracles have to be attributed to your intercession after you die. This is because, if a spirit responds to the prayers of people on earth, then this means he is in heaven, and if he is in heaven, then that means he was a saint in this life. Of course, when deciding on whether or not to canonize a person, the Church also investigates the life of the person to see if it was marked by holiness. Also, when the Church canonizes a person, that doesn't mean that she just made that person a saint. The person was already a saint, it's just that, in canonizing them, the Church confirms that fact and says that it is ok to pray to and to venerate the person in question.

Q # 7: What does one have to do be an angel, in spirit?
I don't understand this question.

Q #8: How are angels chosen and/or created?
The Lord created the angels out of nothing, like He created all things. Every one of the angels that exist in heaven were created all at once, the day the Lord created the heavens and the earth.

Q #9: Are angels spirits that were not ever born as people?
That is correct.

Q #10: So, when saintly people die and become saints, are their spirits angelic?
No, because the spirits of human beings are different from angelic spirits. They are a different type of spirit.

Q #11: So, would angels and saints have similar spirits in heaven? If so, what are those similarities and differences?
Well, they are similar, but they aren't exactly the same. See my answers to Q #2 and #5.

Pax Christi,

Angels and Saints: Part 1

Maria Helena Stopyra asked the following question via email:
I am often confused between the differences of angels and saints. I know that angels are immortal and that saints create miracles. However, can the services that angels provide be considered miracles? I wonder if saints can also be angels and vice versa. Please let me know what you think and help me to understand the differences.
Since St. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of this blog, I am particular fond of this question! I hope that I can do justice to all the heavenly creatures that God created.

The difference between angels and saints is in their nature. Angels are spirits made to exist without a body. The saints in heaven, however, are spirits that once existed in a body and that are made for unity with a body. While the angels are complete in and of themselves, the spirits of saintly men and women are in a sense incomplete for as long as they exist without the body they once had. When Jesus finally comes again, all humans that ever lived will experience the resurrection of their bodies from the grave. After this, the justice and mercy of God's judgments will be made known to all the world, and then these bodies will be united with their spirits once again.

It is also important to note that angels are saints too. So, we often refer to St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and St. Michael the Archangel. These three are angels, yet we also call them saints. This is because a saint, generally speaking, is any holy person. Our word "saint" comes from the Latin word sanctus, which means "holy, sacred." Paul even calls holy men and women "saints" who are still alive (see here) because he recognizes the saving grace and faith that is within them. At any rate, we can call angels "saints" --even though they never existed with a body like most of the saints we know-- because they are holy persons who's sole purpose is to serve Jesus Christ and to worship Him.

I hope that helps

Pax Christi,

Friday, February 09, 2007

My "Image and Likeness" Inches Closer to the Priesthood

My twin brother Matt--a seminarian at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD (and yes, I must always qualify his name in that way)--recently received the Ministry of Acolyte from the Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, Th.D., bishop of the Diocese of Portland, ME. You can go here to see a few pics of the event.

I'd imagine that most people these days don't put a lot of stock in someone becoming an acolyte, if they know what an "acolyte" is at all. But, to a seminarian, being instituted an acolyte brings him one small step closer to the priesthood. The following paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on the acolyate is instructive:
Until the Second Vatican Council, the acolyte was the highest of the minor orders, having as duties the lighting of the altar-candles, carrying the candles in procession, assisting the subdeacon and deacon, and the ministering of water and wine to the priest at Mass. Acolytes wore either the alb or the surplice. While acolytes did not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, they were considered part of the clergy, and were a required step on the way to Holy Orders.
In most cases, being instituted an acolyte is still something that takes place in the seminarian's training to be a priest, it's just not required anymore. Despite this, I think that the seminarian is still right in feeling that he has taken a good step in the direction of making his life one of ministering to God's people.

That few people have heard of this ministry is no surprise. The Wikipedia article goes on to say:
After the reforms of the minor orders in 1972, the acolyte survived but became one of two lay ministries (along with lector) instead of an order, with its conferring rite renamed from ordination to institution to emphasize this. It was still confined to men alone but was de jure now open to all men, even those not going into seminary. However, since altar servers can do just about anything an acolyte can do, very few men outside of seminary are formally instituted.
However, there are a few designations that set the acolyte apart, and I think they are worthwhile in preparing the seminarian for when God will "consecrate" him, or set him apart for the work of shepherding souls (cf. Exo 28:41). More from our current article:
An instituted acolyte, though, does have some special faculties: he is a permanent extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and can also be entrusted with celebrating Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He is the only lay minister who can do the purifications of the vessels at Mass. He is given a priority to lead blessing ceremonies: "An acolyte or reader who by formal institution has this special office in the Church is rightly preferred over another layperson as the minister designated a the discretion of the local Ordinary to impart certain blessings." (Book of Blessings, Introduction, n. 18). He has priority to lead Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, if a deacon is absent: "Those to be chosen first by the pastor are readers and acolytes who have been duly instituted for the service of the altar and the word of God. If there are no such instituted ministers available, other laypersons, men and women, may be appointed;" (Directions for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, 1988, n. 30).

Indult Catholic societies such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter are permitted to ordain seminarians to minor orders, including the acolytate.
I for one am really proud of him, and I'm glad that my dad got to make the trip to Baltimore to support him. I hope that you all will support him as well as he makes the journey towards celibacy for the sake of the kingdom (cf. Mt 19:12). Please Lord, "let him receive it."

For more on the ministry of acolyte, see the following links: Pax Christi,
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