Thursday, March 13, 2014

Church History

Since last fall I have been studying The History of the Catholic Church. I must say this is the hardest Bible study I have attempted. There is so much material to process which covers over 2000 years of history!. And I never have enjoyed history classes to begin with.

One time period that has stayed with me is from around the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. As the first few centuries of Christianity passed, the fervor of the faith was starting to decline. Then the era of monasticism came about and its influence on the Church was very much needed. It helped turn many people away from paganism.

Many early Christians wanted to strive in their imitation of Jesus Christ. Some spent their lives in meditation and prayer while living as hermits in the desert. Then during the fourth century such people gathered together in monasteries to live the religious life as monks.

There was an Eastern Monasticism and a Western Monasticism. One of the great monks of the East was St. Anthony of the Desert. He established his community in Egypt. The Father of Western Monasticism was St. Benedict. He established the rule that would become the foundation for all monasteries in the Western Church. His rule focused and organized groups that brought great strength to the Church and helped preserve the invaluable written treasures of the ancient world, most especially the Bible.

These monasteries spread rapidly throughout Europe and brought the faith to many pagans and barbarians. They gave a higher ideal to Christians as the monks showed dignity and sanctity to work and prayer. In the fourth century and after the monasteries produced the great bishops who enabled the Church to survive one of the most critical periods in its history.

The monasteries were the main source of education in early medieval Europe. They taught people to read and write. They kept and copied old texts. They created orphanages and hospitals and other types of institutions that could help people in need. As they helped spread Christianity among the people, this helped create a more united culture in Europe.

Without the development of monastic life, the Catholic Church could easily have seen its foundations crumble. I believe the most important part that the monastery played in keeping the Church together was that of PRAYER. While the outside world was crumbling, inside the monastery were men of prayer holding it all together. And to this day I believe this still takes place around the world. These monasteries are of men praying for all of us, for the world, everyday. And many times per day! God is good!

Monday, November 11, 2013

What does "Do this in remembrance of me" really mean?

I was listening to a CD in my car today. It was entitled The Eucharist: Our Very Life. It is given by Deacon Dr. Bob McDonald from Canada. He was talking about the Eucharist being the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is not just a memorial service. It is a re-enactment of calvary which we do at every Mass. This part I understood, but then he went on to the words, "Do this in remembrance of me." He said when you go back to the original Greek translation of "Do this in remembrance of me," it actually means "Bring this back to life again!!!" Jesus is asking the apostles to do what He just did for them. This is Christ's body and Christ's blood and He wants His apostles to "bring this back to life again!!! I thought this was so amazing and beautiful. Just wanted to share!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A book called Roman Catholicism

Is anti- Catholicism still out there? Since the late 1970's several new anti-Catholic organizations have been founded, and some older ones have sprung up again. Some of these organizations are Chick Publications, Mission to Catholics International, Lumen Productions, Osterhus Publishing House, and Bob Jones University Press. All together, they turn out more anti-Catholic tracts, magazines, and books than ever before....millions of copies each year.

Most of these organizations put out similar messages and the same points are used. A lot of their material comes from a book written by Loraine Boettner published in 1962 by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing of Philadelphia. The book is called Roman Catholicism.

Boettner quotes at length from a speech alleged to have been given in 1870 at the First Vatican Council where papal infallibility was formally defined. The speech was said to have been given by Bishop Strossmeyer. In this speech, the bishop said that he read the New Testament for the first time shortly before he gave the speech and found no mention at all of the papacy. The speech then concludes that Peter was given no greater authority than the other apostles. The trouble is that the speech is a well-known forgery!!!!  Bishop Strossmeyer did not make that speech and when it was being passed around by a disgruntled former Cathlolic, the bishop publicly denied that it was his. This gross error has been repeated by many of the anti-Catholic groups that rely on Boettner.

In Boettner's book on the chapter of Mary he claims that "The phrase 'Mother of God' started in the Council of Ephesus in 431. When he claims that a doctrine is not taught until it is defined in a council, one could say that no one believed that Jesus was God until the Council of Nicea defined the matter in 325. The divinity of Christ was taught centuries before Nicea, and also the phrase "Mother of God" was printed all over the writings of the Church Fathers long before Ephesus.

Many Protestants look to the book Roman Catholicism for their arguments against the Catholic Church. They should maybe take into account how inaccurate this book is and look into real Catholic teaching by real Catholic writers.

One of the reasons I am writing this post about this subject is because of what I received in the mail. About a year and a half after Gary died, I got a letter in the mail addressed to Gary Herrmann. There was no return address and it was sent from Cleveland. Inside the envelope was a Chick Publication cartoon that was entitled "This Was Your Life". I just started shaking all over. I was thinking was this some sort of sick joke or what? I didn't know what to think. So I called Chick Publications and told them this story and that my husband was dead and if I was on some sort of list to take me off!! Later I looked at their website and saw that they have many anti-Catholic publications.

One of the most famous Catholic leaders in American history, the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, once warned, " The acceptance of the fullness of Truth will have the unfortunate quality of making you hated by the world... If the grace of God did not give me the fullness of Truth, and I were looking for it, I would begin my search by looking through the world for a Church that did not get along with the evil in the world! If that Church [were] accused of countless lies, hated because it refused to compromise, ridiculed because it refused to fit the times and not all time, I would suspect that since it was hated by what is evil in the world, it was therefore good and holy; and if it is good and holy, it must be Divine."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Early Church

I have started a Bible study which is called EPIC A Journey Through Church History. Here is a little from the first two classes.

Christ commissioned his apostles to go out and teach all nations. Christ established "my Church"(Matthew 16:18) and "the church"(Matthew 18:17). He said "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:54-56).

In the most direct language the Apostles affirmed that the bread and wine that was consecrated on the altar did in fact become the actual substance of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor 10:16)

"As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21). Here Jesus is telling the Apostles that they were to follow His own teaching mission. This includes the breaking of bread in the Eucharist that He showed them at the Last Supper.

The Church during the Roman Empire was united, growing , highly disciplined and hierarchically organized. It was an institution that held to exact and unwavering doctrines. The main doctrines were the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and also the firm belief of the Real Presence of Jesus (His body, blood, soul, and divinity) under the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist.

St. Ignatius of Antioch (50-117), outlines many important points about the faith of the early Church, including the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Divinity of Christ, the  structure (bishops, priests, deacons, laity) of the Church, the importance of the Church of Rome, and the understanding of Mary as Mother of God. He also had the first written account of referring to the Church as the Catholic Church. It could have been called that by word even before this. Keep in mind this was only a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Church was participating in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist from the very beginning!! It is not something that man invented.

St. Justin Martyr, another Church Father of the second century wrote: "This food is known among us as the Eucharist... We do not receive these things as common bread and common drink but as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the Word of God."

Nowhere else on the Christian scene was there a religion as compact and so long-lived. Nowhere else on the Christian scene was there a unity so obviously permanent.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This post is connected to my last post. I received an email from the pastor that I had written to. He was very kind and apologized for his words he used concerning the Catholic Church. He said he had great relations with the priests from the parishes in his area. I was so happy that this was resolved in such a Christian way.

I believe that we all have to watch our words when we speak of other religions. We need to make sure we have the facts and not just something that has been handed down from generation to generation. To say something about the Catholic Church, one must go to Catholic sources and not just rely on what a pastor or a friend has told you.

I would really like to hear from some of you that read this blog why you think Catholics are still persecuted? Why is it still ok to say negative things about Catholics? I hope someone has some thoughts and will reply. Do you think anti-Catholicism still exists and why?

God bless,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Suicide and the Catholic Church

My brother and I recently attended the funeral service of our cousin in Wisconsin. He had been struggling for years with depression. The depression became so bad that he committed suicide. He was 53 years old. He was divorced and had two children who are high school age. His ex-wife was so gracious to plan all my cousins arrangements.

At the service there was a Protestant minister who read some scripture readings and prayers and then started to talk to my cousin's children about suicide. He did not want the children to be embarrassed at what their father had done. He really was preaching well to them until he started talking about some people who consider suicide a sin. He said that some of those people are Catholics who put up fences around their cemeteries and if a Catholic commits suicide they won't let them in! I know that this is not true at least at this time in history.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2280 states that everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life.  # 2282 states that grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.  #2283 states we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives.

The Code of Cannon Law of the Catholic Church does not list suicide as a reason to deny a person a Catholic funeral or burial in a Catholic cemetery. We are commanded by Christ not to judge others so we leave final judgment  to God who alone knows each person's heart. The Catholic Church has mellowed on the subject of suicide over the centuries as knowledge of mental illness and depression has increased.

I decided to write to this pastor and explain to him what I just stated above. I told him that many non-Catholics have been taught the wrong ideas about the Catholic faith from pastors and family members who have not studied any Catholic teaching. Just hear-say!!! That is so unfortunate!. I feel that the room full of people in the funeral home who were at my cousin's service were given the wrong impression about the Catholic Church and where it stands concerning suicide. Now all those people will go tell other people, family and friends, wrong ideas. Is this the way to build bridges between different religions?

I just can't believe that in 2013 there is still so much IGNORANCE about Catholics. I do believe it is time to move on and respect all religious views even if you don't always agree with everything. I hope and pray that these divisions can be repaired. In my 57 years of being Catholic, I can honestly say that I have never heard any priest say anything negative about another religion. I am so proud to say that!

My cousin was baptized and raised a Catholic. His deceased parents were my Godparents. My cousin had drifted away from his faith. I am going to continue to pray for him and his children.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Peter as the First Pope

Among the biblical scriptures most often used to defend the selection of Peter, and his successors, to lead the Church which Jesus founded is this passage from St. Matthew:  "When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples "Who do people say that the Son of Man is? They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:13-19).

One interesting biblical fact that points clearly to Simon Peter's primacy among the twelve apostles and his importance to Christ's earthly ministry, is that he is mentioned by name (Simon, Peter, Cephas, Kephas) 195 times in the New Testament. The next most mentioned apostle is St. John, who is mentioned 29 times.  Whenever the apostles were named, Peter was always first. Sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him". On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds and he worked the first healing. (If these apostles could heal people, what makes it so hard to believe that any Pope in the line of Peter couldn't do the same thing). Peter led the first council in Jerusalem and announced the first dogmatic decision.

Popes are the guardians of doctrine. Their task is to pass on, in its integrity, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and the Holy Spirit protects them in this. Were there "bad popes"? Yes there were. These men were not holy men! Maybe Peter was the best model for human failure in such a leadership role. Peter did deny Jesus three times. Some who are called, stumble and fall. Some like Peter repent and are saved. Others like Judas reject that grace. We need to remember that Jesus does not call saints. He calls sinners.

The moral miracle of the "bad popes" is that they were worldly men, public sinners, and never functioned as spiritual leaders nor touched or changed the deposit of faith of Christianity!