Okay. I’m taking another day off to go to his installation in Portland…
Prologue (1 – 25)
“FATHER, … this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – than the name of JESUS.
I. THE LIFE OF MAN — TO KNOW AND LOVE GOD
1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: “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.” Strengthened by this mission, the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.”
3 Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.
II. HANDING ON THE FAITH: CATECHESIS
4 Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.
5 “Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”
6 While not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church’s pastoral mission which have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or spring from it. They are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching to arouse faith; examination of the reasons for belief; experience of Christian living; celebration of the sacraments; integration into the ecclesial community; and apostolic and missionary witness.
7 “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life. Not only her geographical extension and numerical increase, but even more her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis.”
8 Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis. In the great era of the Fathers of the Church, saintly bishops devoted an important part of their ministry to catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and many other Fathers wrote catechetical works that remain models for us.
9 “The ministry of catechesis draws ever fresh energy from the councils. The Council of Trent is a noteworthy example of this. It gave catechesis priority in its constitutions and decrees. It lies at the origin of the Roman Catechism, which is also known by the name of that council and which is a work of the first rank as a summary of Christian teaching. …” The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church’s catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms.
10 It is therefore no surprise that catechesis in the Church has again attracted attention in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope Paul VI considered the great catechism of modern times. The General Catechetical Directory (1971) the sessions of the Synod of Bishops devoted to evangelization (1974) and catechesis (1977), the apostolic exhortations Evangelii nuntiandi (1975) and Catechesi tradendae (1979), attest to this. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 asked “that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be composed” The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, made the Synod’s wish his own, acknowledging that “this desire wholly corresponds to a real need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches.” He set in motion everything needed to carry out the Synod Fathers’ wish.
Copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. [Get your own copy of the Catechism here.]
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According to my Archbishop, John Vlazny, we Catholics enter into National Migration Week (Jan. 8-14) with open arms and hearts. Yet, the layman below states within his own article that despite what the U.S. Bishops say, church doctrine is not pro-immigration. The Archbishop declares that immigration laws are unjust, and the layman puts forth a compelling argument that declares such laws are supported by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Okay. So which is it? And what’s your position? (I recommend reading both commentators. And remember, please be charitable in your comments, lest you force me to boot your electronic butt out of this part of the universe…)
Catholic Layman Says: Despite The U.S. Bishops, Church Doctrine Is Not Pro-Immigration!
By AW Morgan on January 10, 2012 at 10:59pm
Think about this:
If a fellow shows up at your door, penniless, starving and thirsty, and beaten by thugs, the Catholic Church says you have a normative Christian duty to help him. Consider the rancher in Arizona who gives drink to the thirsty illegals who cross his path in the desert.
You have a greater duty to protect your family. The Church says they are your primary obligation.
The latter, not the former, describes immigration, legal and particularly illegal.
Of course, to hear the Catholic Left tell it, Church teaching demands that you surrender your house to the mob—i.e. throw open the borders, regardless of the effect on the federal and state treasuries, crime rates and American cultural coherence. They quotebiblical texts, from the Infant Savior’s flight to Egypt with Mary and Joseph to the teaching of Christ on welcoming “strangers,” in a way that resembles the irrational fundamentalism of erroneous Protestant scriptural exegesis. And they ask the clichéd question:WWJD?
As a Catholic myself, I say: bunk. Whatever the radical left and their feminist nuns, collarless priests or mitred mandarins in the sexually corrupt Catholic chanceries may say, Catholic teaching does not demand, and has never demanded, that a country open its borders to limitless numbers of immigrants.
Nor does it confer upon “migrants” an unfettered right to travelwherever they wish, whenever they wish.
Far from suggesting that a nation must throw open its doors, the Church says political authorities can control and even stop immigration if they judge it necessary.
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. [Emphasis added]
Similarly, the U.S. Catholic bishops in their official teaching (as opposed to what they lobby for) outline three principles of immigration. The first is that “People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.” The third: “A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.”
But the second principle we don’t hear much about. Here it is:
‘While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there. By this principle the Church recognizes that most immigration is ultimately not something to celebrate. Ordinarily, people do not leave the security of their own land and culture just to seek adventure in a new place or merely to enhance their standard of living.Instead, they migrate because they are desperate and the opportunity for a safe and secure life does not exist in their own land…
Because there seems to be no end to poverty, war, and misery in the world, developed nations will continue to experience pressure from many peoples who desire to resettle in their lands. Catholic social teaching is realistic: While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized.
For this reason, Catholics should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil. ‘[Emphasis added]
When was the last time you heard that “[m]ost immigration is not something to celebrate”?
But the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrantscampaign website does not even mention “respecting the law”—let alone “the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them”. Nor do the bishops stress it in their endless public pontifications.
Authentic Catholic teaching on immigration is not leftist. Rather, it is rooted in human reason and reality, meaning the way things are versus the way we wish them to be —as is all Catholic teaching,which is conservative by its nature.
Indeed, in noting that “no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized,” the U.S. bishops themselves acknowledge the right of a nation to defend itself—as well as the duty of the state to provide for the common good of its own citizens.
Thus, we may rightly and justly send illegal aliens home, not least because they have not obeyed American immigration laws.
Yet when the U.S. bishops discuss “justice,” they don’t often mention that—or this item in Catholic teaching on justice: the state’s duty “to protect its subjects in their rights and to govern the whole body for the common good.”
That segues into the duties of citizens, where I have recourse to the Catechism again:
Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts… “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.”[Pet 2:13,16]Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.
It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.
Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country. [Emphases in original].
Upshot is, citizens are enjoined to be patriots. They must love and defend their country, and are obliged to pay taxes, vote and rectify unjust laws and living conditions.
That raises a few questions about the millions of Mexicans who simply abandoned their country, not because they didn’t have work but because they wanted to improve their living standards, and even worse, endangered the lives of their children by dragging them across the desert.
Were they not obliged by Catholic teaching to stay in Mexico—to become active politically and to fight for economic justice from the ruling kleptocracy?
What of the Mexican authorities who never cease lecturing Americans about their duties to illegal aliens? Is the Mexican president and his legislature governing the country for the “common good” in surrendering to the depredations of the drug cartels?
Certainly, Mexican political authorities sin in permitting citizens to live in squalor, thus encouraging them to cross the border in defiance of American law. Certainly, they sin when they provide instructional manuals on how to evade the authorities. Certainly, they sin by instructing Mexican-Americans that they are Mexicans no matter what their citizenship.(“You’re Mexicans — Mexicans who live north of the border,” President Ernesto Zedillo told Mexican-American politicians in Dallas in 1995..[Mexico Woos U.S. Mexicans, Proposing Dual Nationality, by Sam Dillon, NYT, December 10, 1995]
All these acts, whether by omission or commission, violate Catholic teaching.
As for the duties of illegals who are here, apropos of the Catechism and the teaching Pope John Paul II, they are obliged to obey the law—which just might mean surrendering to authorities and returning home.
Catholic teaching does not entitle them to stay forever as illegals. Catholic teaching mandates obedience to the law.
Most American Catholics, regardless of what they think of immigration, are unaware of these fine distinctions because of the way the U.S. bishops and their leftist allies systematically misrepresent Catholic teaching on immigration. (A notableexception, to my mind, is Catholic apologist blogger Jimmy Akin)
Which brings us back to Christ.
WWJD? He would tell the alien: Render unto Caesar. Obey the law. Go back home and work in your own country. If you wish to come here, get in line with everyone else.
And, if Americans decide that they don’t need even legal immigration, respect that decision too.
A.W. Morgan [Email him] is fully recovered from prolonged contact with the Beltway Right. He now lives in America.
The Bible and the Fathers
BY DR. SCOTT HAHN ON 10.13.11
It was the Bible that made me read the Fathers.
When I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry, I wanted to understand the world where Jesus lived and where the apostles preached. I wanted to defend the New Testament canon against its latest round of challenges, for example — against those who would place the newfound “Gnostic Gospels” on the same footing as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
My research into that world was my introduction to the Christians who lived in that world: the Fathers of the Church. I first turned to the writings of the men who appeared most often in the Bible commentaries I read, the men who knew the apostles — the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Clement of Rome knew Peter and Paul. Polycarp knew John. Ignatius lived in Antioch, the city where the disciples were first called Christians, and where the Church received the testimony of several of the apostles. Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius knew the apostles, and they quoted the New Testament books, and they rejected the works of heretics. They were eminently useful to me.
So I eagerly turned to the writers who were the spiritual heirs to these men — the authors of the next generation: Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Melito. And again I found Christians who witnessed to the Bible, preached the Bible, interpreted the Bible. Indeed, they talked about little more than the Bible.
Yet I began to notice that they read the Bible differently from the way I did as an evangelical Protestant. They read the Old Testament in light of the New, the New in light of the Old, and always with the liturgy in mind. They saw the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, as the ordinary yet mysterious way that Christians entered the drama of the Bible. In the liturgy, they not only heard the story, they lived it. They received salvation in the way Jesus had provided for them, when he commanded his Apostles to “Do this in memory of me” and “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Fathers spoke constantly about the Scriptures. They had none of the study aids we have today in libraries, software, and seminaries. Nor could most of them have owned complete editions of the Bible. To have all the books of the Bible copied out would have been terrifically expensive, and would have required months of labor by a skilled scribe.
The Fathers possessed none of the advantages I possessed. Yet they knew the Bible as well as any professor or pastor I had ever met, and they exceeded everyone in their insights. From them — especially the earliest Fathers — I learned a covenant theology that was biblical and Catholic.
Having studied these early Christian texts, I never understood how some of my friends could place the Scriptures in opposition to the Fathers, as if the Fathers were actually opposed to anything in the Bible, as if we should have to choose one or another.
The Fathers preached biblical religion and they lived it, and they led me to find it in its fullness, in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not the only… …one who’s followed the Fathers down that road to glory. I’ve encountered countless cradle Catholics who have “rediscovered their roots,” and I’ve been accompanied by countless converts as well.
It was the Fathers who received the Scriptures on our behalf — on behalf of the Church. It was the Fathers who faithfully preserved the Scriptures — copying them out by hand over and over again, since there were no printing presses or electronic media. It was the Fathers who put their lives at risk by using their homes as a refuge for the Scriptures, when to do so was a capital offense.
In the coming months, we at the St. Paul Center will have many opportunities to celebrate these works of the Fathers. The last weekend in October, I’ll be speaking with my colleague Mike Aquilina (author of The Fathers of the Church) at a conference on “The Fathers and the Bible” at St. Lambert Parish in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And the upcoming issue of our journal, Letter and Spirit, will examine the same theme of the Bible and the Fathers, with contributions by many renowned scholars.
You make this work possible — and so much more. You ensure that the “Faith of Our Fathers” is “living still,” in spite of all the obstacles our culture places in the way. I know these times are challenging for you, as they are for everyone (especially nonprofits!), so I am even more grateful for the support you give us: your prayers, your encouragement, your contributions.
If I don’t see you in Skokie this month, I’ll meet you — and the Fathers of the Church — in the pages of Letter and Spirit.
By Peter Kreeft
Among the many opponents of the Christian faith, Marxism is certainly not the most important, imposing or impressive philosophy in history.
But it has, until recently, clearly been the most influential. A comparison of 1917, 1947 and 1987 world maps will show how inexorably this system of thought flowed so as to inundate one-third of the world in just two generations — a feat rivaled only twice in history, by early Christianity and early Islam.
Ten years ago, every political and military conflict in the world, from Central America to the Middle East, turned on the axis of communism vs. anti-communism.
Even fascism became popular in Europe, and is still a force to be reckoned with in Latin America, largely because of its opposition to “the specter of communism,” as Marx calls it in the first sentence of his “Communist Manifesto.”
The “Manifesto” was one of the key moments in history. Published in 1848, “the year of revolutions’ throughout Europe, it is, like the Bible, essentially a philosophy of history, past and future. All past history is reduced to class struggle between oppressor and oppressed, master and slave, whether king vs. people, priest vs. parishioner, guild- master vs. apprentice, or even husband vs. wife and parent vs. child.
This is a view of history even more cynical than Machiavelli’s. Love is totally denied or ignored; competition and exploitation are the universal rule.
Now, however, this can change, according to Marx, because now, for the first time in history, we have not many classes but only two — the bourgeoisie (the “haves,” owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (the “have-nots,” non-owners of the means of production).
The latter must sell themselves and their labor to the owners until the communist revolution, which will “eliminate” (euphemism for “murder”) the bourgeoisie and thus abolish classes and class conflict forever, establishing a millennium of peace and equality. After being utterly cynical about the past, Marx becomes utterly naive about the future.
What made Marx what he was? What are the sources of this creed?
Marx deliberately turned 180 degrees around from the (1) supernaturalism and (2) distinctiveness of his Jewish heritage to embrace (1) atheism and (2) communism. Yet Marxism retains all the major structural and emotional factors of biblical religion in a secularized form. Marx, like Moses, is the prophet who leads the new Chosen People, the proletariat, out of the slavery of capitalism into the Promised Land of communism across the Red Sea of bloody worldwide revolution and through the wilderness of temporary, dedicated suffering for the party, the new priesthood.
The revolution is the new “Day of Yahweh,” the Day of Judgment; party spokesmen are the new prophets; and political purges within the party to maintain ideological purity are the new divine judgments on the waywardness of the Chosen and their leaders. The messianic tone of communism makes it structurally and emotionally more like a religion than any other political system except fascism.
Just as Marx took over the forms and the spirit of his religious heritage, but not the content, he did the same with his Hegelian philosophical heritage, transforming Hegel’s philosophy of “dialectical idealism” into “dialectical materialism!” “Marx stood Hegel on his head,” the saying goes. Marx inherited seven radical ideas from Hegel:
Monism: the idea that everything is one and that common sense’s distinction between matter and spirit is illusory. For Hegel, matter was only a form of spirit; for Marx, spirit was only a form of matter.
Pantheism: the notion that the distinction between Creator and creature, the distinctively Jewish idea, is false. For Hegel, the world is made into an aspect of God (Hegel was a pantheist); for Marx, God is reduced to the world (Marx was an atheist).
Historicism: the idea that everything changes, even truth; that there is nothing above history to judge it; and that therefore what is true in one era becomes false in another, or vice versa. In other words, Time is God.
Dialectic: the idea that history moves only by conflicts between opposing forces, a “thesis” vs. an “antithesis” evolving a “higher synthesis.” This applies to classes, nations, institutions and ideas. The dialectic waltz plays on in history’s ballroom until the kingdom of God finally comes — which Hegel virtually identified with the Prussian state. Marx internationalized it to the worldwide communist state.
Necessitarianism, or fatalism: the idea that the dialectic and its outcome are inevitable and necessary, not free. Marxism is a sort of Calvinistic predestination without a divine Predestinator.
Statism: the idea that since there is no eternal, trans-historical truth or law, the state is supreme and uncriticizable. Marx again internationalized Hegel’s nationalism here. Militarism: the idea that since there is no universal natural or eternal law above states to judge and resolve differences between them, war is inevitable and necessary as long as there are states.
Like many other anti-religious thinkers since the French Revolution, Marx adopted the secularism, atheism and humanism of l8th century “Enlightenment,” along with its rationalism and its faith in science as potentially omniscient and technology as potentially omnipotent. Here again the forms, feel and function of biblical religion are transferred to another god and another faith. For rationalism is a faith, not a proof. The faith that human reason can know everything that is real cannot be proved by human reason; and the belief that everything that is real can be proved by the scientific method cannot itself be proved by the scientific method.
A third influence, on Marx, in addition to Hegelianism and Enlightenment rationalism, was economic reductionism: the reduction of all issues to economic issues. If Marx were reading this analysis now, he would say that the real cause of these ideas of mine was not my mind’s power to know the truth, but the capitalistic economic structures of the society that “produced” me. Marx believed that within man thought was totally determined by matter; that man was totally determined by society; and that society was totally determined by economics. This stands on its head the traditional view that mind rules body, man rules his societies, and society rules its economics.
Finally, Marx adopted the idea of the collective ownership of property and the means of producing it from previous “utopian socialist” thinkers. Marx says, “The theory of communism may be summed up in the single phrase: abolition of private property.” In fact, the only societies in history that have ever successfully practiced communism are monasteries, kibbutzes, tribes and families (which Marx also wanted to abolish). All communist governments (such as that of the U.S.S.R.) have transferred ownership to the state, not to the people. Marx’s faith that the state would “wither away” of its own accord once it had eliminated capitalism and put communism in its place has proved to be astonishingly naive. Once power is seized, only wisdom and sanctity relinquish it.
The deepest appeal of communism, especially in Third World countries, has been not the will to communalism but “the will to power,” as Nietzsche called it. Nietzsche saw more deeply into the heart of communism than Marx did.
How does Marx deal with the obvious objections to communism: that it abolishes privacy and private property, individuality, freedom, motivation to work, education, marriage, family, culture, nations, religion and philosophy? He does not deny that communism abolishes these things, but says that capitalism has already done so. For example, he argues that “the bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production.” On the most sensitive and important issues, family and religion, he offers rhetoric rather than logic; for example: “The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed correlation between parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting….” And here is his “answer” to religious and philosophical objections: “The charges against communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint are not deserving of serious examination.”
The simplest refutation of Marxism is that its materialism simply contradicts itself. If ideas are nothing but products of material and economic forces, like cars or shoes, then communist ideas are only that too. If all our ideas are determined not by insight into truth but by the necessary movements of matter if we just can’t help the way our tongues happen to wag — then the thoughts of Marx are no more true than the thoughts of Moses. To attack the grounds of thought is to attack one’s own attack.
But Marx sees this, and admits it. He reinterprets words as weapons, not as truths. The functions of the words of the “Manifesto” (and, ultimately, even of the much longer, more pseudo-scientific “Capital”) is not to prove what is true but to encourage the revolution. “Philosophers have only interpreted the world; the thing to do is to change it.” Marx is basically a pragmatist.
But even on this pragmatic level there is a self-contradiction. The “Manifesto” ends with this famous appeal: “The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” But this appeal is self defeating, for Marx denies free will. Everything is fated; the revolution is “inevitable” whether I choose to join it or not. You cannot appeal to free choice and at the same time deny it.
There are strong practical objections to communism as well as these two philosophical objections. For one thing, its predictions simply have not worked. The revolution did not happen when and where Marxism predicted. Capitalism did not disappear, nor did the state, the family or religion. And communism has not produced contentment and equality anywhere it has gained power.
All Marx has been able to do is to play Moses and lead fools backward into the slavery of Egypt (worldliness). The real Liberator is waiting in the wings for the jester who now “struts and frets his hour upon the stage” to lead his fellow “fools to dusty death” the one topic Marxist philosophers refuse to face.
Kreeft, Peter. “The Pillars of Unbelief — Marx” The National Catholic Register, (January – February 1988).
To subscribe to The National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.
Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He is an alumnus of Calvin College (AB 1959) and Fordham University (MA 1961, Ph.D., 1965). He taught at Villanova University from 1962-1965, and has been at Boston College since 1965.
HAT TIP: Thinking Catholic Strategic Center
Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2011, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I was in the cemetery, standing at the head of the casket, leading the graveside prayers for my life-long Catholic parishioner. I decided, since we had already offered a full funeral Mass, to abbreviate this service and leave some time for the Protestant minister who had been invited by a daughter of the deceased. Looking up, I noticed that he had appeared, and stood opposite me. I nodded, stepped back, and he began by reading a passage from the Bible. He then told us, a mostly Catholic group, how at the daughter’s request he had visited the deceased in the hospital and asked him if he had been saved. The man answered, no, he never had known how to do it. The minister told him how, and the man did, and so the minister wanted to assure us that our departed had been saved, and therefore we should know he was with the Lord in heaven.
One couldn’t help but feel that the opposing team had scored. But that may not have been the reverend’s intent. In fact he seemed ill at ease, never looked at me, and left promptly. But, what about it? Are Catholics saved? Or are we, kept in ignorance by the Whore of Babylon, doomed to hell because we have not accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior?
If someone asks you if you are “saved”, or they might say “born again”, they are probably operating out of the “born again Christian” theology, familiar to anyone who has seen Billy Graham on TV. According to this theology we are all sinners, doomed to hell unless we repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. At that point you are saved, and forever saved. You did nothing, and in fact can do nothing to earn God’s mercy, and so you cannot lose that mercy either once you’ve received it. In summary, salvation is by faith alone, not by works, and once saved always saved.
The Catholic faith is that, true, we are sinners, and we cannot earn God’s mercy; salvation is a grace, a free gift; but it is a gift we must respond to and put into action. Salvation is more like a life-long journey of many decisions than a single moment’s decision; the grace of God making it all possible, but our acting on that possibility being part of the process. To say “I am now saved, and am forever saved” is presumptuous. And there are many Bible passages to support the Catholic view. I will quote the briefest I can think of. It’s in Paul’s Letter to the Galations, where he is arguing that observance of the Jewish ceremonial law is not required for salvation, and he says:
”For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” – Gal 5:6
St. Paul is the great authority quoted by the “faith alone” crowd, and he said it’s all a matter of faith working through love. He could have added here what he made plain elsewhere, that both faith and the works of love are made possible by God’s grace, so there are no grounds for boasting.
But let’s not plunge headlong into the whole faith vs. works debate. The born-again Christian wants to know if you have been born again, and the honest answer is “yes!”, because every Catholic has been baptized. Here you could quote what Jesus said to Nicodemus, recorded in the Gospel of John, ch. 3:
”Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” – Jn 3:5
And this is what the Catholic Church has always taught, that the Sacrament of water baptism forgives sin and confers the gift of the Holy Spirit, adopting the baptized person into the life of God merited for us by Christ.
Objection: “But you were only a baby and didn’t know what was happening, much less accept Jesus for yourself.”
Your answer: Exactly! That’s how little Catholics believe that we earn salvation by what we do. God doesn’t even wait for that little child to grow up and reach the age of reason and make his own personal faith commitment. We take seriously what you claim to believe, that our relationship with God is God’s initiative, not our own. Christ did not wait for any personal recognition or affirmation on the part of children before he said, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to just such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
But your born-again questioner is wanting some evidence that a Catholic truly repents of sin and personally accepts Jesus as Lord and savior. So tell them about the sacrament of Confirmation, when the candidate reaffirms, on her own volition, the faith commitment made for her at baptism, and consider the annual Easter renewal of baptismal promises that everyone in church is guided through:
Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and lfe everlasting? I do.
Do you mean it? Okay, you have just repented of sin and professed faith that Jesus is Lord. If this is what the born-again Christian is looking for, you’ve just been born again.
But no need to wait for Easter. What does a Catholic do at every Sunday Mass? He or she starts by confessing that he is an unworthy sinner, has sinned through his own fault, in thought and word, in what he has done and failed to do, and he looks to God’s mercy, not his own efforts, for salvation. “May God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”
Does your born-again friend need more evidence? Stay on through Mass until the priest raises the Eucharist before the people and says – and here I will use the new Missal translation because it is closer to the Bible story of the centurion who trusted Jesus with faith – the priest says, to all present:
”Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Look at Jesus, look to Jesus, the Lamb-Victim sent by God to merit our salvation by his sacrifice on the cross. And the Catholic responds:
”Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
“Lord, I am not worthy”. Does that sound like someone standing on the merits of their own good works?
“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Who would say that but someone who looks to Jesus, their savior, to give what they cannot give themselves?
Is more evidence needed that the devout, believing Catholic has been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior? There is more evidence to give, but this is surely enough for any one of us, being visited and questioned by a well-meaning minister, to answer, honestly and with conviction:
”Yes. And if you only knew, you’d be Catholic too.”
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