Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quick Thought: "Cafeteria Catholics"

For those of you who are not aware, a "Cafeteria Catholic", according to the Urban Dictionary, is:

"A Catholic individual, typically poorly catechised, from the Latin Rite or other. Said Catholic will pick and choose what he chooses to believe in in regards to the faith. Typically they will deny or mutilate revealed truths in order to justify their sinful lifestyles."

To summarise: a "Cafeteria Catholic" will pick the beliefs and teachings that either "suit them" or the ones to which only they agree with and forget the rest.

In my honest opinion, "Cafeteria Catholics" don't deserve to be called "Catholic". If they want to truly be Catholic they must be faithful to the Catholic Church in all of her teachings, remaining obedient to the teaching authority of the Church: the Magisterium of the Catholilc Church.

The Catholic Church - and Christianity for that matter - is not some salad bar where you fill your dish with only what you feel like, no. The Church is a feast for souls that are always hungry and wanting more because we can never be fully satisfied. We feast at Christ's table; he has invited us to it. Who are we to deny anything that he offers to us freely?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick Question: Can One Mortal Sin Before Death Send You to Hell?

"Can you really go to Hell for one mortal sin before death?"

The short answer: Yes!

The long answer: Yes, committing even one mortal sin before death can send you to Hell.

Here's why...

Scripture tells us very clearly that each of us will be judged according to our deeds and if we willingly reject Christ and [doing] the Father's will, will earn for themselves damnation.

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works." - Revelation 20:12-13 (D-R)

"Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be according to their works." - 2 Corinthians 11:15 (D-R)

"Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that does the will of my Father who is in the heavens." - Matthew 7:21 (D-R)

"See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." - Romans 11:22 (D-R)

"For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries." - Hebrews 10:26-27 (D-R)

The Church also teaches us this as we read in our Catechism:

"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." - CCC, par. 1861

So what should we do? Remain and holiness and err on the side of caution: do no commit mortal sin and attend Confession regularly. 

God calls us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26) and Christ has show for us how we are to live (John 14:6). Be discerning in [i]all[/i] your thoughts, words, and actions. This, your stead with God, is not the kind of thing you'd really want to put to the test.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quick Thought: Reading the Book of Revelation

We have to be careful when reading scripture, especially in trying to interpret and extract meaning from the scriptures for ourselves.

The scriptures are diverse and there are a variety of literary styles found in the Bible. One such style is "apocalyptic". You'll find this style of writing both in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation and the above warning should be heeded especially when reading these particular books of the Bible. In Revelation 13, for example, we read about the "mark of the beast" (666) and to whom this number belonged to (or identified):

"This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." - Revelation 13:18 (NIV)

I remember some years ago (when I was still in high school in fact), that someone calculated that the mark of the beast, 666, belong to Bill Gates, now-retired CEO of Microsoft. So the inference was then made:

Bill Gates = the anti-Christ

... And the sad part is that people actually started to believe it. But then it was suggested that "666" could also represent Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama, and Fundamentalists would even argue that "666" identifies the pope as the anti-Christ (erringly)! All of this because of the numerical value attached to a name when it is written out in full. I'm not going to go into that because to be quite frank I haven't got the energy for it and the fact that it's such a convoluted method identification that I feel my own time is best vested elsewhere.

There is also the symbol of the dragon at the beginning of Revelation 13 which some interpret as Communism and/or the People's Republic of China. The Chinese certainly do have an affinity with dragons as the creature is steeped quite heavily in their legends and folklore and apparently the red dragon is symbolic of Communism. But again: these are interpretations I do not want to give the time to explain but such interpretations highlight a danger in misreading apocalyptic texts.

I would err on the side of caution when reading apocalyptic literature like that of found in the Book of Revelation. The author of the book (the apostle, John) uses rich imagery, symbolism, and heavily descriptive writing to describe what his own eyes have seen. What John writes about would make more sense to the intended audience of the time, and we, may make an erroneous reading because we read such a text with contemporary eyes. We see things that are happening today or see specific people and draw parallels between those and what we read about in Revelation. I believe people may draw such parallels because they see what they want to see. Even a single book in the Bible needs to be read in light of the entirety of scripture (this is why we have a canon), much in the same way a single verse needs to be read in the light of the book that it came from. A text without a context is a pretext.

The key understanding we should be paying attention to in the Book of Revelation is this: Christ will come again, he will come at a time unbeknownst to us, and we need to be ready for his coming. Read 2 Peter 3 if you want to get a better idea of what I mean by that... advice, that is.

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If you want to learn more about unlocking the secrets of the Book of Revelation, then I strongly suggest listening to an April 18 edition of Catholic Answers Live featuring Professor Michael Barber, professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University. You can download that particular show on mp3 via this link.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Quick Thought: Christ Tempted in the Desert and Stone to Bread

I was watching my student teacher teach my Year 12s this afternoon and she decided to lead the lesson by reading Luke's account of Jesus' fast in the desert for 40 days. Now I've heard and read the story of Christ's temptation in the desert countless times, and it was probably one of the first things that was taught to me as a primary school student; I was six years-old at the time.

What jumped out at me today, however, for whatever reason, was verse three of Luke's account:

"And the devil said to him: If thou be the Son of God, say to this stone that it be made bread." - Luke 4:3

... And then I started thinking about the Eucharist and the Real Presence, and then it hit me, I mean, it really smacked me right between the eyes!

If Satan himself believed that Christ could turn something like a stone into bread to eat, then why is it do we have so many opponents to the idea that Christ makes himself present in bread and wine at the Eucharist?

Something to ponder...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

St. Peter's Primacy: Another Futile anti-Catholic Argument

So this time my anti-Catholic friends have suggested that St. Peter could not have been pre-eminent (and thus papal authority spurious) because he refused to let anyone bow before him and that he was a "fellow elder". The sources of these argument comes from Acts 10 (Cornelius calls for Peter) and First Peter (To Elders and Young Men):

"And it came to pass, that when Peter was come in, Cornelius came to meet him, and falling at his feet adored. But Peter lifted him up, saying: Arise, I myself also am a man." - Acts 10:25-26

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." - 1 Peter 5:1, 3 (NIV)

Any time an anti-Catholic presents a very limited scope with their argument (i.e. one or two verses at a time; "cherry-picking" scripture), you have to get them to read the bits around what they're using. In other words, it is necessary to read verse(s) in context (remember: a text without a context is a pretext).

So then, Acts 10 in context...

The question you'd first need to ask the anti-Catholic presenting this argument is why Cornelius called for Peter in the first place. The answer's right there in the first few verses of Acts 10 but encourage them to do the reading anyway. Once they've given you the answer (an angel of God appeared unto Cornelius and instructed him to seek out Peter) you could then ask why Cornelius was instructed to seek out Peter and not any other of the apostles, but that's a different matter all together; we're addressing the "bowing" thing.

It's important to note that Cornelius was "seized with fear" (Acts 10:4) and had been given an instruction by God via an angel to seek out a specific individual. Think of the significance of that for a second: God, essentially, is asking a man to seek out Peter! Now, if God asked you to seek out someone, you'd think they were pretty important, right? Wouldn't you be pleased to see the guy when he came through your door? And yes: you could excuse Cornelius for bowing before a man that God had asked him to seek out!

Peter did tell Cornelius to get up, but it's what he says after this that bears great significance: "I myself also am a man". Peter, being a humble man as a good pope should be, was quite likely embarrassed (i.e. abashed) by this greeting and since Christians were still being publicly persecuted (this went on until the fourth century), he probably didn't want to draw an unnecessary attention to himself. It wasn't like Peter was chastising Cornelius for bowing before him either. Cornelius bowed before Peter as a sign of respect and you could argue out of reverence: this was the man an angel of God had told him to seek out after all and I don't seem to recall the angel of God telling Cornelius to not greet Peter with any respect or reverence and that doing so would be offensive to God.

It is also worthwhile to note that this - Acts 10:25-26 - is the only instance in scripture where someone has "bowed" before Peter followed by Peter's instruction to "get up". Remember: there's nothing wrong with greeting someone with respect; bowing does not necessarily equate to worship as anti-Catholics may think it does.

So what about Peter referring to himself as a "fellow elder" (1 Peter 5:1, 3)? The suggestion is that by referring to himself as a "fellow elder", that this immediately negates any notion of primacy or eminence (and thus the primacy and eminence of the papacy). This is actually an easier argument to rebut; there's no need for a full exegesis of the chapter, but a simple reading between the lines. Consider this first: when the president of the United States of America addresses the American people by beginning with, "My fellow Americans..." does this negate his leadership and make his eminence void? Sure, it would if you followed the logic of the anti-Catholic. By the president referring to himself as a "fellow American" and not as "the president of the United States of America" this would mean he could not be speaking with any authority or as an authoritative figure. We know this is complete rubbish; it is flawed logic. The president of the United States of America can address the American people both as an American citizen and as their leader. In the same way, Peter can address other elders both as an elder himself and as an elder of the elders; the eminent elder.

The next consideration of the "fellow elder" argument is the elephant in the room that anti-Catholics miss, and it's hard to believe that they could miss something so obvious... then again if you're looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses, then everything will appear not as it is.

We read about this "fellow elder" business in St. Peter's epistle (a letter) to fellow elders. What is St. Peter doing in this particular letter? He's instructing them; guiding them. This is evident throughout the chapter:

"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve..." - 1 Peter  3:2

"Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 3:5-9

"Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." - 1 Peter 3:14

Now isn't usually the job of the leader to instruct and guide? Now the anti-Catholic might argue that this was indicative of St. Paul as well - an eminent member of the early church instructing Christian communities - but then again St. Paul wasn't appointed by Christ himself to be the rock, the foundation of the visible church (Matthew 16:18). Even among elders there is an elder of elders; a leader of leaders.

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Would you like to know what the Early Church Fathers thought about the primacy of St. Peter? Check this out: http://www.staycatholic.com/ecf_primacy_of_rome.htm

I would also highly recommend reading Steve Ray's book on the primacy of St. Peter, Upon This Rock.

God bless.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Mark 7 is an Inadequate Rebuttal of Catholic Tradition

There's a particular group on Facebook that I joined recently that was set up to educate people about the Word of God; the Sacred Scriptures. Over three million people have joined this group and while it is pleasing to see so many people wanting to learn more about the Bible and share their love of Our Lord and Saviour, it is unfortunate that there are also many there who reject Catholicism with a militant ardency.

In a discussion concerning Tradition last night, one user (let's call him "Dan") used Mark 7, verses seven and nine to dismiss the validity of Tradition in the Catholic Church.

"And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men... And he said to them: Well do you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition." - Mark 7:7, 9

Dan has cherry-picked scripture - let me begin by saying that - and in doing so has used these verses out of context and has failed to read Mark 7 in context.

The tradition that Jesus opposes in this instance is the ritual washing of hands before meals:

"And there assembled together unto him the Pharisees and some of the scribes, coming from Jerusalem. And when they had seen some of his disciples eat bread with common, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews eat not without often washing their hands, holding the tradition of the ancients: And when they come from the market, unless they be washed, they eat not: and many other things there are that have been delivered to them to observe, the washings of cups and of pots, and of brazen vessels, and of beds. And the Pharisees and scribes asked him: Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, but they eat bread with common hands?" - Mark 7:1-5

Christ has only admonished this tradition of hand washing (not tradition all together) and tells the Pharisees that nothing entering a man (i.e. food) can defile him, but only that which comes from a man that can do so (Mark 7:15). Jesus tells us of the things from within that defile a man as we read in verses 21 and 22:

"For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness."

"All these evil things come from within, and defile a man" - Mark 7:23

Fundamentalists like Dan see verses like Mark 7:7 and Mark 7:9 and determine that anything termed or defined as "tradition" is to be shunned. This is not so, at least, not all traditions should be shunned as Christ demonstrated in Mark 7. There is a distinction between man made traditions which make void God's word and traditions which are handed to us by Jesus himself and the Apostles (i.e. Apostolic Tradition; "paradosis", Greek for "a handing down tradition"). Or else why, knowing this, would an eminent authority such as St. Paul encourage communities reading his letters to abide by tradition(s) (instruction, be they oral or written):

"Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you." - 1 Corinthians 11:2

"The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you." - Philippians 4:9

"Remember you not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" - 2 Thessalonians 2:5

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle." - 2 Thessalonians 2:14

"And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us." - 2 Thessalonians 3:6

"And the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also." - 2 Timothy 2:2

"But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned, and which have been committed to thee: knowing of whom thou hast learned them" - 2 Timothy 3:14

"Okay," the fundamentalist will say, "so what traditions was Paul talking about then? Worshipping Mary? Going to priest to have sins forgiven?" You get the picture. Firstly, you should clarify what the Catholic practice actually is, how and why it's done (e.g. praying through Mary is not worshipping her, nor is having a statue of her and praying infront of it idolatry, etc. - more information on that here) and inform them that there are things that even "Bible Christians" do today that are tradition:

- Many Christians wear a crucifix around their neck; where does scripture tell us to do that?
- Altar Calls; where does scripture tells us to do those?
- Baptism by Immersion only; where does scripture tell us that this is the only valid method of baptism?
- Christmas; all Christians celebrate the birth of Christ but where does it tell us in scripture that we must celebrate his birth on December 25?
- Sola Scriptura ("Scripture Alone"); where does scripture tell us that the Bible is the sole source of authority?

Now these traditions might be acceptable even in Protestant circles, but they are just that: traditions! If the anti-Catholic truly believes that all traditions should be shunned, then these would have to be rejected as well.

So how do we determine which traditions were genuinely handed on by the apostles and which were not? Thankfully this has already been determined for us by the Church, to which Christ gave the authority to bind and loose; this authority was entrusted to St. Peter (Matthew 16:18-19) and the Church, as we know, is the pillar and bulwark of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The power of the Holy Spirit ensures that the Church never teaches error; this is the promise Christ gave to his disciples:

"But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you." - John 16:13

"He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." - Luke 10:16

The voice of the Church is the voice of Christ, and it echoes through all generations and to all nations.

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The Catholic Church today believes and practices the same as what the very early Christians did (mostly because the first Christians were Catholic). Would you like to learn more about what the early Christians taught and believed? If the answer is 'yes', then read up on a bunch of fellows known as the "Early Church Fathers". Here are a couple of websites to get you started:



Thursday, August 05, 2010

SCTA National Catholic Conference - Rediscovering Vatican II

The Society of Catholics Teachers Australia (SCTA) will be holding their national conference this October on the 29th and 30th of that month. The theme for the conference is "Rediscovering Vatican II for Today's Church" and yours truly will be a keynote speaker giving a seminar on the laity in the heart of the Church.

You can learn more about the conference here: http://www.scta.org.au/community/rediscoveringvaticanII/conference2010.htm

God bless.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010