Thursday, December 15, 2011

Update: New Articles

I added some new links to my collection of Resources for Advent 2011. They include the following:
I added links to a few other areas of my blog as well. To the "Catechetical Materials" page, I added the following websites:
To the "Online Works by Great Catholic Authors" page, I added The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons and the following works by Germain Grisez:
To the "Scripture Study Resources" section in my right sidebar, I added the following:
Finally, I added Early Church Texts to the "Early Church Fathers" section.

Needless to say, my search for awesome resources on the internet is never-ending. I hope these are of help to you.

Pax Christi,

Catholic Q&A: Part 19

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Why do people love the pope so much?

Well, I can only speak for myself here, but I know that I love the pope for many reasons. For one, I very much respect his intelligence of the faith. Pope Benedict XVI is a supremely learned man, very knowledgeable and wise. I can't say I've read a great many of his books, but what I have read has always impressed me greatly. In particular, The Spirit of the Liturgy, and his two-volume work on the life of Christ (Jesus of Nazareth) have been very influential in my life.

I also love the pope because he is my shepherd and I have confidence in him. I am thankful for the office of the papacy, that it exists as a sure guide and a sturdy foundation in my life as a Catholic. But, that this man in particular would fill this office is a real dream come true for me. When Pope John Paul II died, it was my hope that Ratzinger would take his place, but I never thought in a million years that it would actually happen. When it actually did, I was exceedingly happy. I knew that this was a man who could lead us in the right direction.

I love the pope, furthermore, for his devotion to the liturgy, to the "reform of the reform", to helping the Church to better realize the intention of the Council while at the same time embrace a "hermeneutic of continuity" in liturgy, and faith, and life with what has come before. In particular, I consider his work to make the Extraordinary Form more available and to complete the work of John Paul II in publishing the third edition of the Roman Missal to be extraordinary gifts to the Church.

Finally, I think he is a charming man. He's much more personable and accessible than I think anyone ever thought he would be. He is very "grandfatherly" and endearing to me. He is not quite the "star of the show" or the center of attention like JPII was, but instead has a sort of quiet confidence and calming effect on people. Of course, I've never met the man, so I'm not really sure what gives me that impression of him. Maybe it's his smile, or his German accent. At any rate, I can imagine sitting with him by a fire and just talking forever ... and I really like that about him.

What are the elements that enter in the interpretation on the Bible?

The quickest way to answer this question is to refer you to the following website: A Catholic Guide to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Many Worlds of Scripture with Faith, Reason and Praxis. The title may sound a little intimidating, but this site is actually quite accessible and it gives brief overviews of the various contexts and approaches to Scripture that are important for an authentic Catholic interpretation of the Bible.

What are the four Marian dogmas?

The four Marian dogmas state that:
  1. Mary is the Mother of God,
  2. she was conceived without the stain of original sin (and consequently committed no sins in her entire life),
  3. she remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ,
  4. she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory
For more on the four Marian dogmas, see the "Mary" topical index page.

Do you have any commentary on the bread of life?

I'm assuming you are referring to the "Bread of Life" discourse in Jn 6. For Catholic commentary on this and the entire Gospel of John see my blog post: "Online Scripture Commentaries on St. John's Gospel".

Pax Christi,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday, Rose-Colored Vestments, and Advent Wreaths

Why does the priest sometimes wear pink on the third Sunday of Advent?

First, it’s important to define the exact color in question. The liturgical color that can be worn on the third Sunday of Advent (“Gaudete Sunday”) is rosacea, or “rose” – not pink. Rosacea has a slight orangish-red tint to it, sort of like a fresh salmon filet. If you’ve never actually seen rose-colored vestments before, you might be surprised to find that they are very distinguished and beautiful. Pink, on the other hand, is a paler, more feminine color. Think “Pepto-Bismol”.

In our modern times, vestments for this day have gotten a little bubble-gum crazy and, as a result, a priest risks looking like a big Care Bear every time Gaudete Sunday rolls around. Thankfully, he can also choose to simply wear violet.

Here are some examples of rose-colored vestments, courtesy of Fr. Z and New Liturgical Movement (go to each site and search for "Gaudete" and "rosacea"):

As you can see, there is some acceptable variation in color. Some of the vestments above are closer to red, others closer to purple. All of them are very dignified and appropriate for the third Sunday of Advent.

The reason for the color change is to emphasize in a poignant way that the Lord is near. Advent is now more than half-way over! The bursting forth of such an unusual color has the effect of a sudden exclamation in a quiet room. In the midst of our penances, and our quiet contemplation, a voice cries out: Gaudete in Domino semper! “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Those are the words of the Entrance Antiphon for today, and that’s why we call this day “Gaudete Sunday.”

Where does the Advent wreath come from? What does it mean?

The following explanation is from Fr. William Saunders, a popular Catholic apologist and theologian:
The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of spring. In Scandinavia during winter, lit candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn "the wheel of the earth" back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, Christians had taken up this practice and infused it with profound symbolism as a way to prepare for Christmas. Since Jesus is the light of the world (cf. Jn 8:12), it is fitting that the wreath would produce more and more light the closer we get to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of them are purple, a color traditionally associated with penance and prayer. One of them is rose, a symbol of our rejoicing. The circular shape of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found in Christ.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What Is Advent?

The Modern Catholic Dictionary, by Fr. John A. Hardon provides the following definition:
  • A period of prayer in preparation for Christmas, including four Sundays, the first nearest the feast of St. Andrew, November 30. It is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year. The use of the organ and other musical instruments is restricted in liturgical functions. However, it is allowed 1. in extraliturgical functions, 2. for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 3. to support singing, and 4. on Gaudete Sunday, feasts and solemnities, and in any extraordinary celebration. Altars may not be decorated with flowers. In the celebration of matrimony, the nuptial blessing is always imparted. But the spouses are advised to take into account the special character of the liturgical season. Masses for various needs and votive Masses for the dead are not allowed unless there is a special need. (Etym. Latin adventus, a coming, approach, arrival.)

Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is a time of preparation for and anticipation of the coming of the Lord that we celebrate on Christmas Day. It is an opportunity to place ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish people who waited so long for the coming of the Messiah. It is an opportunity to renew our appreciation for the Incarnation, the moment when the Son of God became man, one like us in all things but sin.

Advent takes on a somber tone, similar to Lent, because our minds are focused on what life is like without Christ, without God’s entrance into our world. Of course, in waiting for this coming of the Lord, Advent takes on an eschatological tone as well since, as Christians, we also await the Second Coming, when Jesus will come again and make all things new.

Unfortunately, the same world that God so desired to save can often squelch the spirit of Advent that we are called to embrace. If we are somber it is not because we anxiously await the coming of the Lord, it is because traffic to the mall is backed up, Wal-Mart is all out of Nintendo Wii’s, and the kids are yelling in the back seat because they want to go see Santa Claus. It’s easy in times like this to forget what Christmas is really all about.

This is where Advent comes in. Once we understand Advent for what it is truly meant to be, it can be the antidote to the stress that often accompanies the holiday season. Advent calls us to refocus are minds back to what is important and to remember again the true reason for the season.

Over 2,000 years ago, God asked a virgin a simple question: “Will you let me use you to bring my Son to the world? Will you give me your flesh, your life, your time, your entire being?” In a sense, this is the same question that God asks us today, and Advent is a time to prepare ourselves so that when God wishes to come through us, we like Mary, will be able to say “Yes” to Him.

Let's also remember that with Advent's past significance (in the Incarnation) and future significance (in the Parousia) is also a present reality. Jesus comes, here and now, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated. In a sense, every Mass is a new Advent, and it only makes sense that, during this time of preparation, we should remain close to Christ in the Eucharist. It is in that advent that He is preparing us for the advent that awaits the end of time.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Thanksgiving and Advent Articles

Just wanted to make a quick update and let you know about some new links that I have added to my Thanksgiving and Advent collections. I know, Thanksgiving is already over, but the virtue of thanks is one that we should always foster, especially during the Season of Advent, when our thoughts are focused on a world without Christ and the great gift that was His coming:

Pax Christi,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fr. Matthew Hardesty Homilies for Advent

When my twin brother (who is now a priest) was but a wee seminarian, he was often tasked with writing homilies and then presenting them to his peers as a part of his preparation for the task of preaching. Well, in 2008, he wrote a homily for each of the four weeks of Advent. With Advent now upon us again, I thought you all might like to read his thoughts on this liturgical season. Looking back on these homilies, I find them to be just as instructive an edifying as I did the first time I read them.

Here they are, for you to read over at his blog:

By the way, as I make new posts throughout the season of Advent, I will be sure to also add them to my collection of "Resources for Advent 2011."

Pax Christi,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What is the "Kingdom of God" and How Can I Join?

The story of the Kingdom of God is an ancient one. In the dominion of Adam over all created things (cf. Gen 1:26-28), in the promise to Abraham that kings would be among his descendants (cf. Gen 17:6), in the promise that the “scepter” and the “ruler’s staff” would come to Judah (cf. Gen 49:8-10), in the promise given to the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai that God would make them “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo 19:5-6), in the reign of King David and the promise to him of an everlasting kingdom (cf. 2 Sam 7:16; Psa 89:35-36), and in the words of the prophets after the Babylonian Captivity (cf. Isa 9:5-6; Jer 23:5; Ezek 34:23; Zech 9:9; 14:9) -- in all this we see that it was the plan of God from the very beginning to call a People unto Himself and reign over them as King.

Jesus Christ came to bring that plan to fruition. Indeed, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to prepare for the coming of the Lord through her, he said of her Son that “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:32-33). Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the prophecies and promises of God about the Kingdom He would establish. But, what is this kingdom and how can we be a part of it?

The “Kingdom of God” can really be understood in three ways. It is Christ Himself, it is His rule in the hearts of the faithful, and it is the Church.

It may be difficult to understand how Jesus IS the kingdom. But, if the kingdom is wherever God reigns, and God reigns on earth through Christ, then wherever Christ is, there is the kingdom. Jesus Himself was clear on this point: “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20), and again, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Lk 17:21). Of course, it follows from this that, if “Christ dwells in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17) then the Kingdom of God is also in the hearts of men. Finally, the Church is the Kingdom insofar as it is through the Church that Jesus exercises his power and authority over the People of God on earth. Jesus gave to Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19) and gave the apostles a share in this authority (cf. Mt 18:18; Lk 22:29-30). In Heb 12 we see that the "assembly (or 'church') of the firstborn" (vs. 23) is the "kingdom that cannot be shaken" (vs. 28).

We receive the grace that grants us entrance into the Kingdom through the sacraments of the Church (cf. Jn 3:5) and we experience His benevolent rule over our lives through Her ministers. It is in fact through the Church that we experience the Kingdom of God to the fullest, until that day comes when Jesus will bring all things under His power and will Himself be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28; Eph 1:23).

Pax Christi,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two-Minute Apologetics: On Church Authority

Irecently discovered, over at, a series of videos by Catholic apologist John Martignoni. These are great, quick defenses of Catholic teaching. If you're in an elevator with someone, or a news reporter confronts you as you are walking out of church, or you find yourself in some other scenario in which you have just two minutes to make your case, this is what you would say.

Here are his videos on Church authority:

For more by John Martignoni, see his Bible Christian Society website, which has a wealth of Catholic apologetics information.

Pax Christi,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two-Minute Apologetics: On Salvation

Irecently discovered, over at, a series of videos by Catholic apologist John Martignoni. These are great, quick defenses of Catholic teaching. If you're in an elevator with someone, or a news reporter confronts you as you are walking out of church, or you find yourself in some other scenario in which you have just two minutes to make your case, this is what you would say.

Here are his videos on salvation:

For more by John Martignoni, see his Bible Christian Society website, which has a wealth of Catholic apologetics information.

Pax Christi,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two-Minute Apologetics: On Defending Catholicism

Irecently discovered, over at, a series of videos by Catholic apologist John Martignoni. These are great, quick defenses of Catholic teaching. If you're in an elevator with someone, or a news reporter confronts you as you are walking out of church, or you find yourself in some other scenario in which you have just two minutes to make your case, this is what you would say.

Here are his videos on how to defend Catholicism:

For more by John Martignoni, see his Bible Christian Society website, which has a wealth of Catholic apologetics information.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Two-Minute Apologetics: On the Sacraments

Irecently discovered, over at, a series of videos by Catholic apologist John Martignoni. These are great, quick defenses of Catholic teaching. If you're in an elevator with someone, or a news reporter confronts you as you are walking out of church, or you find yourself in some other scenario in which you have just two minutes to make your case, this is what you would say.

Here are his videos on the sacraments:

For more by John Martignoni, see his Bible Christian Society website, which has a wealth of Catholic apologetics information.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Two-Minute Apologetics: On Mary

Irecently discovered, over at, a series of videos by Catholic apologist John Martignoni. These are great, quick defenses of Catholic teaching. If you're in an elevator with someone, or a news reporter confronts you as you are walking out of church, or you find yourself in some other scenario in which you have just two minutes to make your case, this is what you would say.

Over the next couple of days, I would like to post a few of these videos. Here are his videos on Mary:

For more by John Martignoni, see his Bible Christian Society website, which has a wealth of Catholic apologetics information.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Virginity of Mary During the Birth of Christ

What does it mean that Mary was a virgin “during” the birth of Jesus? Is this something we are required to believe?

That Mary remained a virgin during the birth of Jesus is an aspect of her perpetual virginity that you don’t hear a lot about nowadays. But, it is just as important as our belief that Mary was a virgin before the conception of Christ and that she remained a virgin forever after He was born.

When we say that Mary remained a virgin even during the birth of Christ, we mean that there was nothing about the birthing process that caused her pain or that violated her bodily, virginal integrity. Amazing things happen to a woman’s body during the birthing process. In a sense, she is forever changed, at a physical level, once this birth has taken place. Mary’s experience of this was different and miraculous. Her body didn’t undergo these changes typically caused by the birthing process. She did not even experience any pain!

Why does all this matter? Well, in the first place, it matters simply because it is true, and we want to affirm all that is true. But, beyond that, this type of radical virginity points to Mary as someone who made a complete and perfect offering of her entire self, even her body and her sexuality, to the Lord. This also highlights the fact that Mary’s son is no ordinary son. Both His conception in the womb of Mary and His coming into the world were of a miraculous nature because He is Himself a miracle: the Word of God made man.

Since this has been the consistent teaching of the Church, it is a teaching that we should believe. Here are a few examples where the Church has taught that Mary remained a virgin during the birth of Jesus:
  • "This is the virgin who conceived in her womb and as a virgin bore a son." (Pope Siricius, 390 AD)
  • “And as the Virgin acquired the modesty of virginity before conception, so also she experienced no loss of her integrity; for she conceived a virgin, gave birth a virgin, and after birth retained the uninterrupted modesty of an intact virgin." (Council of Toledo, 693 AD)
  • “Besides, what is admirable beyond the power of thoughts or words to express, He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, “The Creed”)
  • "This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest… also at the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish His mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it" (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, no. 57)

This is just a short summary, much more could be said. For more information, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The End of Time and the Omniscience of Christ

Dave Armstrong, a popular Catholic apologist, recently made a post on his blog about the omniscience of Jesus (the fact that he is all-knowing). Never caring too much for succinct titles, it is called: "Biblical Evidence for Jesus' Omniscience, by Cross-Referencing to Parallel Texts Describing the All-Knowing Attributes of God the Father". I highly suggest that you check it out.

Dave makes a very convincing case here, yet when I shared this article with a skeptic recently, he attempted to deny Christ's omniscience by citing Mt 24:26, where Jesus says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." What should we make of this passage? Is there enough reason here to disregard everything else that is said about the omniscience of Jesus?


I ask the skeptic, if Mt 24:36 means that Jesus is not all-knowing, how then did Jesus know what was in the hearts of men (cf. Mt 9:4; Mk 2:8; Lk 5:22; 9:47; Jn 2:25) and what their thoughts were (cf. Mt 12:25; Lk 6:8; Jn 6:64)? How was Jesus able to tell the Samaritan woman everything she ever did (cf. Jn 4:17-19, 29)? "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (Jn 7:15). How is it that, when Jesus was just a boy, he was able to amaze the teachers in the Temple with his understanding and his answers (cf. Lk 2:46-47)?

You can't just take one verse and disregard all the rest. You have to find a way to reconcile them all. Either Jesus "knows everything" (Jn 21:17) or He doesn't. Either He "searches mind and heart" (Rev 2:23) or He doesn't. Either "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are hidden in Him (Col 2:2-3) or they aren't. You can't have it both ways.

As I see it, the only way to reconcile Mt 24:36 (cf. Mk 13:32) with the rest of the biblical data regarding Jesus' omniscience is to say that this verse (and its parallel passage) are instances of hyperbole, in which Jesus is exaggerating for effect. And this makes perfect sense. Why?

Well, for one, Jesus habitually used hyperbolic language in His preaching. Semitic people are fond of speaking in this way, and Jesus was no different. See, for example:
Mt 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Mt 5:39-42 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

Mt 6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Mt 8:22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.

Mt 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Mt 23:24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Mk 4:31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;

Lk 9:25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Lk 10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road.

Lk 14:26 If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Jn 3:26 And they came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him." [note: a study of the word "all" in the Bible would reveal dozens of hyperbolic statements]

Jn 12:19 The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him."

This is just a sampling of what could be provided, but you get the idea. The important thing to remember is that it is an anachronism to expect Jesus to always speak as precisely as we expect people to speak today. In our modern, industrial age we don't seem to have time for flourishing, or exaggeration, or circumlocutions, or any of the other elaborate modes of speaking that Semitic peoples employ. We're concerned with being succinct and to the point and being efficient and getting things done. But the peoples of Jesus day had no such concern, and we have to keep that in mind when we interpret the sayings of Jesus.

Secondly, it makes sense that Jesus would use hyperbole here because he is absolutely resolute in His desire that the crowd remain ignorant regarding the day and hour of the coming. It is not the will of God that they know this information. His silence is such that it is as if He did not know it. Jesus is communicating, in an exaggerated way, His utter inability to tell them what they want to hear.

That said, the context of Mt 24:36 gives us every indication that Jesus DID in fact know the day and hour. After all, he knows EVERYTHING ELSE about what that day will be like, what horrors will come, what will portend the Tribulation and the Second Coming (see Mt 24 in full). It's nonsensical to think that He would know all this, and yet somehow not know the day when it will all take place.

Don't forget, this is the same Person who created all things (cf. Psa 33:6; Jn 1:1-3, 10; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2; 3:3-4; 11:3) and who upholds the entire universe with his power (cf. Heb 1:3). The Father "has given all things into his hand" (Jn 3:35). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (cf. Mt 28:18). Jesus is the one who will be executing the Judgment on that day (cf. Jn 5:22, 26-27). I think He knows when the Second Coming will take place! He just can't tell us.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Create a Sacred Space

At first, this information was included in my outline on the Ecclesial Method of catechesis, but it made the outline too cumbersome. As a result, I decided instead to devote a separate post to this topic.

What Is a Sacred Space?
  • A sacred space is a prominent place in the room that draws the attention of the students, through various signs and symbols, to the mystery that is being proclaimed
  • It typically involves a small table on which is placed a crucifix, a bible, a candle (real or battery-powered), and any other sacramentals and visual cues that pertain to the catechesis for that day
  • Families can also have a sacred space in the home, to give family members a place to pray together or to facilitate celebration of the liturgical year. In this case, a shelf or a fireplace mantle can also serve as a lovely sacred space.

How Do I Create One?
  • The crucifix should be the largest object on the table, so as to emphasize the singular importance of what Christ did for us.
    • It is the crucifixion that makes every catechetical endeavor even possible.
    • Ultimately, catechesis is about a relationship with this Jesus who died for us
    • Everything we believe as Catholics is Christ-centered
  • The Bible is displayed in order to communicate the significance of God's Word.
    • It also tells them: this is the place where the Word is proclaimed.
    • The Bible can be placed in a book stand, so that it is presented to the students and they can see what type of book it is.
    • It can be closed, or turned to the first passage you will be citing in your teaching
    • Make sure the Bible you display is a nice, regal edition.
    • It is good to use this Bible throughout your teaching, unless placing and removing it from the stand is too awkward
  • The table cloth should be the color of the current liturgical season
    • This keeps the students oriented within the liturgical year
    • Green for Ordinary Time, Purple/Violet for Lent and Advent, White for Christmas and Easter and All Saints' Day, Red for Pentecost or the Feast Day of a martyr, Rose for Gaudete Sunday (third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (fourth Sunday of Lent), Black for All Souls' Day
    • Cloth should be of fine material, nice, and not wrinkled.
  • Include great works of art
    • Paintings, icons, and sculpture communicate what is beautiful about a teaching
    • Children in particular learn a lot more from beautiful illustrations then from your own words
    • Examples: Michelangelo's God Creates Adam for a catechesis on Creation, his Pieta for a catechesis on Mary as the Mother of God, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper for a catechesis on the Eucharist or the Paschal Mystery or the Mass, a statue of St. Michael the Archangel for a catechesis on Sin and Temptation or the Fall of the Angels or the Communion of Saints
    • For more on the importance of injecting beauty into your teaching and your sacred space, see Beauty and Catechesis

Final Thoughts
  • Teach from your sacred space.
    • As you proceed to various points in your catechesis, utilize any objects from your space that would help to illustrate or communicate that point.
    • For works of art, you can even do a mini-catechesis on what is going on in a particular painting, and how it illustrates your teaching
  • At home, a sacred space isn't always feasible if you have little ones crawling and climbing around. In that case, create a portable one! Place your sacred space objects in a box and bring it out whenever it's time to pray together as a family
  • Children could also create their own sacred spaces in a corner or table in their rooms.
  • Be creative! What you can do with your sacred space is limited only by your imagination (and these guidelines, of course!).
  • God gave you your imagination, and He loves it when you use it to pray.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ecclesial Method in Catechesis

As far as I'm concerned, the Ecclesial Method is the way to do catechesis. If you pursue a Certification in Catechetics at FUS, this is the primary method you are instructed to use. That's how I learned it ... but you don't have to put yourself in thousands of dollars worth of debt to obtain the same knowledge. Anyone can use this method, once they know the principles.

Below is an outline of the method as it is presented by Msgr. Francis D. Kelley in his book The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium. I have also supplemented his various points with instruction from my professors on this method and my own thoughts, informed by my personal experience using this method. With this outline, you should get the gist of it, but I highly recommend reading his book to round out your understanding.

  • The ecclesial method is a way of conducting catechesis, a way of passing on the faith.
  • It was created by Msgr. Francis D. Kelley in 1992.
  • We find it in his book The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium.
  • The method is inspired by the principles and the pedagogy found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Directory for Catechesis, and Catechesi Tradendae.
  • The word “ecclesial” means “pertaining to the Church.”
  • It is called the “ecclesial” method because:
    • it utilizes the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church;
    • it is informed by the teaching and practice of the Fathers, popes, and great teachers of our faith;
    • it reflects the belief that catechesis is above all a service in and for the Church by which she transmits her living faith from generation to generation; and
    • it presupposes fidelity to the teaching of the Church.
  • The method proceeds through five steps: Preparation, Proclamation, Explanation, Application, Celebration


Set the Mood
  • The catechist must create the conditions necessary for students to receive the message.
    • This is not easy, considering our modern, hectic life and the barrage of various stimuli.
  • What we must create is a sort of “calculated disengagement.”
  • Help the believer to be open, docile, receptive to truth, to an encounter with Christ.
  • Foster exterior and interior silence.
  • It is desirable that the setting for catechetical sessions have the aura of “holy space.”
    • This suggests that something important, special, different takes place here.
    • Create an atmosphere where students can “be still and know that I am God.” (Psa 46:10) “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be still.” (Exo 14:14)
Look Outside Yourself
  • Our culture tends to create self-absorbed people.
  • We are made to think almost obsessively about our own feelings and desires.
  • Call believers to acknowledge Rom 14:7-8:
    • “None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
  • Help them move from the subjectivity of their own thoughts, feelings, experiences to the objective truth of Christ, and Him crucified.
  • "There is something, or rather someone, greater than you who is calling you to die to yourself and so rise to new life with Him."
  • However you set about doing this, respect the freedom and dignity of your audience and avoid manipulation.
How to Prepare
  • Devote room to a sacred space.
  • Utilize classical music, Gregorian chant, and traditional Catholic hymns.
    • Music is very good at setting the mood for the session.
    • Examples: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" for a catechesis on the Incarnation or the Eucharist, "Ave Maria" or "Salve Regina" for a catechesis on the Marian dogmas, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" for a catechesis on the Trinity.
    • Utilizing Gregorian chant and traditional Catholic hymns also helps to increase literacy of and appreciation for the great heritage of liturgical music that is every day being lost.
  • Great works of art can also be presented via PowerPoint presentation.
  • Conduct a Liturgy of the Word.
    • This helps to lay the Scriptural foundation for your catechesis.
    • It is appropriate that the first words they hear are from the Lord.
  • Observe silence from the moment the students enter.
  • Begin with the Sign of the Cross and/or a prayer
    • Now everything you do will be in the context of prayer.
    • Expose them to the various ways of praying as a Catholic.
  • There are also environmental factors to consider:
    • Is the room set at a comfortable temperature?
    • Is the seating comfortable … but not too comfortable?
    • Is the seating arrangement conducive to listening and sharing?
  • Welcome the students with warmth and enthusiasm.
    • be Christ in their midst.


The Heart of the Teaching
  • This is the announcing of God’s Word.
  • This is really what “catechesis” is all about
    • deriving as it does from the Greek word that means “to echo down, resound.”
  • Primacy must be given to the announcement of God’s Word as it is found in Scripture and Tradition, enunciated by the Magisterium.
  • The Letter to the Hebrews (4:12) tells us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • It is through the proclamation that we allow this word to fulfill its task.
  • To do this effectively, the catechist must have a strong grasp of the teaching of the Church and the meaning of Scripture.
  • Spiritual formation is also an ongoing, absolute requisite for effective proclamation.
  • We have to make sure that our own opinions or personal agendas don’t distort the content of our catechesis.
  • In Catechesi Tradendae (no. 30), Pope John Paul II tells us:
    • “[T]he disciple of Christ has the right to receive ‘the Word of faith’ not in mutilated, falsified, or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigor and vigor. Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis.”
How to Proclaim
  • Proclamation must be short, concise, and easy to remember.
  • This is the heart of the teaching, what it all boils down to.
  • If they only go away with one thing, let it be the proclamation.
  • It must be so well understood and internalized by the catechist that it comes from the heart, with confidence and joy – not simply read out loud.
  • Constantly reinforce it throughout the catechesis.
  • It must be age and group appropriate.
  • Make it visually present (on the board, on handouts, etc.).
  • Express it positively, as Good News, as something worthy to be proclaimed.
  • Some examples:
    • For a catechesis on marriage: "It takes three to get married."
    • For a catechesis on salvation: "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed!" (Jn 8:36)
    • For a catechesis on the priesthood: "The priest is not his own."
    • For a catechesis on the Blessed Mother: "Mary: Blessed by the fruit of her womb."


Giving Them the Meat
  • This is the longest of the five steps.
  • This is when we help our audience come to a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • This is where the creativity and dynamism of the catechist really comes into play.
    • How can I adapt the Church’s teaching to my audience so that they are better able to receive it while at the same time being faithful to that doctrine?
  • Utilize the various ways in which people learn (by hearing, seeing, or doing).
  • Tap into cultural points of reference.
  • Actively engage your audience, using:
    • Audio/visual aids
    • Role-playing
    • Story-telling
    • Show them that the Christian faith is fully reasonable and intelligible
    • Utilize apologetics, address their questions and doubts.
      • This is in obedience to Peter, who tells us in his first letter (3:15) to “always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
    • Don’t be afraid to use theological or distinctly Catholic words.
      • Define them and refer back to them, so that your students can set them to memory.
How to Explain
  • Have a Q&A box where students can submit questions anonymously.
  • Provide a glossary of the important words you used in that day’s teaching.
  • Tell a story from the Bible or from your own life.
  • Show a clip from a movie (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc).
  • Explain the different items in the sacred space and how they apply to the teaching.
  • Read a poem, or an excerpt from a work of literature, or a great Catholic quotation.
  • Draw the meaning out of a great work of art.
  • Refer to relevant passages from Scripture.
  • Quote the early Church Fathers.
  • Quote passages from Church documents, particularly those from Vatican II and the Catechism.


Compel to Witness
  • Religious knowledge has the power to transform the individual and society.
  • John Paul II says in Catechesi Tradendae (no. 22): “Firm and well-thought-out convictions lead to courageous and upright action.”
  • The goal of catechesis is not the memorization of facts – although that is important – but the conversion of hearts and minds to Jesus Christ.
  • How is this conversion lived out in one’s day-to-day living?
  • After Peter preached, the people asked him, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
  • In this step, we are helping our audience to answer that question.
  • Show how the day’s topic applies to one’s daily life.
  • Help your audience to see how the teaching is lived out.
  • Empower them to be a witness to their faith, as the apostles were:
    • “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
  • Pope Paul VI gives us a memorable passage on this idea of witness:
    • “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 41)
    • Evangelii Nuntiandi is Latin for “proclaiming the Gospel.” This is his apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world.
Compel to Serve
  • The image of Christ washing the feet of the apostles sets the tone for Christian living:
    • “If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (Jn 13:14-15)
  • “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34), “What you do for the least of these my brethren you do for me” (Mt 25:40) – this is what Christ is calling us to.
  • Service, of course, can take on a variety of forms, depending on who you are serving and why you are serving them.
How to Apply
  • Propose hypothetical situations in which they might have to defend the teaching, or explain it to someone.
  • Give them time for journaling, with questions for reflection.
  • Break them up into small groups for discussion.
  • Challenge them to perform certain good habits, prayers, or daily exercises.
  • Go on a field trip or engage the class in a community service project that acts as an extension of what they have learned.


Ending on a High Note
  • This step is all about ending with prayerful gratitude and praise to God.
  • Is everything that God has done for us and revealed to us wonderful, or is it not?
  • If it is, then we should rightly end every teaching by helping our audience to see the Good News in what they have learned, and to rejoice in it.
  • This need not be especially exuberant.
  • Gratitude can also be expressed via prayer, or quiet reflection and contemplation.
  • The aim is for the learner to leave the catechetical setting in a place of peace and joy and preparedness for life’s challenges.
How to Celebrate
  • Many of the techniques used in the Preparation step can also be used in the Celebration step.
  • Celebrate a Liturgy of the Word, or pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
  • Listen to a piece of music, or – God forbid! – sing a hymn together as a group!
  • Incorporate movement or gestures:
    • Stand for the Gospel reading.
    • Move into the Church to pray.
    • Pray the Stations of the Cross around the room or church.
    • End with the Sign of the Cross.
    • Younger children enjoy songs with sign language.
  • End with a "witness," where you or someone from the parish can come and tell his story about how the teaching for the day changed his life or strengthened his relationship with Christ.

This method takes a little bit of work and prep time for the catechist. It requires creativity, thoughtfulness, and fidelity ... but it is not difficult. If it means reaching souls better and converting hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, then we should be all about that work. If this method is too much for you to take on all at once, then you may spend a semester or even a whole year just focusing on one of the five steps. "This year, I'm going to make sure I have an excellent Preparation step." Once you feel comfortable with one step, move on to the next one.

Once you have gained experience using the Ecclesial Method, you will find that you are able to move from step to step with great ease. Then, each year is just about improving. "What might I add to my sacred space for this teaching?" "This movie would be great for my Explanation step!" "How can I improve this Proclamation?" Keep your eyes open to anything you can use to supplement your teaching and make it better.

And, of course, as you grow in holiness, your heart will become more open and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He will give you the wisdom and the courage to seize every catechetical moment.

For more on the Ecclesial Method, see the following articles:

Pax Christi ... and good luck!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Catholic Q&A: Part 18

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

What does the “IHS” stand for that one sometimes sees on the altar, or the priestly vestments, or the Eucharist?

The letters “IHS” are iota, eta, and sigma, the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. This symbol was used in the early Church, during times of persecution, as a code-word for the Holy Name.

Various other interpretations arose out of the Middle Ages. For example, some said “IHS” stood for the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator, which means, “Jesus, Savior of Humanity,” or Iesus Hierosolyma Salvator, which means, “Jesus, Savior of Jerusalem,” or In Hoc Signo (Vinces), which means, “In this sign (you will conquer),” from the vision that Constantine saw before the battle at the Mulvian Bridge. Some have suggested the Greek phrase Iesus Hemeteros Soter, which means, “Jesus our Savior.” There are even some wacky anti-Catholics who think the “IHS” stands for the Egyptian Gods Isis, Horus, and Seb! But, all of these interpretations are incorrect.

Who wrote the Nicene Creed that we say at Mass?

The Nicene Creed, minus the statement about the Holy Spirit, was composed by the 318 bishops who attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It was meant to be a profession of faith against Arianism and the other heresies that were floating about regarding the two natures of Christ. Later on, at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, the statement about the Holy Spirit was added, giving the Creed the form in which we have it today.

What is the role of a deacon in the Catholic Church?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers this question for us, in article no. 1570:
Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ("character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.
Deacons can also celebrate baptisms and perform the various pastoral works of the parish (for example, visiting the sick, bringing the Eucharist to the homebound, caring for the poor, pastoral counseling, etc.).

Pax Christi,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Did St. Thomas Aquinas Deny the Immaculate Conception?

In short, yes, but let’s not make more out of this than is really warranted. It is true that in his Summa Theologiae (Third Part, Question 27), Thomas denied that Mary was sanctified from original sin at the moment of her conception. He was wrestling with an apparent conflict: How can Jesus be said to be the Savior of all mankind, including Mary, if Mary had no sin to be saved from? The only way he knew how to resolve this issue was to say that Mary was sanctified not at the moment of her conception, but some time between when she was conceived in the womb of her mother and when she was born.

A Franciscan, John Duns Scotus, was the one who finally resolved this question. He pointed out that there is more than one way to save mankind from sin. In every case but one, God saves a person from sin by pulling him out of the pit of sin once he has fallen in. But, in the singular case of Mary, God saved her in a different way, by preventing her from falling into the pit of sin in the first place. God is still her savior, just in a different and, according to Scotus, more excellent way. Thomas could not have known of this solution, seeing that he died four years after Scotus was born.

But, that is okay. Thomas is the Church’s greatest scholar, but he is still only human. We must also remember that Thomas was only struggling with when Mary was sanctified, not if she was. He still held that Mary was freed from the stain of original sin and that she remained sinless her entire life. Some people take Thomas' denial of sanctification at the moment of conception to mean that he thought Mary was a sinner like the rest of us. But, this is a gross distortion of what Thomas believed.

Ultimately, Thomas was simply doing what all theologians do with matters of the faith that have not been defined by the Church: He was wrestling with the implications of a belief, plumbing the depths of it, ironing out its finer details, seeing how the doctrine in question fits within the larger deposit of the faith. This type of theological work is how dogma develops, and it is a very natural and expected process, as the Holy Spirit leads the Church towards the full knowledge of the truth.

Instead of being scandalized by Thomas’ words in the Summa, we should really be thankful for them. He contributed to the necessary work that brought the Church to a fuller understanding of Mary’s sinlessness. St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor” … pray for us!

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Catholic Church Is NOT the "Whore of Babylon"

Persuaded recently by a Facebook group in which I am involved, I have done some research on the identity of the "Whore of Babylon" from the Book of Revelation. It is a popular theory among anti-Catholic Protestants to identify the Whore with the Catholic Church. What follows is evidence of much more plausible conclusions. I hope this collection will be of help to you in making up your own mind regarding the identity of this mysterious woman.

Whether the Whore be Jerusalem or Rome, She is clearly not the Catholic Church.

Pax Christi,

The "Whore" Is Pagan Rome:

The "Whore" Is Jerusalem:

The "Whore" Is Jerusalem and the "Beast" Is Rome:

The "Whore" Is Both Rome and Jerusalem, or Satan, or Any Force Against True Religion:

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible provides some help in making sense of all of this data. After surveying the case that is made for identifying the Whore with Rome and Jerusalem, the authors conclude:
  • What is curious about the above is the strength of both interpretations. Some details seem to fit a description of Rome, while others are more clearly applicable to Jerusalem. This being the case, one might argue that these opposing views are not mutually exclusive but that both are legitimate in different ways.

    In our judgment, a stronger case can be made for Jerusalem as the city whose demise is apocalyptically presented in Revelation. But this does not mean that other readings of the book are thereby ruled out. Jerusalem was the first city to fit the description in Revelation, but it is by no means the only city. What was true of apostate Jerusalem -- that it became a center of godlessness, violence, and corruption to the point of defying God and shedding the blood of his servants -- holds true of countless cities down through the ages. History is clear that Rome stood next in line to carry on the legacy of Jerusalem by its ruthless persecution of Christianity, so Revelation's warnings of divine judgment apply to it as well. Indeed, Rome's blood guilt is very much part of the message of the book, even in its literal sense (e.g. 13:7). So even if John intended us to think first and foremost of Jerusalem, God's judgment serves as a warning to any and every city thereafter that would choose to turn against the Lord and his disciples.

    Thus, when one surveys the history of interpretation, it is not surprising to learn that Rome and, indeed, many other earthly powers, political as well as religious, have been identified as the Babylon of Revelation. We must not restrict the meaning of apocalyptic events to exclude later historical applications. Revelation's theological message is a timeless message, and its pastoral application is one of perennial relevance. It was as meaningful in the first century as in every century since, even to the end of time. ("The First, Second, and Third Letters of St. John and the Revelation to St. John", pg. 59 [line breaks are mine])

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do Catholics Believe in Salvation by Grace Through Faith?

In short, yes we do. A quick perusal of the Catechism of the Catholic Church bears this out. I am sure that other paragraphs could be cited as well, but this should be enough to prove the point:
The Catechism on Salvation by Grace

684 Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to "know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ."

1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)
1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.

2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

The Catechism on Salvation by Faith

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

183 Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16).

1816 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:32-33).

The Catechism on Salvation by Grace and Faith

153 Faith is a grace. When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from flesh and blood", but from "my Father who is in heaven". Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"

1966 The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"
“Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.”
This fact that Catholics believe in salvation by grace through faith is the first and most important thing to establish before any discussion on salvation can be undertaken. If you, as a Catholic, begin by discussing the importance of the sacraments, or of good works, or merit, or indulgences, or anything else, then you will simply be talking past your opponent. After all, he probably enters the discussion already thinking that Catholics are Pelagian and so will filter any talk of sacraments, or works, or merit through that misunderstanding. But, once you lay the groundwork by affirming what he himself believes, then you can begin to show how sacraments and everything else fits within that belief in the primacy of grace and faith.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is Baptism "in the Name of Jesus" or "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"?

First of all, here are Jesus’ words to the apostles before He ascended into heaven:
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:18-20)
However, in the Book of Acts, we see that the apostles were baptizing people “in the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38; 10:48) and “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (8:16; 19:5). Are the apostles being disobedient? No.

Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, is not intending to be precise regarding the exact formula that was used, otherwise all four passages would agree. But they don’t. Sometimes the baptism is “in the name of Jesus Christ” and other times it is “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

It makes more sense to say that Luke is simply differentiating the Christian baptism from the other baptisms of the day, such as John's baptism (cf. Acts 1:5,22; 10:37; 11:16; 13:24; 18:25; 19:4), Jewish ritual washings (Gk "baptizo"; cf. Mk 7:4; Lk 11:38), and the baptism for the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:29).

We also can’t forget that, according to Matthew’s gospel, the command to baptize in the name of the Trinity was Jesus’ final word to His apostles before He ascended into heaven. They are a sort of last will and testament to them. This means that those words are very important, and you can bet the apostles hung on every last word of it. To think that they would then go forth and baptize in some other way is nonsensical.

Instead, because of everything that is at stake in Baptism, the apostles and their successors would have been very scrupulous regarding the manner in which it was to be done. And we see from the historical record that baptism was performed in the Trinitarian formula. For example, Origen writes in his Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (248 AD):
“The Lord himself told his disciples that they should baptize all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . for indeed, legitimate baptism is had only in the name of the Trinity"
By baptizing as Jesus’ commanded, the Church is simply doing what Christians have always done.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is the Rosary "Vain Repitition"?

Some anti-Catholics are fond of using Mt 6:7 against the practice of praying the rosary. But, does that passage really apply?

First, here is the passage in context:
Mt 6:1-8 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Protestants may be more familiar with the KJV rendering of vs. 7: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." At any rate, the context is crucial here. What this reveals is that Jesus was not condemning repetition as such, but vain repetition, that is, saying words over and over so that you can be seen and heard by men and receive their praise. Jesus is speaking against those people who pray, not out of humility and adoration of God, but so that they can be known for their so-called piety. Catholics don’t pray the rosary with that intention, thus this passage does not apply.

If Jesus was condemning all forms of repetition in prayer, then we must charge Jesus Himself with praying incorrectly. After all, He repeated the same prayer three times in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Mt 26:39,42,44 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." [...] 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done." [...] 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
Ever read the Psalms? They are filled with repetitive prayer. Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “his steadfast love endures forever” 26 times! Worship in heaven is also repetitious: “day and night they never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Rev 4.8).

It's clear from this that, when it comes to praying, the intentions of the heart are what matter most.

Pax Christi,
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