Wednesday, December 30, 2009

elecTRONic geekiness

Over the Christmas break, while I was in Maine, Amy and I took her younger brothers to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. It was AMAZING! I think I can safely say that it was the most visually-stunning movie I have ever seen. For those of you who live in a cave, here's a trailer:

At any rate, my intention is actually to talk about a different movie. While I was waiting in line to enter the IMAX theater, I saw a poster for the new Tron movie, Tron Legacy, and just about lost every bodily fluid at my disposal. I'm sure this is old news to most people, but that's the first I had heard about a sequel to the old Tron movie that blew my mind when I was a little kid. I pretty much couldn't wait to get home so that I could read up on the old movie and the new one, and try to find a trailer for the new one, which is slated for release in December 2010.

When I was little, the lightbike scene was always my favorite. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I just couldn't believe that something like that was possible to make. You need to see what I'm talking about first, before you can really appreciate the trailer for the new movie.

Tron (1982) Lightbike Scene:

Even today, that's pretty darn cool. Now that you are initiated, check out a similar scene from the new movie.

Tron Legacy (2010) Lightbike Scene:

I can't wait to see it!!

Pax Christi,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Little Christmas Humor

Today, I happened upon an amusing blog called Glib and Superficial, operated by one "Gentleman Farmer" and his "Hired Hand." Once I read their posts for Dec. 21st, I determined that I had to engage in some thorough plagiarism and provide them below, with an equally generous "hat tip," of course.

First, you must check out Denominational Santa. How do each of the Christian denominations perceive of Santa? Here's a taste: "Presbyterian Santa delivers presents based on his own inscrutable election, and not on account of any merit; but niceness is evidence that the person is one of the Elect, so we do expect to see presents going to the nice -- but only because they're elect, not because they're nice." HAHA!!

After that, watch this genius video that someone put together of Jack Bauer interrogating Santa (as a forewarning, Jack calls Santa an "s.o.b." at the end):

Merry Christmas!

Pax Christi,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI for Midnight Mass

The pope's homily for Midnight Mass this year is spectacular. It is "a message that cannot leave us indifferent."

Here is a taste:
  • Dear Brothers and Sisters!

    “A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us”. No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

You can read the rest of his homily here. On that page there is also a link to a video of the homily.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Northern Exposure

Some time later today, Amy and I will make the 7.75 hr drive to Steubenville, where we will spend the night with her sister and then head out early tomorrow morning for the 12 hr. drive to Portland, Maine. We'll spend a few days there with Amy's family and then on the 27th we start the long journey back to Owensboro.

From what I can tell, we won't be hitting any bad weather, but it's still a pretty grueling trip so your prayers would be most appreciated.

St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers .... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 6

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

  • Which days other than Sundays are Catholic obliged to attend Mass?

    Besides Sundays, Catholics are also obliged to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation. In the United States, the Holy Days of Obligation are:

    • January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God;
    • Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension;
    • August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
    • November 1, the solemnity of All Saints;
    • December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;
    • December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

    Which early Church father is commonly referred to as the “Doctor of Grace”?

    "Doctor of grace" is a title commonly attributed to St. Augustine, because of his many brilliant works on the subject of grace.

    How could the souls in Purgatory be assisted?

    The Catholic Church teaches that the souls in purgatory are assisted by our prayers for them, and by our works of penance, or other good works, on their behalf.

    Why do some people kneel on one knee in front of the Eucharist but other times they kneel on both knees?

    The gesture of reverence depends on the degree of presence: the greater the presence, the more profound the gesture. When the Eucharist is in the tabernacle, you genuflect on one knee, since the Eucharist is present, but you can’t see it. However, when the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance, then you can see it, so you kneel on both knees (and even bow with your face to the ground). As an aside, this also explains why we make a reverent bow (bending slightly at the waist) when we walk past the altar. The altar too is a symbol of the presence of Christ because it is there where the Sacrifice of the Mass — His sacrifice — takes place. But, Jesus is not as profoundly present in the altar as He is in the tabernacle or when the Eucharist is exposed for adoration.

    What is the small round container called that is used to carry the consecrated host to the sick?

    The container in question is called a pyx.

    Where was the first Church council held?

    The first ecumenical council of the Christian Church was held in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Iznik in Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in A.D. 325. But, even before that, we see in Acts 15 that the apostles attended a council in Jerusalem that was also significant, for there the decision was made that Gentiles who convert to Christianity did not have to be circumcised.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fr. William Francis Medley, New Bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, KY

I am pleased today to announce that my diocese, the Diocese of Owensboro, KY, finally has a new bishop: Fr. William Francis Medley, a pastor from the Archdiocese of Louisville, KY. Rocco Palmo over at "Whispers" broke the story, as he is often wont to do, at about 5 AM this morning. His article is excellent about placing the significance of the appointment within the larger context of Vatican appointments to the bishopric this year.

On the diocesan website, you can read a biography of the bishop-elect, read the statement he gave at the press conference welcoming him as the new bishop, and even watch a video of that conference.

As I watched the news conference, my first impression was that he is very down-to-earth and congenial man. He seems very friendly and approachable. He has a good sense of humor and he speaks well in public. I read his statement before I saw him deliver it, and I found it to be very articulate and meaningful. At the press conference he seemed to get choked up at the mention of his mother and the role that she plays in his life. This tells me that he is a man who is in tune with his emotions and who has a deep and abiding love for his family. The significance of this appointment has not escaped him, and he appeared truly humbled by it, stating often that he will rely on past and present bishops of Kentucky and on the faithful he shepherds to guide him as a bishop.

As a Director of Religious Education in the diocese, I am grateful for this assignment and I look forward to working with and getting to know our new bishop in the upcoming months.

Pax Christi,

"Babies" = Greatest. Movie. Ever.

And to think, there's people in the world rabidly fighting for the right to kill them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Homily for Gaudete Sunday

My brother's homily for the third week of Advent: "Christian Joy"

  • At Mass today, we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, also known by it’s Latin name Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice!” which is the fist word of our Entrance Antiphon: Gaudete in Domino semper! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” This is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In all of our readings today we see woven through them the thread of Joy. Listening closely to the unity of the readings our Mother Church gives us can provide the key to understanding what she wants to teach us. I think the key this Sunday is Christian Joy that is ours when Christ is near. Our penances, prayers, and fasting this Advent in preparation for the coming of the Lord is almost over. There is cause for great Joy! Soon, our Lord will be born again in our hearts, bursting forth with the light of day.
Read the rest here. Note that right now he's just a lowly seminarian so he doesn't actually say these homilies in Mass. He wrote and delivered it last year to the pastor of the parish where he was doing his pastoral year ... as a way to practice. Also see his homilies for the first and second week of Advent, and for the Feast of Christ the King.

Stop by his blog sometime and give him some encouragement. He's months away from the transitional deaconate and he needs your prayers.

Btw, the pic above is of "Fr. Z", who helps us to distinguish "pink" from "rosacea" -- an important distinction I'm sure!

Pax Christi,

Pro-Life Advent Reflections: Part 3

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mt 24:40-41: The "Rapture", or Something More?

What does Jesus mean when he says that, when the “Son of man” comes, “two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left” (Mt 24:40-41)?

Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books popularized the notion that this passage is a reference to “the rapture,” the taking up into the air of all true Christians before the tribulation takes place so that they can dwell in a parallel kingdom in heaven while the rest of us hapless souls struggle against the anti-Christ on earth. But, this is not Catholic teaching, and I think there is another interpretation that fits better.

Immediately before the passage cited above, Jesus makes a reference to Noah and what took place when God drowned the whole world with a flood. In many ways, that was an end-times event for everyone alive at that time. Jesus compares that event to what will take place upon the Second Coming. He says:

“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Mt 24: 37-39)

These words of Jesus provide the context for what he says next, when he says, “two men will be the field, one is taken and one is left,” and so on. This means that, just as the wicked in Noah’s time were “swept away,” one will be “taken,” and just as Noah’s family was spared, the other will be “left.” This passage we are investigating does not refer to some being raptured and others being “left behind.” Instead, it means that, when Jesus comes, some will have their life taken from them, and others will live. This is the effect of the General Judgment, which the Church says all men will experience when the Son of Man finally comes again.

This passage also means that our "day", the end of our time here, does not always come when we expect it. God may call us home even amid the mundane chores of every day life (working in the field, grinding at the mill, etc.). Jesus’ words remind us that we must always be ready, for “of that day and hour no one knows” (Mt 24:36).

As with every difficult Scripture passage, it is important to utilize the context of the passage, and to always read Scripture with the mind of the Church. During this season of Advent, let’s make sure that we are making ourselves ready so that on “the day of Christ Jesus,” we will be found fit to live forever with Him.

Pax Christi,

What’s the difference between nondenominational churches and the Catholic Church?

Nondenominational churches (as their name suggests) are not affiliated with any particular denomination. This means that there is nothing distinctive about their theology or their governance that aligns them with any particular denomination. The Catholic Church, however, has a very distinctive theology and governance that separates it from other Churches or ecclesial communions. It follows from this that nondenominational churches do not have many of the things that make the Catholic Church distinctly Catholic. This includes things like:
  • The pope, bishops, or a formal hierarchy
  • Seven Sacraments
  • The Sacrifice of the Mass
  • Prayer to the saints
  • Devotion to Mary
  • The four Marian dogmas
  • Sacred Tradition
  • Apostolic Succession
  • A distinction between mortal sin and venial sin
  • A belief in Purgatory
  • The use of statues and icons
  • Veneration of relics
In virtue of being nondenominational, they vary greatly in theology from church to church, but in general, nondenominational churches tend to focus on the basic Gospel message and do not stray very far beyond that. “Jesus is God, He died for your sins, have faith in Him and you will be saved.” The Catholic Church, of course, preaches the Gospel as well, but She also preaches many other things that, while not the Gospel message per se, are still true and thus must be taught and believed. This would include many of the items listed above.

Nondenominational churches may or may not also differ with the Catholic Church on various issues of morality, such as abortion, contraception, homosexual marriage, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. How much any nondenominational church differs with the Catholic Church on these matters basically depends on the nondenominational church in question. Some may differ greatly with the Catholic Church on these matters, while others may be perfectly aligned with us.

What makes them even more difficult to compare and contrast with Catholicism is the fact that most nondenominational churches, in their desire to remain nondenominational, usually refrain from making dogmatic statements. If it doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Gospel message or on a person’s salvation, then they usually leave it up to the believer to decide.

Pax Christi,

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pro-Life Advent Reflections: Part 2

Catholic Q&A: Part 5

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • Who wrote the letters in the Catholic Bible?

    There are many letters in the Catholic Bible and they weren't all written by the same person. Paul, the great evangelist from the Acts of the Apostles, wrote Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Traditionally, Paul was also considered the author of the letter to the Hebrews, but his authorship of that letter is widely disputed. James, the Lord's "brother" and bishop of Jerusalem, wrote the letter of James. Peter, the Apostle, wrote 1st and 2nd Peter. John, the "beloved Apostle" and the Gospel writer, wrote 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. Jude, the Apostle, wrote the letter of Jude.

    Why is the resurrection essential to our faith?

    The resurrection is essential to our faith because, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He did not conquer death. If He did not conquer death, then He did not pave the way for us to conquer death (and sin, the wages of which is death). If we cannot conquer death then this life is all that there is. There is no hope for an afterlife with God. There is no resurrection of the body on the last day. There is no definitive end to suffering, and evil, and death. There is no union of man with God. There is no grace. There is no Church. There is no sacraments. There is no Pentecost. Without the resurrection, the devil has won and mankind is finished.

    Why is the Catholic Church based in Rome?

    The Catholic Church is "based in Rome" because St. Peter, the head of the Apostles and the Rock upon whom Jesus Christ founded His Church, lived and died in Rome. His successors, who are the popes of the Catholic Church, maintained their residency in this city in his honor.

    Why is a flame significant to Confirmation?

    The flame is significant to Confirmation because it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, particularly as He was poured out upon the Apostles on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. Scripture notes that on that day, tongues of fire appeared over their heads as the Holy Spirit was given to them and they were emboldened to go out and preach the Gospel. The Sacrament of Confirmation is a sort of Pentecost event in the life of a Catholic because it results in the Holy Spirit being poured out upon that person, and him being strengthened to live his faith with boldness and to be a soldier for Christ.

    In Baptism, what is the meaning of the anointing on the chest?

    The anointing with oil on the chest is meant to give the child the grace and the strength to live the Christian life. In ancient times, athletes would massage their muscles with oil to prepare themselves for competition. Soldiers would do the same to prepare themselves for battle. In Scripture, the Christian life is equated with both of these things: a race to be won (cf. 1 Cor 9:24; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 12:1) and a spiritual war to be waged (cf. 2 Cor 10:3-4; Eph 6:12). So, in baptism we give the new Christian his or her adequate preparation.

    What was Mary’s childhood like?

    Scripture makes no mention of the childhood of Mary, so it is difficult to say with certainty what her childhood was like. The Protoevangelium of James, an ancient Christian writing, says that Mary was raised in the Temple and that, at an early age, she consecrated herself to the Lord as a perpetual virgin. Since Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin and that she committed no actual sins throughout her entire life, it is safe to assume that her childhood was a truly holy and precious one.

    What does “INRI” stand for?

    INRI is the acronym for the Latin phrase, "Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm," which means: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Pontius Pilate had this phrase written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and placed on the cross upon which Christ was crucified (cf. Jn 19:19-22).

    Does every saint have a feast day?

    No. There are thousands of saints, so it would be impossible for every single one of them to have their own feast day (unless we decided to devote each day of the calendar to several different saints). Instead, only those saints who had the greatest impact on the Church or around whom a fervent devotion has grown are celebrated with feast days in the liturgical calendar.

    What is the importance of apostolic succession?

    Apostolic succession is important because it preserves for the Church the power to teach, to sanctify, and to govern that was first given to the apostles by Jesus Christ. Bishops receive this power and priests participate in it through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In this way, the Catholic Church continues to be a truly apostolic Church, both in her teaching and in her authority.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 4

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • What are the material signs of a sacrament?

    The material signs of a sacrament are those elements of the sacrament that effect our senses and direct our minds to the spiritual reality that the elements signify.

    Each sacrament has its own material signs:
    • Baptism: water, oil, candle, white garment
    • Confirmation: oil, laying on of hands
    • Eucharist: bread, wine
    • Reconciliation: the confession of the penitent and the words of absolution from the confessor
    • Holy Orders: oil, laying on of hands
    • Matrimony: the bride, the groom, the vows they make
    • Anointing of the Sick: oil, laying on of hands, water

    Where in the Bible do you find the stories of Holy Thursday?

    The readings for the Mass on Holy Thursday evening commemorate the Passover, the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, and the institution of the priesthood.
    • Reading I: Exo 12:1-8, 11-14
      Responsorial Psalm: Psa 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
      Reading II: 1 Cor 11:23-26
      Gospel: Jn 13:1-5
    Read these different passages and you'll find the stories of Holy Thursday.

    Why do Catholics honor and celebrate the rosary?

    Catholics honor and celebrate the rosary because it is a time-tested method of contemplating the significant events of the life of Christ, it is a powerful weapon against the devil, and because it helps to strengthen our relationship with Christ and our devotion to His mother.

    What does the priest say at the end of Mass?

    He says, “Go in the peace of Christ,” or “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” or “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We respond by saying, “Thanks be to God!”

    Does a saint have only one feast day?

    Typically, a saint only has one feast day, but there are a handful of saints who have more than one. For example, St. Peter has three (Feb 22, June 29, Nov 18), St. Paul has three (Jan 25, June 29, Nov 18), and St. Joseph has three (March 19, May 1, Dec 27). Mary has 17 different feast days (!!), at least one in every month except April.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 3

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Part 1 and Part 2.
  • What is proper behavior in a Catholic church both before and after Mass?

    One should act reverently in a Catholic church both before and after Mass, and even when Mass is not being celebrated, because the Eucharist is present.

    When a Catholic first enters the church building, he dips his fingers in the holy water font and makes the Sign of the Cross. Once he finds the pew in which he would like to sit, he genuflects towards the tabernacle, makes the Sign of the Cross, and enters the pew. Once in the pew, he kneels in prayer, preparing himself spiritually for the Mass that is soon to begin. Silence is observed from the moment he enters the Church, so as not to distract anyone in their prayer.

    Once Mass has ended and the priest has left the sanctuary, then one is free to go, although it is praiseworthy to sing the entire closing song (or "recessional hymn"). Once the song has ended, it is customary (although not required) to kneel in the pew and say a prayer of thanksgiving, or the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. When the Catholic exits the pew, he genuflects towards the tabernacle, makes the Sign of the Cross, and then approaches one of the exits. Before leaving, he dips his fingers in the holy water font and makes the Sign of the Cross. Silence is observed once the closing song is finished, so as not to distract anyone in their prayer.

    Which sacrament is the greatest?

    The Church's greatest sacrament, the source and summit of her faith and worship, is the Eucharist.

    How is the Catholic bible different from other bibles?

    The Catholic Bible is different from other Bibles in that it contains 7 more books (Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch) as well as additions to Daniel and Esther.

    What are the four main parts of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

    Those are contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction. To learn about each one, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1450-1460.

    Who is called to defend the Catholic Church?

    All Catholics are called to defend the Church, and are empowered by the sacraments to do that very thing.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 2

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Part 1.
  • What is the idol of gold that the Israelites created?

    You may be referring to the golden calf that the Jews created once they began to doubt that Moses would ever come down from Mt. Sinai. You can read about the creation and destruction of the golden calf in chapter 32 of the Book of Exodus, from the Old Testament of the Bible.

    Does a Catholic have to confess to a priest before receiving Communion?

    If a Catholic has committed a mortal sin, then he must confess this sin to a priest in the Sacrament of Confession before he can receive Communion. If he has committed only venial sins, then he is free to receive Communion without going to Confession, and his reception of Communion will actually result in the forgiveness of those venial sins.

    Who painted the Sistine Chapel?

    Many of the greatest Renaissance artists of the day are responsible for the paintings that adorn the Sistine Chapel: Michaelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Roseli, Luca Signorelli, and others. Of all these, Michelangelo is most often associated with the Chapel, thanks to the dramatic scenes that he painted on its ceiling.

    Who were the most influential figures of the Catholic Reformation?

    There are many saints who were influential in renewing the Catholic Church around the time of the Council of Trent. These include St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Pius V, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Philip Neri.

    What does the water represent in baptism?

    Water is a very rich symbol in baptism. It represents death in that when you go under the water this is symbolic of a death to your old, sinful self. It represents life in that when you come out of the water, this is symbolic of a resurrection to new life. Water is symbolic of spiritual rebirth, since, just as we are physically born when we come out of the water of the womb, we are "born again" when we come out of the waters of baptism. Water is also symbolic of cleansing. Just as regular water cleanses dirt from our bodies, the water of baptism cleanses us of sin. Finally, water itself is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit since it is the Spirit that causes the various effects of baptism that are symbolized by the water.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 1

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. I do this from time to time because I think it's good to get the right information out there when it comes to the Catholic Church, and because it also serves as good material for my weekly column in my church bulletin.
  • Does First Communion come before Confirmation?

    It depends on when your diocese has chosen to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. In the United States, Confirmation can be celebrated anywhere between the age of reason (7 yrs) and age 16. So, if your diocese celebrates Confirmation in the second or third grade, then it will come before First Communion. But, if your diocese celebrates Confirmation in the eighth grade, then it would come after First Communion.

    What is the mystical process in which the bread and wine become Jesus?

    That “mystical process” is called transubstantiation.

    What is man’s earthly purpose?

    According to the old Baltimore Catechism, man was made to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be with him in the next.

    Who was the first Catholic bishop?

    The Catholic Church believes that the first bishops were the 12 apostles themselves. It's difficult to say which, from among the 12, became a bishop first. Perhaps it is Peter, who Jesus built His Church upon (cf. Mt 16:18).

    When did the Holy Spirit originate?

    The Holy Spirit is God. This means that He has no beginning or end. Thus, there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit first came to be and there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit did not exist.

    When did Roman Catholicism begin?

    The Catholic Church considers Her origin to be on the day of Pentecost, around 33 AD, when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples in the Upper Room. It was this Spirit that gave the Apostles the courage to preach the Gospel with boldness and to establish local churches wherever they traveled.

    Who was the first one to call the Church “Catholic”?

    The first instance that historians have found of someone referring to the "Catholic Church" is in Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Smyrneans, where he writes, "Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains [i.e., a presbyter]. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

How to Read the Bible

Should the Bible be taken literally? Is any of it metaphor?

Well, it depends. Besides the literal sense of Scripture there is also a spiritual sense. This in turn is divided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. Each one brings a different layer of meaning to the text.

The literal sense is the sense that the human author wished to convey to his immediate audience. Once one considers the historical context in which the author lived, exactly who he was writing to, the circumstances in which they lived, and the purpose for his writing, then one is able to derive the literal sense of the text.

The spiritual sense is the meaning that the divine author – God, the Holy Spirit – wishes to convey to mankind in every age. It is the meaning that is found in a passage once that passage is read in the light of Christ and of Christian revelation. The allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses are all spiritual senses of Scripture.

The allegorical sense is the one in which persons, objects and actions depicted in a text are taken as representing other things not present in the text. With the allegorical sense, Moses becomes a type of Christ in his intercessory role for the people. The snake he raised up to heal them becomes an image of Christ crucified.

The moral sense is that element of Scripture that teaches us how to live rightly. As St. Paul says, “These things ... were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11). Within all of the suffering that the Jewish people had to endure is a moral lesson for us, to strive to do the will of the Lord in all things.

The anagogical sense provides the eternal significance to the realities and events of Scripture. It shows the reader that Scripture has an end in sight. Scripture not only speaks of the author’s day and of our own circumstance, but also of that final culmination of history, when Jesus Christ will make all things new.

Knowing now that there are multiple senses of Scripture, we must also keep in mind that Scripture is made up of many genres or styles of writing, such as history, poetry, parable, song, apocalypse, narrative, prophecy, etc. Once you know the genre of a writing then you know how best to understand it. For example, since the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, we know that it is highly symbolic and thus we don’t think for a second that an actual dragon will appear with seven heads and ten horns when the world comes to an end (cf. Rev 12:3). Instead, we try to figure out what that dragon symbolizes.

Once you consider the multiple senses of a passage and the style in which it was written then you can capture the full breadth of meaning to be found in that passage.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Defending the Book of Maccabees

A friend recently told me that the Book of Maccabees shouldn’t be in the Bible because it has prayers for the dead in it. How should I respond to that?

There are a handful of books in the Catholic bible that are not included in Protestant bibles. These are Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as additions to Daniel and Esther. Protestants refer to these books as the “apocrypha,” or the “apocryphal books.” One reason why these books are excluded is because Protestants find in them various doctrines or practices that are supposedly at odds with the rest of Scripture. Your friend is using that argument, and there are at least two ways to respond to it.

One approach is to defend the practice of praying for the dead. After all, your friend is assuming that there is something wrong with praying for the dead, when in fact it is perfectly fine. Catholics pray for the dead because we believe in the reality of Purgatory, the state of being cleansed by God of any remaining impurities before we enter heaven. Souls undergoing this purging can benefit from our prayers because death does not separate us from the Body of Christ. As members of one Body, we can pray for each other and offer up our hardships for one another. A lengthy defense from Scripture is usually necessary before one can convince most Protestants that praying for the dead is a legitimate practice. Read the Catechism on these subjects, as well as a few articles from and you can find all the verses you need. You may also consider a different approach.

Another way to tackle this is to simply show your friend that prayers for the dead can be found in his Bible as well as the Catholic one. I like this approach because it turns his argument against him. Now, in order to be consistent, he has to start tearing out books that no one in his right mind would ever dream of excluding! Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:20-22), Peter (cf. Acts 9:40), and even Jesus himself (cf. John 11:41-43) are all seen praying for the dead in books that are well established in Protestant bibles. It is true that the prayer is for the person to come back to life. But, that doesn't change the fact that the soul of a dead person is still being prayed for, which, according to Protestants, is strictly forbidden. Note also that, in order for these souls to return to their bodies, they must have been in an intermediate state, since heaven and hell are irrevocable and eternal judgments. This is what "prayer for the dead" is: prayer for souls in this intermediate state. Also, in 2 Tim 1:16-18, Paul prays for the soul of Onesiphorus, that he will find mercy on the day of Judgment. So, prayer for the dead is certainly to be found in the Protestant bible.

This same two-fold approach can be used to defend the legitimacy of the other “apocryphal” books as well. If you have never read them before, I highly suggest you do!

Pax Christi,

Mary's Fiat and Magnificat

I always hear people speak of Mary’s “fiat” and her “magnificat.” What are these things?

Mary’s fiat is found in Lk 1:38. It is her “yes” to God, which she declared once the Angel explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her specific words were, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.” In Latin, it is, "Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum." The Latin word for “be it done” (or “let it be done”) is fiat, so that is the name used by scholars to refer to Mary’s response to the angel.

Mary’s fiat is special because it is through this act of humble submission to the will of God that the Son of God makes his entrance into human history, taking on a human nature and becoming one like us in all things but sin. It is an example to us of obedience and a lively faith in the Lord. Just imagine if all people responded to the will of the Lord by saying, “Let it be done!”

The magnificat, also called the “canticle of Mary,” is the song of praise proclaimed by Mary after Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary coming to visit her. It is from Lk 1:46-55:
  • "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."
The first few words in Latin are, "Magnificat anima mea Dominum . . .” so that is why these words of Mary are referred to as the magnificat. This canticle is noteworthy because it is a beautiful example of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for His people and for those in need. We tend to only pray to God in our down times. We could all learn a lesson from Mary here and redouble our efforts to pray to the Lord in good times as well as in bad.

Most people don’t know what the fiat or the magnificat is because they aren’t familiar with Latin. But, Latin is a revered language that the Church has been using in her worship and her authoritative documents for many centuries. It is good to know at least a few Latin words, at least for the simple purpose of preserving our Catholic traditions and ways of speaking.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Short Video of My Wedding

Here's a little preview of the wedding video that Amy and I had made. I am told it is not finished yet, but it will give you some indication of the joy of that day. The song in the background is "Book of Love," by Peter Gabriel. It was the song that Amy and I chose for our first dance. Oh, and the two testimonials at the end of the video were recorded towards the end of the reception, when Amy and I both were about to pass out from exhaustion.

Thank you Lord for my beautiful wife.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NBC Tackles the Abortion Issue

Check out this amazing clip from an episode of Law and Order: SVU

I never saw the episode myself, so I don't know what the verdict ends up being. But, as it stands by itself, this clip does a good job of exposing a little bit of the horror of the abortion industry. The whole reason the defense attorney is frustrated is because he knows that the jury has just been awakened to that horror and he will be hard-pressed to create the cognitive dissonance necessary for the jury to not feel completely repulsed by what the doctor has done.

I'm surprised that this episode even saw the light of day. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Going to the Chapel

.... and I'm gonna get married.

About to drive to Louisville to take the plane to Maine. Please pray for me that the trip goes well. Me and planes don't get along very well.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hiding Behind Hyde

For more information on how exactly the Hyde Amendment does not apply to the House Health Care Reform Bill, go to

Pax Christi,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Those Mormons Have At Least One Thing Going For Them

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Charles Wesley

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that promised rest.
Take away our love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
'Til in heaven we take our place,
'Til we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Essence of Michael

This right here is pretty stinkin incredible:

I provided the video from YouTube instead of the one from Yahoo Video, so it should be working now. Also, apparently, one guy did all the vocal parts, video taped himself doing each part, and then combined each recording of himself into one video so that it looks like 7 different guys are involved.

I think the guy on the left providing the cymbal sound is a different guy, but still, crazy good.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dope Vocations Video

Quick Update

My tract on the Immaculate Conception is finally complete. See Part 1, which is the initial defense, and Part 2, which is a response to common objections. I have tried to make this tract as comprehensive as possible so that the reader will have, in one article, the various arguments in defense of the Immaculate Conception that one usually finds scattered throughout various different articles from different Catholic sites all over the internet.

I hope you find it useful and, as always, your comments are appreciated.

Pax Christi,

Monday, August 31, 2009

What Is a Prophet?

In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone who brought the word of God to the people by the power of the Holy Spirit. “He has spoken through the prophets,” as we say in the Nicene Creed.

Sixteen books in the Old Testament (the “prophetic books”) are by or about these prophets. The four “major prophets” are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The 12 “minor prophets” are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Of course, Moses, the greatest Old Testament prophet, is traditionally regarded as the author of the first five books of the Bible. There are also many noteworthy prophets who did not contribute to the canon of the Bible, such as Samuel, Nathan, and Elisha. There were female prophets too: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, and Philip’s four daughters.

Sometimes, in speaking for God, a prophet would foretell the future, and the legitimacy of his prophetic office was confirmed when his prophecies came true. Often his role was to convict the Israelites of their sin and to implore them to return to the Lord and remember the covenants He established with them. A prophet would also interpret current events in light of God’s plan for his people and warn them of His impending judgment (which usually came by way of the Israelites being conquered by their enemies). After the exile, when all the nations of Israel were scattered, the prophetic message was one of accepting the justice of God’s punishments and preparing for the coming Messiah.

A genuine Old Testament prophet was always directly called by God Himself, and he received the message he was to deliver by way of visions, dreams, and audible encounters. The prophets always spoke the “hard truths” that no one wanted to hear, and as a result they were often persecuted by their own people. The last and greatest of the prophets was John the Baptist, who was the immediate precursor of the Messiah and paved the way for Him with his message of repentance.

Jesus, of course, is the Priest, Prophet, and King par excellence, and in Baptism we are empowered to participate in that three-fold ministry of Christ. We are prophets today whenever we speak the truth with boldness, convict people of their sin, bring people to Christ, or share the teachings of His Church with others. Such actions often require sacrifice, just as they did in Old Testament times, but it is a calling that we all have been given and that we must undertake.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mozart's Sonata in C Major .... on Two Guitars!

This is easily one of the coolest things I've ever seen. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw it. Wanna know what mad skillz is? Exhibit A:

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Content Coming Soon!

Over the next couple of days I will be back-dating a bunch of posts and spreading them out over the last two months in order to provide content that I wrote but did not have the time to post on my blog. So, check back often -- and scroll down! -- to read those posts as they appear. Some of them are short, others are long, but I think they are all helpful and instructive.

Pax Christi,

Poll-Release Monday #67: The Final Poll

I have decided that this will be my last poll. As you have undoubtedly noticed, I no longer have the time to update the poll as often as I would like. So, I feel that it would be best to just conclude that feature of my blog, instead of leaving people wondering when the next poll will come.

Here is your final poll question:
  • True or False?: In the celebration of the Eucharist with the apostles and his commandment to them to celebrate it until His return, Jesus constitutes the apostles as priests of the New Testament.
What say you? I'll keep this poll in the sidebar for a month. If you want to vote after that, see the poll archives. The answer to the poll question is here.

The majority of the polls that I have featured here over the years are still open. So, you may be interested in voting in them as well. The poll archive is interesting because, in a way, it provides a sort of snapshot of my readership: what they like or don't like, how well they know their faith, what interests them, etc. The number of you who visit my blog and read it on a regular basis has waxed and waned over the years (depending, I think, on how much time I am able to devote to my blog), but I have always appreciated you nonetheless.

As for the previous poll, here are the results:
  • True or False? The Eucharist is also called Holy Mass because it concludes with the sending forth of the faithful to fulfill God's will in their lives.
    • True: 35 (61%)
    • False: 22 (39%)
The correct answer is:
  • TRUE, cf. CCC, no. 1332: [It is called] Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily lives.
I would imagine that the reason many of you voted "False" was not so much the last part of the statement (the "sending forth"), but the first part, where the Eucharist is called "Holy Mass." Personally, I'm not used to calling the Eucharist "Holy Mass." As I understand it, the Mass is where we receive the Eucharist. There is more to the Holy Mass than the Eucharist, although the Eucharist is certainly central to the Mass. So, the identification of "Eucharist" with "Holy Mass" is odd to me. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Is Purgatory?

People tend to think of Purgatory in a variety of ways:
  • “Purgatory is a place where souls who don’t deserve heaven get a second chance to be with God”;
  • “Purgatory is the best that I can hope for in the afterlife, since heaven is only for really holy people”;
  • “Purgatory is a place where souls work their own way into heaven, since God’s grace is not enough.”
Purgatory is in fact none of those things. Instead, it is simply the final act of purification, or “purging,” that God performs for us after we die in order to make us worthy for entrance into heaven.

We can die in unity with God but still have imperfections on our soul. These include things like venial sins, concupiscence (the inclination or propensity to sin), attachments to sin (the state of finding certain sins attractive or appealing), and insufficient reparation (the state of not having adequately made up for the negative effects of one’s sin). Since heaven is a place where no unclean thing shall enter (cf. Rev 21:27), God desires to purge these things from the persons who die in union with Him.

The first description is a misconception because Purgatory is only for souls that are already in a state of grace or friendship with God. These souls have persevered to the end. The divine life in them remains. If a soul is not fit for heaven, then it is not fit for Purgatory. There are no “second-chances” in the afterlife.

The second description is a misconception, first of all, because Purgatory is not a final destination. Souls don’t go to Purgatory and stay there forever. Eventually, they move on to heaven. Secondly, Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross for a select few. No, He died for all mankind (even you!). Our hope should be in heaven, and in the power of God’s grace to actually get us there.

The third description is a misconception because it attributes a soul’s release from Purgatory to his own suffering, instead of to the work and suffering of Christ. Yes, there is suffering in Purgatory. After all, it is a state of being refined in the furnace that is the burning fire of God’s love (cf. 1 Cor 3:12-15; Heb 12:29, Songs 8:6). We certainly can’t expect that to be pleasant! But, our suffering only has meaning and is only meritorious (or, worthy of receiving grace) because of the grace of God. Purgatory is a final application of the grace that He won for us on the Cross. So, it is ridiculous to say that Purgatory is somehow a belittling or a contradiction of that work.

I hope that helps you to understand Purgatory better. For more on Purgatory, see the Eschatology and the Last Things Topical Index Page.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What Is the Difference Between Mortal and Venial Sin?

The “Glossary” in the back of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines mortal sin as:
  • A grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life (or “sanctifying grace”) in the soul of the sinner, constituting a turn away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will.

On the other hand, venial sin is:
  • Sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it. Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent.

See the difference? Mortal sins are always very serious in nature. Typically, any sin that directly breaks one of the Ten Commandments is a serious sin. If you commit such a sin with full knowledge that what you are doing is sinful and if you freely choose it (as in, nothing is forcing you to do it), then you commit a mortal sin. If the act is sinful but it doesn’t fulfill all three of the above requirements, then it is a venial sin.

Most of the sins that we commit every day are venial sins. These can be forgiven through an Act of Contrition (or some other prayer that shows God we are sorry for our sin and we desire His forgiveness) or by going to Confession. Venial sins are also forgiven whenever we receive the Eucharist. If we die with venial sins on our soul, we can still go to heaven because venial sins do not destroy the divine life within us, they simply wound it. However, that does not mean that we should have a cavalier attitude towards it. We should strive to avoid all sin, including the lesser ones. Venial sins too can be dangerous because the more we sin venially, the more likely we are to commit more serious sins. We know that sin leads to death; it is better to not even go down that road.

When a person does commit a mortal sin, then the divine life in him is destroyed. He no longer has God’s saving grace. If he were to die in this state, then he could not go to heaven. His only recourse is the Sacrament of Confession. If you have a mortal sin on your soul, then you cannot receive the Eucharist until you go to Confession.

Some people deny that there is even a difference between mortal and venial sin. They say that all sins are equal in the eyes of God. Scripture clearly refutes this (cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17) as does common sense. After all, I think we all intuitively know that killing someone is not quite the same as picking on your brother.

I hope that helps. For more on mortal and venial sin, see "Is All Sin Equal in God's Eyes?".

Pax Christi,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Did St. Paul Really Mean to Say that Bishops Must Be Married?

In one of Paul’s letters, he wrote, “Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). Some non-Catholic Christians try to use this as proof that bishops should be married. However, that is not in fact what Paul is trying to say. Here is the passage again, this time in context:

1 Tim 3:1-5 The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; 5 for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?

Now, this passage is not saying that a bishop must be married. Instead, it is saying that if he is married, he must be married only once. In other words, he can't have multiple wives, or divorce his current wife and marry someone else.

It really would not make sense for Paul to say that all the bishops must be married. For one, Paul himself is a bishop and he was never married! He would be disqualifying himself if he said such a thing. Secondly, if "the husband of one wife" (vs. 2) means that he must be married, then by the same logic, "keeping his children submissive and respectful" (vs. 4) would mean that he must have children. Are non-Catholic Christians really willing to go so far as to exclude from the ministry men who don't have children yet or who had children that are now dead? What about men who only have one child (after all, Paul says "children")? Many people would no longer be able to pastor their churches if these Christians were consistent in their logic.

The main point of the passage is found in the last verse: “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?” All Paul is trying to say is that a bishop must be someone who has all of his affairs in order, who is a good steward of everything in his care. In the first generation of the Church, the priests came from men who already had families. But, over the years, the Church came to discern that men who were called by God to be celibate were better equipped to handle the demands of being a priest and shepherd of God’s flock.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In Defense of Mary's Sinlessness: Part 2

With Part 2 of my defense of Mary's sinlessness, I am indebted to the following articles (as well as many of the same ones cited in Part 1):

Contradicting Kecharitomene

In response to the clear implications of Lk 1:28, some point out that in Acts 6:8, Stephen is referred to as "full of grace and power."
Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Does that mean that he was sinless too? The answer is, "No." There are in fact many differences between the two passages that effect their meaning a great deal.

The most obvious difference is in the Greek. In Lk 1:28, "full of grace" is the translation of kecharitomene, which, as we have seen, is the perfect passive participle of charitoo, in the vocative case. But, in Acts 6:8, the underlying Greek is pleres charitos (or in some manuscripts, pleres pisteos, which denotes faith, not grace). When the Greek is different, then the meaning usually is too.

In Lk 1:28, Mary is being acted upon by God. This action took place in the past with results that continue into the present. Fullness and perfection is implied by the verb, and this verb is used as Mary's name. In Acts 6:8, Stephen isn't given "full of grace" as his name. Instead, the phrase simply describes something that took place in the past with results completed in the past. A continual or perduring grace is not implied by the verb. He was filled with grace at the moment and only for as long as he was performing great wonders and signs among the people. The implications of the Greek are simply not the same. And, like I said before, older translations (cf. KJV, Wesley's NT, Geneva Bible, Bishop's Bible) and even some modern ones (Third Millennium Bible, YLT, Webster) have "full of faith and power," in which case there is really no parallel at all.

The other passage that Protestants cite as a parallel to Lk 1:28 is Eph 1:6:
Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed (echaritosen) on us in the Beloved.
The KJV, which says, "wherein he hath made us accepted," and the DRB, which says, "in which he hath graced us," perhaps give us a better understanding of the underlying Greek then most modern translations. The word here is echaritosen. While it does have the same base word (charitoo) as kecharitomene, since the inflection is different, the meaning is different.

Echaritosen is in the aorist, active, indicative form. It does not indicate fullness (as kecharitomene does) because it is not in the perfect tense. A look at the context also precludes such a meaning:
Eph 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 5 He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Note that Paul mentions the "grace that God freely bestows on us" (vs. 6) within his discussion of the "many spiritual blessings" (vs. 3) that He grants us. In other words, believers receive many different graces throughout their lifetimes, and these in different measure, as other passages indicate:
Rom 5:20 Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Eph 4:7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Jas 4:6 But he gives more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

2 Pet 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
The "freely bestowed" grace of Ephesians 1:6, then, cannot possibly be considered the equivalent of that "fullness of grace" applied to Mary. Lk 1:28 refers to a single gift of grace-fullness in the life of a person. Eph 1:6 refers to several measures of grace given to believers over their lifespan, and apportioned to each one individually as the Spirit wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11). It refers to a huge group of people, with different gifts and various levels of grace bestowed. Because each gift is given to each believer in different measure, it does not result in fullness as did the one gift given to Mary.

All Have Sinned

The passage most often cited in objection to Mary's sinlessness is found in Paul's letter to the Romans:
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
While on the surface this may appear to clearly contradict the doctrine of Mary's sinlessness, further disection of the original Greek behind this passage, as well as an examination of the context of the verse within the letter to the Romans reveals that Rom 3:23 is not as plain as one may think.

First, the Greek. The word for "all" used here is pas. While on occasion, it can be used to refer to every single person, it is most often used to mean "the majority of people." This is made evident by other verses in Scripture in which the same Greek word for "all" is used. They include the following:
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Rom 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
  • Yet we know that not every person of Israel will be saved.

Rom 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
  • Yet not every Roman could be filled with every ounce of knowledge.

Mat 2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
  • Yet surely not every single person in Jerusalem was troubled.

Mat 3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan
  • Every single person in Judea?

Mat 21:10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
  • Every single person was moved?
You get the idea. Now that we have established that "all" can in fact just mean "the majority," our next question is this: Is that the meaning of "all" in Rom 3:23? To answer this question, one must look at the context of the verse.

While Paul's letter to the Romans is mostly known for its defense of salvation by faith, Paul is also interested here in how this salvation relates to the tensions between the Jews and the Gentiles. Each group claims that the other is better, or more favored by God. The Jews in particular boast of being under the law and God's chosen people. The verses that lead up to verse 23 are basically a hypothetical dialogue between the Jews and Paul. The Jew is here trying to find ways in which his sin cannot be counted as unrighteousness, yet Paul rebukes every one. The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (a Protestant commentary by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, published in 1871) analyzes this exchange rather well and it gives further insight into the context of this verse that I think is essential reading.

One can see from this exchange and the commentary on it that Paul's obvious intent here is to affirm that neither group is greater then the other. All the objections of the Jew are denied. "What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin" (Rom 3:9). Rom 3:23 is simply a repetition of this verse. So, we are beginning to see Paul's purpose for saying that "all have sinned."

No One Is Righteous

Some may respond by citing verses 10-12, from the same chapter:
Rom 3:10-12 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands, no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one."
Paul is quoting Psalms 14:2-3, so it's important to examine the context from which the citation came in order to fully gasp its meaning. Here is the passage from the Psalms:
Psalms 14:2-3 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. 3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.
In this passage, David is directly addressing the sinfulness of the Jews. Paul cites David to further affirm his point that the Jews are just as sinful as the Gentiles, and in that way, no better. David is not attempting here to make some broad statement about all of mankind. The surrounding verses make this abundantly clear. Two verses later he writes that "...God is with the generation of the righteous" (14:5). In the immediately preceding Psalm, David proclaims "I trusted in your steadfast love...." (13:5), which certainly is seeking after God. In the very next Psalm he refers to "those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right..." (15:2).

Psalms 112:5 (KJV) refers to a "good" man (Heb. towb), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (KJV, 11:23; 12:2; 13:22; 14:14,19), using the same word towb, which appears in Psalm 14:2-3. And references to righteous men are innumerable (cf. Job 17:9; 22:19; Psa 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16,32; Mt 13:17; 25:46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jam 5:16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18, etc.). Lk 1:6 itself destroys an exaggerated understanding of Paul's words:
Lk 1:6 And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
What this shows is that Psa 14:2-3 (and consequently Rom 3:10-12) is a hyperbolic passage. We cannot take it literally because there are indeed good men. David is exasperated by the sin that is so prevalent among the Jews. Paul quotes these words as a harsh reminder to the Jews, as if to say, "Before you get so puffed up with pride because God chose you to be His people, think about the words of your Father David."

If that weren't enough, a third set of proof that Rom 3:23 and 10-12 are not to be read as literal, all-encompassing judgments on all of mankind comes from common knowledge and everyday life. Even in the world today we do in fact find millions of people who have not sinned, and even some who never will.
  • A baby in the womb: A baby not yet born is still a person, just like us, yet he has not sinned. This is even affirmed in Rom 9:11 when Paul says, "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call..."
  • Children below the age of reason: It is common knowledge that until a child's cognitive development has progressed enough to where he can properly determine right from wrong and understand the moral implications of his actions, he cannot sin. Most children below the age of 7 fall into this category.
  • A vegetative or severely mentally-handicapped individual: I have a cousin who falls into this category. She cannot walk. She cannot talk. She is just as old as me, but forever confined to a wheelchair. This has been her situation since her birth. All of her needs must be met by other people. Because of her impairment she has never committed a sin. She never will.
Once one understands the actual intent of these passages from Paul's letter to the Romans and acknowledges the realistic scope of their meaning, he can finally open his mind (as Scripture is open) to receive the Immaculate Conception.

Actual Sin or Original Sin?

In response to this, it is often said, "Well the sin in question is not actual sin (sins we commit) but original sin." But, this does not further the Protestant cause. Look at Rom 3:10-15, which provides some helpful context for both passages we are discussing here:
Rom 3:10-15 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands, no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Paul is obviously talking about sins of commission (turning aside, going wrong, deceiving, cursing, shedding blood) and omission (not understanding, not seeking God, not doing good) in this passage. These are things that the people are doing, which makes them actual sins, not original sin. Once it is established that Paul is referring to actual sins, then the responses I have given to the various Protestant objections up to this point regain their relevance.

You Call Him a Liar

A similar passage often used against Mary's sinlessness comes from the first letter of St. John:
1 Jn 1:8, 10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Now, I think there are two ways to approach this passage. The first one is to read it again in context:
1 Jn 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The context reveals that this passage is not about just any ol' sinner. This passage has in mind those people living in darkness, people who have not experienced the saving work of Christ and who think that they don't need Him. If you look at the pattern of the passage, verses 6, 8, 10 parallel each other, and verses 7 and 9 parallel each other. That means that it is those who walk in darkness (vs. 6) who say they have no sin (vs. 8) and make God a liar (vs. 10).

But, Mary is not among those who walk in darkness and deny that they need Christ. Her spirit rejoices in God her savior! (cf. Lk 1:47) She has already experienced His grace in her life (cf. Lk 1:28), and handed herself over to His Will (cf. Lk 1:38). Her soul does not reject the Lord, it magnifies Him (cf. Lk 1:46). So, in a variety of ways I think this passage from John's first letter does not apply to her.

The second way to approach this passage is the same way that we approached the passages from Romans: not all men have sinned. This passage from John need not be any more all-encompassing then Rom 3 is.

My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

If Mary was conceived without sin and committed no sins throughout her life, on what grounds then does she have to rejoice in the salvation of God, as she does in Lk 1:47? I think there are two ways to answer this question.

First of all, consider for example the manner in which a person may be saved from a pit. He could be rescued from the pit once he has fallen in. That is one way. But, there is also another way: he could be prevented from falling into the pit in the first place. Catholics acknowledge that Mary was no different from any other human being in her susceptibility to original sin. In other words, she was due to inherit the stain just as we all are. The pit lay squarely in her path as it lay in the path of every man. But, in this solitary instance, God intervened and kept her from falling into the pit of sin. He did this by filling her with His grace. For a woman who committed no sin, that is essentially the only way that God could still be her Savior, as He undoubtedly is.

If you think about it, God's saving work is perfected through this intervention. Now God can boast of not only freeing man from the pit of sin into which he is born and continues to fall, but also of actually keeping one from among mankind from falling into the pit in the first place. In this way, the Immaculate Conception gives glory to God and is a testament to the fullness of His saving power.

Secondly, to counter this objection from an entirely different angle, a case could very well be made that the salvation in which Mary rejoices is not from spiritual forces, but material ones. God does not only save people from sin, or temptation, or hell, or the devil. Sometimes He also saves people from the plight of their physical circumstance. Theologians refer to this as "temporal salvation."

The Old Testament and the New Testament are both filled with instances of this type of salvation. See, for example, from the Old Testament:
Gen 49:18-19 I wait for thy salvation, O LORD. 19 Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels.

Exo 14:13-14 And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still."

Deut 23:14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to save you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you.

1 Sam 12:7 Now therefore stand still, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the saving deeds of the LORD which he performed for you and for your fathers.
Likewise, from the New Testament:
Mt 8:23-25 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save, Lord; we are perishing."

Mt 27:42 He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him

Lk 1:68-71 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us
The Magnificat (where we find Mary rejoicing in God her savior) is I think another example. Here it is in its entirety:
Lk 1:46-55 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."
Look what is happening here. "My spirit rejoices in God my savior." Why? "For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden." Because of what God has done for her -- preparing her for motherhood and then making her the mother of His Son -- she has gone from lowly servant of God, bound to obscurity, to all generations remembering and honoring her. This concerns her state in life, not her eternal salvation.

Other evidence that temporal salvation is at the forefront of her mind is seen in the many examples of temporal salvation that she proceeds to name:
  • He has shown strength with His arm
  • He has scattered the proud
  • He has put down the mighty
  • He has exalted those of low degree
  • He has filled the hungry with good things
  • He has sent the rich away empty
  • He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever
That the parallel canticle from Zechariah also concerns temporal salvation ("from our enemies, from the hand of all who hate us") is further evidence that Mary is rejoicing in her temporal salvation, not her eternal reward. If that is the case, then Protestants can't use Lk 1:47, as they so often do, to discredit Mary's sinlessness. Of course, as we have already seen, even if Mary were referring to her eternal reward, it does little to refute the Catholic doctrine.


Undoubtedly, there are still more objections to the Immaculate Conception that I have not addressed. But, I think that this tract in two parts is still one of the most comprehensive treatments of the subject that you'll find on the internet. I have certainly tried to respond as thoroughly as possible, and, as time permits, I may expand this tract to include other objections and responses as well. At any rate, I hope you find my work here to be of service as you set out to defend our Blessed Mother.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and the Immaculate Conception ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,
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