Monday, May 23, 2011

Is the Scapular Just Another Catholic Superstition?

Before I answer this question, it will be helpful to define what exactly "superstition" is. Catholics have a very clear understanding of this word, and we are strongly exhorted to avoid anything that would fall under it.

The Catechism says the following:
2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition (cf. Mt 23:16-22).

2138 Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic.

Now, with this definition as our guide, we see that the scapular would be magical or superstitious if we believed that the mere ownership of the scapular or its mere presence on one's person was enough to ensure that person a place in heaven. But, the scapular is not a good luck charm and it is not enough to simply have it around your neck when judgment comes. It is what is implied by the wearing of the scapular that makes all the difference.

The promise of Mary to St. Simon Stock that "whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire" extends only to those who wear the scapular as a sign of their devotion to the Blessed Mother and to living a good, Christian life of prayer and holiness. When you put on the scapular, you set yourself apart as someone who wishes to live as Mary lived, and as someone who humbly places himself under her mantle.

When we pray the "Hail Mary" we say at the end: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." That becomes the petition of every person who faithfully wears the scapular. He wears it with faith that Mary will pray for his soul at the time of Judgment. And if he has lead a good life, he will not suffer eternal fire.

The scapular itself also encourages and maintains the devotion that it's presence is supposed to symbolize. We feel it throughout the day, when the front or the back drops down too far, when the squares gently scratch us or pat against our bodies as we run. All of these are small reminders to live as Mary lived. We show our love to Mary by kissing the scapular, and we implore her intercession every time we clutch it in fear or sorrow. All of this is very good and pious Catholic practice.

For more on the scapular, see the following articles:
Pax Christi,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Formspring: Part 3

It's time to answer some more questions, submitted via the Formspring in my left sidebar. Do you have a question about Catholicism? Fire away, and I will try my best to answer it here. See the "Formspring" label for previous posts in this series.

Now, on to the Q&A:

How do we know that Mary’s parents were Anne and Joachim if they aren’t mentioned in the Bible?

We know their names because they are mentioned in other early Christian works from the 1st and 2nd century AD., such as The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and The Protoevangelium of James.

What is “viaticum”?

The word viaticum is Latin for “provisions for a journey.” Thus, it is a fitting name for the final reception of the Eucharist by someone who is near death. With the Eucharist, he is now ready to make the journey from this life to the next.

People often think of viaticum as a part of the rite for the Anointing of the Sick, since the celebration of viaticum often immediately follows it. But, the celebration of viaticum is actually a separate rite, and is only celebrated following the Anointing of the Sick if death is imminent.

What are the “sacraments of healing”?

The sacraments of healing are Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Reconciliation heals the soul by cleansing it of sin. Anointing of the Sick heals the soul by cleansing it of sin (if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Reconciliation) and by strengthening it against temptation and despair. It can heal the body too, if that be the will of the Lord.

How does the Catholic Church view war?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:
2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."
The Catechism goes on to outline the conditions for a just war, and to describe the responsibilities of public authorities and those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces. It is a very interesting and informative read.

Pax Christi,

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Presence Is Real

Ceck out this new video from American Life League. It makes the interesting argument that protecting the unborn flows naturally from the Catholic faith which believes without seeing and is yet, at the same time, grounded in reason:

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Formspring: Part 2

Time to respond to another batch of questions submitted via the Formspring in my life sidebar. Thank you all very much for your questions! I will answer them to the best of my ability. Also see Part 1. Now, let's begin ...

Do you know where I can find Aquinas' commentary on Matthew (not the Catena) online?

Unfortunately, I do not. I have collected here all of the Aquinas commentary I have been able to find so far. If someone manages to find his commentary on Matthew's gospel, please let me know!

What is the teaching of the Ephesus Council?

The Council of Ephesus is known for three things: it defined the true personal unity of Christ, it declared Mary the Mother of God or "God-bearer" (theotokos) against Nestorius, and it renewed the condemnation of Pelagius. You can read more about what took place at the council here. The resolutions, definitions, and relevant documents of the council are also available here.

Where can I get a more information about the beautiful Immaculate Heart of Mary shown on your 6/12/10 posting? Is there a Sacred Heart of Jesus by the same artist?

I found that picture of Mary's Immaculate Heart by doing a Google image search, so I don't know very much about the image or who painted it. Sorry!

If a Catholic were to receive penance and died as they walked out of the confessional, would they go straight to heaven? What is the difference between temporal punishment and other types of punishment?

That person would go to heaven, but "right away" we cannot say. He may have to go to Purgatory first, if he has not adequately atoned for the temporal punishment that is due to his sin. This leads to your second question.

"Temporal punishment" is the effect that one's sin causes in this life to oneself and to the Body of Christ and the world. When one sins, he must ask the Lord for forgiveness, but he must also rectify the harm that his sin has caused to others. This is the purpose of the penance that one receives from the priest when he goes to Confession. Penance rectifies that harm, heals the wound that one's sin inflicts upon the Body.

If one has not healed all the wounds that his sin has caused, then this remains as a sort of blot on his soul when he stands before the Lord to receive His Judgment. God purges that blot away, refining souls through the fiery furnace of His love, which we experience as Purgatory.

Other things cause "blotches" too, specifically attachment to sin and any venial sins of which we have not sought out the Lord's forgiveness.

How would someone start the process for canonization for a deceased person?

After the person in question has been deceased for at least 5 years, then a request can be made to the person's bishop to begin an investigation of the person's life to discern if the person is a worthy candidate for canonization.

Hello, I was told that Aquinas wrote some commentary on the "new earth" spoken of in John's Apocalypse. Do you know where I might find this commentary?

I'm afraid I do not know where such a commentary could be found, at least online. You are welcome to peruse his works in English which are available online. There is not available as of yet any commentary of his on the Book of Revelation, but perhaps his words on the "new creation" were part of a work on some other book of the Bible or subject. I'm sorry I can't help you more!

Thank you all for your questions! Keep them coming!

Pax Christi,

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Is the Divine Mercy Chaplet a Cop-Out?

"GuyWithAFoil" asked the following question in the Q&A forum at Phatmass:
I read something on the hour of devine mercy... it almost sounds as though it can replace confession. is that true? it seems kind of like a copout...but if it doenst replace confession than what exactly is it all about?
The Divine Mercy devotion is not meant to replace the Sacrament of Confession. There is an indulgence attached to the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet, but indulgences don't effect the forgiveness of sin, instead they remit the temporal punishment of sin.

The Lord also promises that, through praying the chaplet during the hour of divine mercy (3:00 pm), He will "refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion (Diary 1320)." But, this is not meant to exclude the Sacrament either. Perhaps it is presumed that the person who makes a request of the Lord during this hour would already be in right relationship with the Lord, or that such a person would not ask the Lord to circumvent the Sacrament to begin with. Of course, the Lord is not bound by the Sacraments and He can surely do what He wishes, but normatively speaking, the Sacrament of Confession is the instrument for the forgiveness of mortal sin.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is not meant to be trickery or a cop-out of the sacramental life. Its purpose is to cultivate trust in the Mercy of the Lord, and mercy towards our neighbor. When we honor him with our lips, we want him to find a heart that is close to him, and this devotion aids in that. It is a wonderful and beautiful, yet also very simple devotion.

"For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

For more information on the Divine Mercy devotion revealed to St. Faustina, go here and here.

Pax Christi,
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