Pope urges end to bloodshed in Christmas message

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Pope Benedict XVI delivers his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on December 25, 2012. AFP / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / FRANCESCO SFORZA

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI called for an “end to the bloodshed” in Syria and denounced the “savage” violence in Africa on Tuesday, even as Nigeria witnessed a Christmas attack on Christians.

Speaking in his traditional Christmas message, the pope touched on several other of the world’s conflict zones.

A capacity crowd of 40,000 pilgrims filled the vast St Peter’s Square to hear the 85-year-old pope, resplendent in red vestments, deliver the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) message.

Speaking from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, the pope called for a return to peace in Nigeria, where he said “savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.”

As he spoke, news was filtering in of a deadly attack there.

Gunmen attacked a church in the northern state of Yobe during a Christmas Eve service, killing six people, including the pastor, before setting the building ablaze.

It was the latest attack blamed on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has repeatedly targeted churches during times of worship, including multiple attacks last year on Christmas Day.

The pope also prayed for peace in Syria, whose people have been “deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”

In a message watched by millions around the world, he called “for an end to the bloodshed… and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.”

His wide-ranging speech pressed for peace in the Middle East and appealed to China’s new leadership to respect religious freedom there.

In Indonesia, more than 200 Muslims threw rotten eggs at Christians wanting to hold a Christmas mass outside Jakarta, police said.

Around a hundred Christian worshippers had gathered for the mass near the spot where they hoped to build a church but saw the project barred by district government and community members.

At the midnight mass in Bethlehem, the most senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Middle East issued a special call for efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can reestablish balance and stability in the region and in the world,” Patriarch Fuad Twal told worshippers in the West Bank city, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

“From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the sufferings in the Middle East,” Twal said.

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  • intsikbeho

    Can someone please remind me of what the purpose of the Pope is.

    • where_I_stand

      Even if the answer is given directly to your mouth to chew it will not move upward.

      If you’re sincere in asking about the papacy, use wiki for elementary discussion of papacy and his role as Servant of the Servants of God (see also as head of the Catholic church).

      • shots_fired

        Question on by what power was the papacy given the right to make things holy? is he Equal to GOd? is he higher than God?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

         He is higher than the bishops and Cardinals for sure but definitely he is not infallible as claimed and certainly inferior than God. Only Satan, in his sinful nature claims he is equal to God.

      • shots_fired

        Really? he calls himself holy? did God appointed him? or did he appointed himself as holy? if so then there is no credibility in that.

      • mhertz

        Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth since he is the successor of Apotle Peter. Where Jesus Christ established and entrust his Church on earth. That even the hades of hell will not prevail it.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

        Saan bahagi ng bibliya mo natutuhan yang kasinungalingan na yan? Anong book, chapter or verse?

        Kawawa ka naman. Liars go to hell.

      • mhertz

        Dear Kaloy-pls see answer above and about the author below:

        Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most
        of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an
        Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob
        Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology
        atOxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served
        as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.
        Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on
        divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the
        Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic
        writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in
        Britain, Ireland and the USA.
        Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of
        English conversion stories called The Path to Rome– Modern Journeys to the
        Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son—a daily Benedictine
        devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern
        parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and
        thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics,
        Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former
        editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a
        straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical
        Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from
        ‘Mere Christianity’ to ‘More Christianity’. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical
        Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now
        an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is
        described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He
        wrote Christianity Pure & Simple which was published by the
        Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has
        also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the
        Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008.
        His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code –a book in the tradition of
        Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden
        Certainty.
        Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume
        of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular
        contributor to InsideCatholic, First Things, This Rock and National
        Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s
        books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel.
        He’s working on The Romance of Religion and his
        autobiography: There and Back Again.
        In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain toSt
        Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville,South Carolina. This brought him and his
        family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and
        hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a
        Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican
        clergy. He ministers at St. Joseph’s, and in the parish of St. Mary’s,
        Greenville.
        Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and
        visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four
        children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in
        Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a cat named Joseph
        and various other
        pets.

      • shots_fired

        ha? anong sabi? saan sa bible makikita na sinabi ni peter na si Pope ang susunod sa kanya? At saka kung si Pope man ang Vicar ni Christ sa earth at sucessor no apostle peter, bakit di ko mahagilap sa bible na gumamit si peter ng rosaryo at lumugod sa larawan ni jesus at mary? and to tell you Peter is a hebrew at jew bakit mo sasabihing successor ni pope si Apostle peter? is Pope a Jew? is Pope member of the twelve disciples? saan ko pwedeng mabasa sa bible please.

      • mhertz

        When I was in the Bible doctrine class at Bob Jones University,
        one of the verses we had to memorize was Matthew 16:18: “I tell you that you are
        Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not
        prevail against it.”
        A Catholic student might memorize this verse to prove his beliefs about the
        papacy. We learned it in order to deny Catholic beliefs about the
        papacy. It was explained that the rock in this verse was not Peter, but
        his profession of faith that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Christ’s pun on
        the name “Peter-petros” was not a pun at all because petros meant
        little stone, so Jesus could not have intended the rock to be Peter because he
        was speaking of a foundation stone. Only many years later did I begin to
        reassess the teaching I had received about this famous and important verse.
        The Fundamentalists claimed that Catholics built the entire edifice of papal
        authority on this one verse taken out of context—a misuse of Scripture. An
        important doctrine, they said, should not be developed on one proof-text alone.
        In fact they are right, and as I began to study the Catholic faith more openly,
        I came to understand that the Catholic Church does not rely on this one verse
        alone to support papal claims but considers the whole verse in context. In
        addition, instead of one proof-text, there are three important biblical images
        that come together to support the Catholic Church’s claims to papal
        authority.
        The three images are rock, steward, and shepherd. These three images are
        found not just in one verse, but are rooted in the Old Testament and affirmed in
        the New. Like a strong, three-strand, braided rope, these three images of rock,
        steward, and shepherd provide a powerful interlocking and interdependent support
        for the authority Christ intended to leave with his Church on earth.
        God Is My Rock
        A word study of the Old Testament shows the importance of the rock as an
        image of foundational authority and strength. In Genesis 49:24 the patriarch
        Jacob, blessing his sons, says that Joseph’s arm is strong in battle because it
        is upheld by “the shepherd, the rock of Israel.” The shepherd and the rock are
        symbols of God’s care and support for his people.
        For Moses, the rock is a solid place to stand and a secure hiding place (Ex
        33:21-22), and for the people of Israel, the rock is a miraculous source of
        refreshment and life (Ex 17:6). Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is
        a rock who is perfect, who fathers his children, and who provides an abundant
        life for them (Dt 32:4,13,15,18).
        The great psalmist King David refers time and again to the Lord as his rock,
        his fortress, and his deliverer (2 Sm 22:2; Ps 18, 19 et al). The
        psalmist praises God for he has lifted his feet from the miry clay and set them
        firm upon a rock (Ps 40:2). Throughout the Psalms the rock becomes a predominant
        image for the solid, secure, and trustworthy Lord of Israel.
        The prophet Isaiah echoes the psalmist, and for him too the Lord is the rock.
        Shelter is found in the shadow of a rock in a dry and thirsty land (Is 32:2),
        while God is likened to the “Rock eternal” (Is 26:4), and the Lord is the rock
        from which the people of Israel are hewn (Is 51:1). Habakkuk reaffirms that the
        Lord is the rock (Hb 1:12), and at the end of the Old Testament, the prophet
        Zechariah says that God will make Jerusalem an immoveable rock for all nations
        (Zec 12:3).
        In the Old Testament the powerful image of the rock repeatedly refers to God
        himself. In the New Testament, Paul unlocks the image of the rock and says
        clearly that the foundation stone is Jesus Christ himself (Rom 9:33, 1 Cor
        10:4). The incarnate Christ is the manifestation of the rock who is God. He
        therefore has the authority to name someone who will share his rock-like
        status.
        In the context of the whole Old Testament, Jesus the rock gives his teaching
        about the rock. Specifically, the important passage of Isaiah 51 describes God
        as the “rock from which [the people of Israel] are hewn,” but they are told to
        “look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave you birth.” Stephen Ray’s
        masterful work Upon This Rock piles up evidence showing that the Jewish
        teachers repeatedly referred to Abraham as the God-appointed foundation stone of
        the Jewish people. God was the ultimate rock, but Abraham was his earthly
        presence. Just as Abram was given a new name to indicate his new foundational
        status, so Jesus gives Simon a new name—Rock —to indicate his
        foundational status in the new covenant.
        The King’s Delegate
        The second strand in the braided rope of Petrine authority is the image of
        steward. The steward in a royal household appears throughout the Old Testament
        record. The patriarch Joseph works with a steward in the palace in Egypt. King
        Saul has a steward, as does the prince Mephibosheth, but the most important
        image of steward in the Old Testament for understanding Matthew 16 is in Isaiah
        22.
        There the prophet foretells the fall of one royal steward and the succession
        of another. Shebna is being replaced by Eliakim, and the prophet says to the
        rejected Shebna, “I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around
        him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live
        in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to
        the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can
        open” (Is 22:21-22).
        The true holder of the keys to the kingdom is the king himself, and in the
        Book of Revelation we see that the risen and glorified Christ holds the power of
        the keys—the power to bind and loose. John has a vision of Christ who says, “I
        am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am
        alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rv 1:18).
        So the king holds the keys of the kingdom, but he delegates his power to the
        steward, and the keys of the kingdom are the symbol of this delegated authority.
        The keys not only opened all the doors, but they provided access to the store
        houses and financial resources of the king. In addition, the keys of the kingdom
        were worn on a sash that was a ceremonial badge of office. The passage from
        Isaiah and the customs all reveal that the role of the royal steward was an
        office given by the king, and that it was a successive office—the keys being
        handed to the next steward as a sign of the continuing delegated authority of
        the king himself (See “A Successive Ministry,” above).
        Isaiah 22 provides the Old Testament context that Jesus’ disciples would have
        understood completely as he quoted this particular passage in Matthew 16. When
        Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
        whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on
        earth will be loosed in heaven,” his disciples would recognize the passage from
        Isaiah. They would understand that not only was Jesus calling himself the King
        of his kingdom, but that he was appointing Peter as his royal steward. That John
        in Revelation sees the ascended and glorified Christ holding the eternal keys
        only confirms the intention of Jesus to delegate that power to Peter—the
        foundation stone of his Church.
        Catholic scholars are not alone in interpreting Matthew 16:17-19 as a direct
        quotation of Isaiah 22. Stephen Ray, in Upon This Rock, cites numerous
        Protestant biblical scholars who support this understanding and affirm that
        Jesus is delegating his authority over life and death, heaven and hell, to the
        founder of his Church on earth.
        The Good Shepherd
        The third strand in the strong rope of scriptural support for papal authority
        is the image of the Good Shepherd. This powerful image is so abundant in the Old
        Testament that this short article cannot begin to recount all the references.
        Suffice it to say that the Hebrews were a nomadic-shepherd people, and the
        images of the lamb and the shepherd are woven in and through their story at
        every glance. From the beginning God himself is seen to be the shepherd of his
        people.
        In Genesis 48 the old man Jacob, before blessing his sons, says that the Lord
        God of his fathers has been his shepherd his whole life long. The prophet Micah
        sees the people of Israel as “sheep without a shepherd,” and the shepherd King
        David calls the Lord his shepherd (Ps 23 et al). The prophet Isaiah
        says that the sovereign Lord will “tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers
        the lambs in his arms, and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads
        those that have young” (Is 40:11).
        The theme of the Lord being the Good Shepherd reaches its Old Testament
        climax in the Book of Ezekiel. Earlier, Jeremiah the prophet had raged against
        the corrupt leadership of the people of Israel. They were wicked and abusive
        shepherds, but in the Book of Ezekiel God himself promises to be the shepherd of
        his people Israel.
        So the Lord says,

        As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I
        look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were
        scattered on a day of clouds and darkness . . . I will search for the lost and
        bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but
        the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
        (Ez 34:12,16)
        Finally, the Lord’s servant, the Son of David, will come and be the shepherd
        of the lost flock.

        I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge
        between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant
        David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the
        Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. (Ez
        34:22-24)
        One of the clearest signs, therefore, of Christ’s self-knowledge as the Son
        of God is when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. In story after story Jesus
        uses the image of the Good Shepherd to refer to his own ministry. He explicitly
        calls himself the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14) who has come to the lost sheep of
        the house of Israel (Mt 15:24). He tells the story of the lost sheep, placing
        himself in the story as the divine Shepherd who fulfills Ezekiel’s prophecy (Lk
        15). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls Christ the Great Shepherd of
        the Sheep (Heb 13:20). Peter calls Jesus the Shepherd and overseer of souls (1
        Pt 2:25), and in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb on the throne is also the
        Shepherd of the lost souls (Rv 7:17).
        When Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, then solemnly instructs Peter to
        “feed my lambs, watch over my sheep, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17), the
        ramifications are enormous. Throughout the Old Testament, God himself is
        understood to be the Good Shepherd. He promises to come and be the shepherd of
        his people through his servant David. When Jesus Christ, the Son of David,
        fulfills this prophecy, God’s promise is kept. Then before Jesus returns to
        heaven, he commands Peter to take charge of his pastoral ministry. Now Peter
        will undertake the role of Good Shepherd in Christ’s place.
        The Vicar of Christ
        When I was an Anglican priest in England, I held the title of vicar of the
        parish. The term derives from the fact that the vicar is a priest appointed to
        do a job in the stead of the official parish priest. One priest might oversee
        various parishes, and so he appoints vicars to do the job when he can’t be
        there.
        Many non-Catholic Christians object to the pope being called the Vicar of
        Christ. But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands
        in for another person. A vicar is someone to whom a job is delegated. The three
        strands of biblical imagery—rock, steward, and shepherd—show in three different
        ways that Jesus intended Peter to exercise his ministry and authority here on
        earth—in other words, to act as his vicar.
        The fact that there are three images is important because the authors of
        Scripture believed the number three to be one of the perfect numbers. A
        statement was most authoritative when it was expressed three times in three
        different ways.
        We see this in the passage in John 21. Jesus gives his pastoral authority to
        Peter with three solemn commands: “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my
        sheep.” Here Jesus delegates his authority three times in three different ways,
        using imagery found throughout the Old Testament. In so doing he clearly reveals
        his delegation of authority to Peter.
        History shows that from the earliest days Christians considered Peter to be
        the very rock, steward, and shepherd that Jesus proclaimed him to be.
        Furthermore, from the earliest days they considered his successor to be the
        Bishop of Rome, and that Bishop of Rome endures today as rock, steward, and
        shepherd—just a few hundred yards from the site of Peter’s death and burial.
        Does the Catholic Church build the claims to papal authority on one verse
        taken out of context? Hardly. The three strands of rock, steward, and shepherd
        are woven in and through the whole of Scripture, coming into focus in the life
        of Jesus Christ who is the true Rock, the King of the Kingdom and Good Shepherd,
        and who hands his authority on earth to Peter until he comes again.
        SIDEBAR
        A Successive Ministry
        The non-Catholic protests, “There is no evidence that Peter’s ministry will
        be successive.” However, the whole context and meaning of the imagery from the
        beginning to the end show it to be a ministry that must be successive.
        First of all, the image of the rock is, by its very nature, a timeless and
        everlasting image. That’s why the image of the rock was chosen. That’s how rocks
        are. They’re there to stay. Then in Matthew 16 Jesus himself says that the
        steward’s ministry will have an eternal dimension. He holds the keys to the
        Kingdom of God and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Finally, the
        image of the shepherd, as we have seen, is an eternal one because God himself is
        the ultimate Good Shepherd. If the rock, the steward, and the shepherd are
        eternal ministries, then for it to last that long, the ministry must be
        successive. How could this eternal ministry have died out with Peter himself and
        still have been eternal?

      • shots_fired

        Mababaw parin, alam mo kung bakit? because peter and his apostles did not pray or bow down to images even on the cross. And peter and his apostles kept the Sabbath on the seventh day and not on the first day, take note you cannot find a single scripture in the bible that says that God changes the Sabbath to the first from the seventh. And i’m surprised because i look at the catholic ten commandments and some alterations are made, so that they can keep all they want to keep, like for example the fourth commandment which is ‘remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, … on the seventh day…’ now the catholics changes it to ‘remember tha lords day’ ? wow, how could you try to alter the written commandment of the lord, and what is shocking is that the lord wrote the ten commandments two times with the same content and not the content written by the pope or whatsoever. And yes peter is the rock of which jesus built his church but contrary to your arguments, peter is not the rock the catholic builts it’s church you know why? because i have not seen any single thing that peter and his apostles does to the catholic faith. Peter and his apostles was not a preist or a pope but how come the pope as you say sees himself as a priest? and on the bible all priests must come from a levite clan and on jesus death he removes the preistly order, because he is the high priest, how come your faith is handled by so called priest which even takes themself as holy and reverent, how can such skin and flesh have the nerve to say they are holy and reverent?

        and now your answer is your own downfall
        do you know that the word anti-christ found in the bible is taken from three greek words? which is ‘against’,’stands for’and not-believeing or un-believeing, qouting from your anwer which is “But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands in for another person” , you are simply saying that the pope is antichrist and that is true, why because the earliest apostles never made statues of their fallen brothers in christ, even christ hated those kinds of practices that worship the dead so called saints, have you read in matthew 23:29?, thats what the catholic church is all about reliving and honoring the dead saints eventually christ does not care about that.

        so if the church and pope is built and according to you is the successor of the apostle peter why are the catholic and the apostles way difer from each other? now who is wrong? the apostles or the catholic faith?? tell me?

      • mhertz

        Your statements are base from your own opinion and understanding. Which does not necessarily reflect of what Catholics believe. And you have touch different topics, so might as well search the answer from Catholicdotcom. Rather than assuming or maligning what Catholics belief is all about. The truth shall set you free.

      • shots_fired

        Anung opinion? these are facts and proven by history and the bible. i cannot find a single teaching from the catholic and that goes with the teaching of the apostles. I know there are few but those are not the important part.We already know that Christ died for us and how he loved us, and how the our brothers in faith died and and became martyr to the faith, don’t keep on reliving and reliving that, The important part is the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. At ung website na binigay mo sakin maybayad ang mga articles na may magagandang topic anu bayan. Freely you recieve freely you give, the word of christ should not be sold.

      • shots_fired

        And for the record, why would you call them Bishops and Cardinals , they are just wolves in sheep skin, full of malice and deciet.

      • intsikbeho

        i wasnt sincere but you gave the reference and i might as well readi it. hehehe

        and the answer when given directly to my mouth should move down to my heart first before it can be accepted up top. it has so long been drilled into my head but never accepted by my heart =P

      • mhertz

        Follow your heart but take with you your brain.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

    Ang gustong madinig ng taumbayan ay pagsbihan ng Pope ang mga alipores niya dito sa Pilipinas  na huwag makialam sa gobyerno at huwag gamitain ang banal pulpito sa personal na ataske  sa mga bumoto sa RH bill.

    Ang paghahasik ng lagim at paghahati sa taumbayan ay maaaring mapunta sa mas madugong patayan sa iba’t ibang panig na Pilipinas.

    Ang ganitong pamamaraan ay gawa lamang ni satanas. Kaya dapat ay manahimik na lamang ang mga alagad ng Diyos dahil pasado na sa kongreso at senado ang RH. At pipirmanhan na lang ng Pangulo para maging ganap na batas.

    Mulat na ang sambayanang filipino at hindi na basta maloloko ng mga Kulto at relihiyon.

  • mhertz

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most
    of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an
    Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob
    Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology
    atOxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served
    as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.
    Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on
    divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the
    Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic
    writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in
    Britain, Ireland and the USA.
    Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of
    English conversion stories called The Path to Rome– Modern Journeys to the
    Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son—a daily Benedictine
    devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern
    parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and
    thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics,
    Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former
    editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a
    straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical
    Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from
    ‘Mere Christianity’ to ‘More Christianity’. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical
    Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now
    an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is
    described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He
    wrote Christianity Pure & Simple which was published by the
    Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has
    also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the
    Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008.
    His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code –a book in the tradition of
    Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden
    Certainty.
    Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume
    of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular
    contributor to InsideCatholic, First Things, This Rock and National
    Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s
    books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel.
    He’s working on The Romance of Religion and his
    autobiography: There and Back Again.
    In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain toSt
    Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville,South Carolina. This brought him and his
    family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and
    hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a
    Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican
    clergy. He ministers at St. Joseph’s, and in the parish of St. Mary’s,
    Greenville.
    Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and
    visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four
    children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in
    Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a cat named Joseph
    and various other
    pets.

  • mhertz

    Do Catholics Worship Statues?

    “Catholics worship statues!” People still
    make this ridiculous claim. Because Catholics have statues in their churches,
    goes the accusation, they are violating God’s commandment: “You shall not
    make for yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven
    above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the
    earth: you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex. 20:4–5);
    “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves
    gods of gold” (Ex. 32:31).

    It is right to warn people against the sin of
    idolatry when they are committing it. But calling Catholics idolaters because
    they have images of Christ and the saints is based on misunderstanding or
    ignorance of what the Bible says about the purpose and uses (both good and bad)
    of statues.

    Anti-Catholic writer Loraine Boettner, in his book Roman
    Catholicism, makes the blanket statement, “God has forbidden the use
    of images in worship” (281). Yet if people were to “search the
    scriptures” (cf. John 5:39), they would find the opposite is true. God
    forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid the religious
    use of statues. Instead, he actually commanded their use in
    religious contexts!

    God Said To Make Them

    People who oppose religious statuary forget about
    the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For
    example: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold [i.e., two gold statues
    of angels]; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy
    seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one
    piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The
    cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with
    their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces
    of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:18–20).

    David gave Solomon the plan “for the altar of
    incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden
    chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the
    covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the
    Lord concerning it all, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1
    Chr. 28:18–19). David’s plan for the temple, which the biblical author tells us
    was “by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all,”
    included statues of angels.

    Similarly Ezekiel 41:17–18 describes graven
    (carved) images in the idealized temple he was shown in a vision, for he
    writes, “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were
    carved likenesses of cherubim.”

    The Religious Uses of Images

    During a plague of serpents sent to punish the
    Israelites during the exodus, God told Moses to “make [a statue of] a
    fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees
    it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a
    serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num.
    21:8–9).

    One had to look at the bronze statue of the
    serpent to be healed, which shows that statues could be used ritually, not
    merely as religious decorations.

    Catholics use statues, paintings, and other
    artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to
    remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the
    example of the saints by looking at pictures of them. Catholics also use
    statues as teaching tools. In the early Church they were especially useful for
    the instruction of the illiterate. Many Protestants have pictures of Jesus and
    other Bible pictures in Sunday school for teaching children. Catholics also use
    statues to commemorate certain people and events, much as Protestant churches
    have three-dimensional nativity scenes at Christmas.

    If one measured Protestants by the same rule, then
    by using these “graven” images, they would be practicing the
    “idolatry” of which they accuse Catholics. But there’s no idolatry
    going on in these situations. God forbids the worship of images as gods,
    but he doesn’t ban the making of images. If he had, religious movies, videos,
    photographs, paintings, and all similar things would be banned. But, as the
    case of the bronze serpent shows, God does not even forbid the ritual use of
    religious images.

    It is when people begin to adore a statue as a god
    that the Lord becomes angry. Thus when people did start to worship the
    bronze serpent as a snake-god (whom they named “Nehushtan”), the
    righteous king Hezekiah had it destroyed (2 Kgs. 18:4).

    What About Bowing?

    Sometimes anti-Catholics cite Deuteronomy 5:9,
    where God said concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them.”
    Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and
    the saints, anti-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image
    with the sin of idolatry.

    Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship,
    not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting
    (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before
    a king without worshipping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may
    kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even
    praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in
    his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it.

    Hiding the Second Commandment?

    Another charge sometimes made by Protestants is
    that the Catholic Church “hides” the second commandment. This is
    because in Catholic catechisms, the first commandment is often listed as
    “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), and the second
    is listed as “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” (Ex.
    20:7). From this, it is argued that Catholics have deleted the prohibition of
    idolatry to justify their use of religious statues. But this is false.
    Catholics simply group the commandments differently from most Protestants.

    In Exodus 20:2–17, which gives the Ten
    Commandments, there are actually fourteen imperative statements. To arrive at
    Ten Commandments, some statements have to be grouped together, and there is
    more than one way of doing this. Since, in the ancient world, polytheism and
    idolatry were always united—idolatry being the outward expression of
    polytheism—the historic Jewish numbering of the Ten Commandments has always
    grouped together the imperatives “You shall have no other gods before
    me” (Ex. 20:3) and “You shall not make for yourself a graven
    image” (Ex. 20:4). The historic Catholic numbering follows the Jewish
    numbering on this point, as does the historic Lutheran numbering. Martin Luther
    recognized that the imperatives against polytheism and idolatry are two parts
    of a single command.

    Jews and Christians abbreviate the commandments so
    that they can be remembered using a summary, ten-point formula. For example,
    Jews, Catholics, and Protestants typically summarize the Sabbath commandment
    as, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” though the commandment’s
    actual text takes four verses (Ex. 20:8–11).

    When the prohibition of polytheism/idolatry is
    summarized, Jews, Catholics, and Lutherans abbreviate it as “You shall
    have no other gods before me.” This is no attempt to “hide” the
    idolatry prohibition (Jews and Lutherans don’t even use statues of saints and
    angels). It is to make learning the Ten Commandments easier.

    The Catholic Church is not dogmatic about how the
    Ten Commandments are to be numbered, however. The Catechism of the Catholic
    Church says, “The division and numbering of the Commandments have
    varied in the course of history. The present catechism follows the division of
    the Commandments established by Augustine, which has become traditional in the
    Catholic Church. It is also that of the Lutheran confession. The Greek Fathers
    worked out a slightly different division, which is found in the Orthodox
    Churches and Reformed communities” (CCC 2066).

    The Form of God?

    Some anti-Catholics appeal to Deuteronomy 4:15–18
    in their attack on religious statues: “[S]ince you saw no form on the day
    that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest
    you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any
    figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on
    the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness
    of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water
    under the earth.”

    We’ve already shown that God doesn’t prohibit the
    making of statues or images of various creatures for religious purposes (cf. 1
    Kgs. 6:29–32, 8:6–66; 2 Chr. 3:7–14). But what about statues or images that
    represent God? Many Protestants would say that’s wrong because Deuteronomy 4
    says the Israelites did not see God under any form when he made the covenant
    with them, therefore we should not make symbolic representations of God either.
    But does Deuteronomy 4 forbid such representations?

    The Answer Is No

    Early in its history, Israel was forbidden to make
    any depictions of God because he had not revealed himself in a visible form.
    Given the pagan culture surrounding them, the Israelites might have been
    tempted to worship God in the form of an animal or some natural object (e.g., a
    bull or the sun).

    But later God did reveal himself under
    visible forms, such as in Daniel 7:9: “As I looked, thrones were placed
    and one that was Ancient of Days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its
    wheels were burning fire.” Protestants make depictions of the Father under
    this form when they do illustrations of Old Testament prophecies.

    The Holy Spirit revealed himself under at least two
    visible forms—that of a dove, at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10;
    Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and as tongues of fire, on the day of Pentecost (Acts
    2:1–4). Protestants use these images when drawing or painting these biblical
    episodes and when they wear Holy Spirit lapel pins or place dove emblems on
    their cars.

    But, more important, in the Incarnation of Christ
    his Son, God showed mankind an icon of himself. Paul said, “He is the
    image (Greek: ikon) of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
    creation.” Christ is the tangible, divine “icon” of the unseen,
    infinite God.

    We read that when the magi were “going into
    the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down
    and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts,
    gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). Though God did not reveal a
    form for himself on Mount Horeb, he did reveal one in the house in Bethlehem.

    The bottom line is, when God made the New Covenant
    with us, he did reveal himself under a visible form in Jesus Christ. For
    that reason, we can make representations of God in Christ. Even
    Protestants use all sorts of religious images: Pictures of Jesus and other
    biblical persons appear on a myriad of Bibles, picture books, T-shirts,
    jewelry, bumper stickers, greeting cards, compact discs, and manger scenes.
    Christ is even symbolically represented through the Icthus or “fish
    emblem.”

    Common sense tells us that, since God has revealed
    himself in various images, most especially in the incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s
    not wrong for us to use images of these forms to deepen our knowledge and love
    of God. That’s why God revealed himself in these visible forms, and
    that’s why statues and pictures are made of them.

    Idolatry Condemned by the Church

    Since the days of the apostles, the Catholic Church
    has consistently condemned the sin of idolatry. The early Church Fathers warn
    against this sin, and Church councils also dealt with the issue.

    The Second Council of Nicaea (787), which dealt
    largely with the question of the religious use of images and icons, said,
    “[T]he one who redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous insanity,
    Christ our God, when he took for his bride his holy Catholic Church . . .
    promised he would guard her and assured his holy disciples saying, ‘I am with
    you every day until the consummation of this age.’ . . . To this gracious offer
    some people paid no attention; being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they
    abandoned the true line of reasoning . . . and they failed to distinguish the
    holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints
    were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols.”

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566)
    taught that idolatry is committed “by worshipping idols and images as God,
    or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our
    worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them” (374).

    “Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate
    religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible
    notion of God to anything other than God’” (CCC 2114).

    The Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the
    sin of idolatry. What anti-Catholics fail to recognize is the distinction
    between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually
    remember Christ and the saints in heaven by making statues in their honor. The
    making and use of religious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice.
    Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know his Bible.

    NIHIL OBSTAT:
    I have concluded that the materials
    presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
    Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

    IMPRIMATUR:
    In accord with 1983 CIC 827
    permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
    +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

  • mhertz

    shots-fired wla pong bayad ang website na binigay ko sau..baka iba ang napasukan mo..

    WHETHER or not you are
    Catholic, you may have questions about the Catholic faith. You may have heard
    challenges to the Catholic Church’s claim to be the interpreter and safeguard
    of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Such challenges come from door-to-door missionaries
    who ask, “Are you saved?”, from peer pressure that urges you to
    ignore the Church’s teachings, from a secular culture that whispers “There
    is no God.”

    You can’t deal with these challenges unless you
    understand the basics of the Catholic faith. This booklet introduces them to
    you.

    In Catholicism you will find answers to life’s most
    troubling questions: Why am I here? Who made me? What must I believe? How must
    I act? All these can be answered to your satisfaction, if only you will open
    yourself to God’s grace, turn to the Church he established, and follow his plan
    for you (John 7:17).

    AN UNBROKEN HISTORY

     

    Jesus said his Church would be “the light of
    the world.” He then noted that “a city set on a hill cannot be
    hid” (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization.
    It must have characteristics that clearly identify it and that distinguish it
    from other churches. Jesus promised, “I will build my Church and the gates
    of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). This means that his
    Church will never be destroyed and will never fall away from him. His Church
    will survive until his return.

    Among the Christian churches, only the Catholic
    Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an
    offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from
    unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during
    the Reformation, which began in 1517. (Most of today’s Protestant churches are
    actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots.)

    Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth
    century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching
    the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of
    popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is
    unequaled by any institution in history.

    Even the oldest government is new compared to the
    papacy, and the churches that send out door-to-door missionaries are young
    compared to the Catholic Church. Many of these churches began as recently as
    the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. Some even began during your own
    lifetime. None of them can claim to be the Church Jesus established.

    The Catholic Church has existed for nearly 2,000
    years, despite constant opposition from the world. This is testimony to the
    Church’s divine origin. It must be more than a merely human organization,
    especially considering that its human members— even some of its leaders—have
    been unwise, corrupt, or prone to heresy.

    Any merely human organization with such members
    would have collapsed early on. The Catholic Church is today the most vigorous
    church in the world (and the largest, with a billion members: one sixth of the
    human race), and that is testimony not to the cleverness of the Church’s
    leaders, but to the protection of the Holy Spirit.

    FOUR MARKS OF THE TRUE CHURCH

     

    If we wish to locate the Church founded by Jesus,
    we need to locate the one that has the four chief marks or qualities of his
    Church. The Church we seek must be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

    The Church Is One (Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 10:17, 12:13,
    CCC 813–822)
    Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing
    churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and so on). The Bible says the Church is
    the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23–32). Jesus can have but one spouse, and
    his spouse is the Catholic Church.

    His Church also teaches just one set of doctrines,
    which must be the same as those taught by the apostles (Jude 3). This is the
    unity of belief to which Scripture calls us (Phil. 1:27, 2:2).

    Although some Catholics dissent from
    officially-taught doctrines, the Church’s official teachers—the pope and the
    bishops united with him—have never changed any doctrine. Over the centuries, as
    doctrines are examined more fully, the Church comes to understand them more
    deeply (John 16:12–13), but it never understands them to mean the opposite of what
    they once meant.

    The Church Is Holy (Eph. 5:25–27, Rev. 19:7–8, CCC
    823–829)
    By his grace Jesus makes the Church holy, just as he is holy. This doesn’t mean
    that each member is always holy. Jesus said there would be both good and bad
    members in the Church (John 6:70), and not all the members would go to heaven
    (Matt. 7:21–23).

    But the Church itself is holy because it is the
    source of holiness and is the guardian of the special means of grace Jesus
    established, the sacraments (cf. Eph. 5:26).

    The Church Is Catholic (Matt. 28:19–20, Rev.
    5:9–10, CCC 830–856)
    Jesus’ Church is called catholic (“universal” in Greek) because it is
    his gift to all people. He told his apostles to go throughout the world and
    make disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20).

    For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has carried out
    this mission, preaching the good news that Christ died for all men and that he
    wants all of us to be members of his universal family (Gal. 3:28).

    Nowadays the Catholic Church is found in every
    country of the world and is still sending out missionaries to “make
    disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

    The Church Jesus established was known by its most
    common title, “the Catholic Church,” at least as early as the year
    107, when Ignatius of Antioch used that title to describe the one Church Jesus
    founded. The title apparently was old in Ignatius’s time, which means it
    probably went all the way back to the time of the apostles.

    The Church Is Apostolic (Eph. 2:19–20, CCC 857–865)

    The Church Jesus founded is apostolic because he appointed the apostles to be
    the first leaders of the Church, and their successors were to be its future
    leaders. The apostles were the first bishops, and, since the first century,
    there has been an unbroken line of Catholic bishops faithfully handing on what
    the apostles taught the first Christians in Scripture and oral Tradition (2
    Tim. 2:2).

    These beliefs include the bodily Resurrection of
    Jesus, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrificial nature of
    the Mass, the forgiveness of sins through a priest, baptismal regeneration, the
    existence of purgatory, Mary’s special role, and much more —even the doctrine
    of apostolic succession itself.

    Early Christian writings prove the first Christians
    were thoroughly Catholic in belief and practice and looked to the successors of
    the apostles as their leaders. What these first Christians believed is still
    believed by the Catholic Church. No other Church can make that claim.

     

     

    • mhertz

      Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth

       

      Man’s ingenuity cannot account for this. The Church
      has remained one, holy, catholic, and apostolic—not through man’s effort, but
      because God preserves the Church he established (Matt. 16:18, 28:20).

      He guided the Israelites on their escape from Egypt
      by giving them a pillar of fire to light their way across the dark wilderness
      (Exod. 13:21). Today he guides us through his Catholic Church.

      The Bible, sacred Tradition, and the writings of
      the earliest Christians testify that the Church teaches with Jesus’ authority.
      In this age of countless competing religions, each clamoring for attention, one
      voice rises above the din: the Catholic Church, which the Bible calls “the
      pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

      Jesus assured the apostles and their successors,
      the popes and the bishops, “He who listens to you listens to me, and he
      who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16). Jesus promised to guide his
      Church into all truth (John 16:12–13). We can have confidence that his Church
      teaches only the truth.

      THE STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH

       

      Jesus chose the apostles to be the earthly leaders
      of the Church. He gave them his own authority to teach and to govern—not as
      dictators, but as loving pastors and fathers. That is why Catholics call their
      spiritual leaders “father.” In doing so we follow Paul’s example:
      “I became your father in Jesus Christ through the gospel” (1 Cor.
      4:15).

      The apostles, fulfilling Jesus’ will, ordained
      bishops, priests, and deacons and thus handed on their apostolic ministry to
      them—the fullest degree of ordination to the bishops, lesser degrees to the
      priests and deacons.

      The Pope and Bishops (CCC 880–883)

      Jesus gave Peter special authority among the
      apostles (John 21:15–17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon to
      Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be the
      rock on which he would build his Church (Matt. 16:18).

      In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon’s new
      name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this name was
      translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and into English as Peter.
      Christ gave Peter alone the “keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) and
      promised that Peter’s decisions would be binding in heaven. He also gave
      similar power to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), but only Peter was given the
      keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus’ absence.

      Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the
      chief shepherd of his Church (John 21:15–17). He gave Peter the task of
      strengthening the other apostles in their faith, ensuring that they taught only
      what was true (Luke 22:31–32). Peter led the Church in proclaiming the gospel
      and making decisions (Acts 2:1– 41, 15:7–12).

      Early Christian writings tell us that Peter’s
      successors, the bishops of Rome (who from the earliest times have been called
      by the affectionate title of “pope,” which means “papa”),
      continued to exercise Peter’s ministry in the Church.

      The pope is the successor to Peter as bishop of
      Rome. The world’s other bishops are successors to the apostles in general.

      HOW GOD SPEAKS TO US

       

      As from the first, God speaks to his Church through
      the Bible and through sacred Tradition. To make sure we understand him, he
      guides the Church’s teaching authority—the magisterium—so it always interprets
      the Bible and Tradition accurately. This is the gift of infallibility.

      Like the three legs on a stool, the Bible,
      Tradition, and the magisterium are all necessary for the stability of the
      Church and to guarantee sound doctrine.

      Sacred Tradition (CCC 75–83)
      Sacred Tradition should not be confused with mere traditions of men, which are
      more commonly called customs or disciplines. Jesus sometimes condemned customs
      or disciplines, but only if they were contrary to God’s commands (Mark 7:8). He
      never condemned sacred Tradition, and he didn’t even condemn all human
      tradition.

      Sacred Tradition and the Bible are not different or
      competing revelations. They are two ways that the Church hands on the gospel.
      Apostolic teachings such as the Trinity, infant baptism, the inerrancy of the
      Bible, purgatory, and Mary’s perpetual virginity have been most clearly taught
      through Tradition, although they are also implicitly present in (and not
      contrary to) the Bible. The Bible itself tells us to hold fast to Tradition,
      whether it comes to us in written or oral form (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:2).

      Sacred Tradition should not be confused with
      customs and disciplines, such as the rosary, priestly celibacy, and not eating
      meat on Fridays in Lent. These are good and helpful things, but they are not
      doctrines. Sacred Tradition preserves doctrines first taught by Jesus to the
      apostles and later passed down to us through the apostles’ successors, the
      bishops.

      Scripture (CCC 101–141)
      Scripture, by which we mean the Old and New Testaments, was inspired by God (2
      Tim. 3:16). The Holy Spirit guided the biblical authors to write what he wanted
      them to write. Since God is the principal author of the Bible, and since God is
      truth itself (John 14:6) and cannot teach anything untrue, the Bible is free
      from all error in everything it asserts to be true.

      Some Christians claim, “The Bible is all I
      need,” but this notion is not taught in the Bible itself. In fact, the
      Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Pet. 1:20–21, 3:15–16). The “Bible
      alone” theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church.

      It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during
      the Protestant Reformation. The theory is a “tradition of men” that
      nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of the Bible, and undermines
      the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1–8).

      Although popular with many “Bible
      Christian” churches, the “Bible alone” theory simply does not
      work in practice. Historical experience disproves it. Each year we see
      additional splintering among “Bible-believing” religions.

      Today there are tens of thousands of competing
      denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct
      one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of
      sincere but misled Christians.

      Just open up the Yellow Pages of your telephone
      book and see how many different denominations are listed, each claiming to go
      by the “Bible alone,” but no two of them agreeing on exactly what the
      Bible means.

      We know this for sure: The Holy Spirit cannot be
      the author of this confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). God cannot lead people to
      contradictory beliefs because his truth is one. The conclusion? The “Bible
      alone” theory must be false.

      The Magisterium (CCC 85–87, 888–892)
      Together the pope and the bishops form the teaching authority of the Church,
      which is called the magisterium (from the Latin for “teacher”). The
      magisterium, guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, gives us
      certainty in matters of doctrine. The Church is the custodian of the Bible and
      faithfully and accurately proclaims its message, a task which God has empowered
      it to do.

      Keep in mind that the Church came before the New
      Testament, not the New Testament before the Church. Divinely-inspired members
      of the Church wrote the books of the New Testament, just as divinely-inspired
      writers had written the Old Testament, and the Church is guided by the Holy
      Spirit to guard and interpret the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

      Such an official interpreter is absolutely
      necessary if we are to understand the Bible properly. (We all know what the
      Constitution says, but we still need a Supreme Court to interpret what
      it means.)

      The magisterium is infallible when it teaches
      officially because Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles
      and their successors “into all truth” (John 16:12–13).

      HOW GOD DISTRIBUTES HIS GIFTS

       

      Jesus promised he would not leave us orphans (John
      14:18) but would send the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us (John 15:26). He
      gave the sacraments to heal, feed, and strengthen us. The seven sacraments
      —baptism, the Eucharist, penance (also called reconciliation or confession),
      confirmation, holy orders, matrimony, and the anointing of the sick—are not
      just symbols. They are signs that actually convey God’s grace and love.

      The sacraments were foreshadowed in the Old
      Testament by things that did not actually convey grace but merely symbolized it
      (circumcision, for example, prefigured baptism, and the Passover meal
      prefigured the Eucharist. When Christ came, he did not do away with symbols of
      God’s grace. He supernaturalized them, energizing them with grace. He made them
      more than symbols.

      God constantly uses material things to show his
      love and power. After all, matter is not evil. When he created the physical
      universe, everything God created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). He
      takes such delight in matter that he even dignified it through his own
      Incarnation (John 1:14).

      During his earthly ministry Jesus healed, fed, and
      strengthened people through humble elements such as mud, water, bread, oil, and
      wine. He could have performed his miracles directly, but he preferred to use
      material things to bestow his grace.

      In his first public miracle Jesus turned water into
      wine, at the request of his mother, Mary (John 2:1–11). He healed a blind man
      by rubbing mud on his eyes (John 9:1–7). He multiplied a few loaves and fish
      into a meal for thousands (John 6:5–13). He changed bread and wine into his own
      body and blood (Matt. 26:26– 28). Through the sacraments he continues to heal,
      feed, and strengthen us.

      Baptism (CCC 1213–1284)
      Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls, so there is no
      way for us to have fellowship with God. Jesus became man to bring us into union
      with his Father. He said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first
      born of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5)—this refers to baptism.

      Through baptism we are born again, but this time on
      a spiritual level instead of a physical level. We are washed in the bath of
      rebirth (Titus 3:5). We are baptized into Christ’s death and therefore share in
      his Resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7).

      Baptism cleanses us of sins and brings the Holy
      Spirit and his grace into our souls (Acts 2:38, 22:16). And the apostle Peter
      is perhaps the most blunt of all: “Baptism now saves you” (1 Pet.
      3:21). Baptism is the gateway into the Church.

      Penance (CCC 1422–1498)
      Sometimes on our journey toward the heavenly promised land we stumble and fall
      into sin. God is always ready to lift us up and to restore us to grace-filled
      fellowship with him. He does this through the sacrament of penance (which is
      also known as confession or reconciliation).

      Jesus gave his apostles power and authority to
      reconcile us to the Father. They received Jesus’ own power to forgive sins when
      he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you
      forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John
      20:22–23).

      Paul notes that “all this is from God, who has
      reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of
      reconciliation. . . . So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were
      appealing through us” (2 Cor. 5:18–20). Through confession to a priest,
      God’s minister, we have our sins forgiven, and we receive grace to help us
      resist future temptations.

      The Eucharist (CCC 1322–1419)
      Once we become members of Christ’s family, he does not let us go hungry, but
      feeds us with his own body and blood through the Eucharist. In the Old
      Testament, as they prepared for their journey in the wilderness, God commanded
      his people to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so
      the Angel of Death would pass by their homes. Then they ate the lamb to seal
      their covenant with God.

      This lamb prefigured Jesus. He is the real
      “Lamb of God,” who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
      Through Jesus we enter into a New Covenant with God (Luke 22:20), who protects
      us from eternal death. God’s Old Testament people ate the Passover lamb. Now we
      must eat the Lamb that is the Eucharist. Jesus said, “Unless you eat my
      flesh and drink my blood you have no life within you” (John 6:53).

      At the Last Supper he took bread and wine and said,
      “Take and eat. This is my body . . . This is my blood which will be shed
      for you” (Mark 14:22–24). In this way Jesus instituted the sacrament of
      the Eucharist, the sacrificial meal Catholics consume at each Mass.

      The Catholic Church teaches that the sacrifice of
      Christ on the cross occurred “once for all”; it cannot be repeated
      (Heb. 9:28). Christ does not “die again” during Mass, but the very
      same sacrifice that occurred on Calvary is made present on the altar. That’s
      why the Mass is not “another” sacrifice, but a participation in the
      same, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

      Paul reminds us that the bread and the wine really
      become, by a miracle of God’s grace, the actual body and blood of Jesus:
      “Anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats
      and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27–29).

      After the consecration of the bread and wine, no
      bread or wine remains on the altar. Only Jesus himself, under the appearance of
      bread and wine, remains.

      Confirmation (CCC 1285–1321)
      God strengthens our souls in another way, through the sacrament of
      confirmation. Even though Jesus’ disciples received grace before his
      Resurrection, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to strengthen them with new
      graces for the difficult work ahead.

      They went out and preached the gospel fearlessly
      and carried out the mission Christ had given them. Later, they laid hands on
      others to strengthen them as well (Acts 8:14–17). Through confirmation you too
      are strengthened to meet the spiritual challenges in your life.

      Matrimony (CCC 1601–1666)
      Most people are called to the married life. Through the sacrament of matrimony
      God gives special graces to help married couples with life’s difficulties,
      especially to help them raise their children as loving followers of Christ.

      Marriage involves three parties: the bride, the
      groom, and God. When two Christians receive the sacrament of matrimony, God is
      with them, witnessing and blessing their marriage covenant. A sacramental
      marriage is permanent; only death can break it (Mark 10:1–12, Rom. 7:2–3, 1 Cor.
      7:10–11). This holy union is a living symbol of the unbreakable relationship
      between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:21–33).

      Holy Orders (CCC 1536–1600)
      Others are called to share specially in Christ’s priesthood. In the Old
      Covenant, even though Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6), the Lord
      called certain men to a special priestly ministry (Exod. 19: 22). In the New
      Covenant, even though Christians are a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. 2:9), Jesus
      calls certain men to a special priestly ministry (Rom. 15:15–16).

      This sacrament is called holy orders. Through it
      priests are ordained and thus empowered to serve the Church (2 Tim. 1:6–7) as
      pastors, teachers, and spiritual fathers who heal, feed, and strengthen God’s
      people—most importantly through preaching and the administration of the
      sacraments.

      Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1499–1532)
      Priests care for us when we are physically ill. They do this through the
      sacrament known as the anointing of the sick. The Bible instructs us, “Is
      anyone among you suffering? He should pray. . . . Is any one among you sick? He
      should summon the presbyters [priests] of the Church, and they should pray over
      him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith
      will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed
      any sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas. 5:14–15). Anointing of the sick not
      only helps us endure illness, but it cleanses our souls and helps us prepare to
      meet God.

      TALKING WITH GOD AND HIS SAINTS

       

      One of the most important activities for a Catholic
      is prayer. Without it there can be no true spiritual life. Through personal
      prayer and the communal prayer of the Church, especially the Mass, we worship
      and praise God, we express sorrow for our sins, and we intercede on behalf of
      others (1 Tim. 2:1–4). Through prayer we grow in our relationship with Christ
      and with members of God’s family (CCC 2663–2696).

      This family includes all members of the Church,
      whether on earth, in heaven, or in purgatory. Since Jesus has only one body,
      and since death has no power to separate us from Christ (Rom. 8:3–8),
      Christians who are in heaven or who, before entering heaven, are being purified
      in purgatory by God’s love (1 Cor. 3:12–15) are still part of the Body of
      Christ (CCC 962).

      Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to
      “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Those in heaven love
      us more intensely than they ever could have loved us while on earth. They pray
      for us constantly (Rev. 5:8), and their prayers are powerful (Jas. 5:16, CCC
      956, 2683, 2692).

      Our prayers to the saints in heaven, asking for
      their prayers for us, and their intercession with the Father do not undermine
      Christ’s role as sole Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). In asking saints in heaven to pray
      for us we follow Paul’s instructions: “I urge that supplications, prayers,
      intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,” for “this is
      good and pleasing to God our Savior” (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

      All members of the Body of Christ are called to
      help one another through prayer (CCC 2647). Mary’s prayers are especially
      effective on our behalf because of her relationship with her Son (John 2:1–11).

      God gave Mary a special role (CCC 490–511, 963–
      975). He saved her from all sin (Luke 1:28, 47), made her uniquely blessed
      among all women (Luke 1:42), and made her a model for all Christians (Luke
      1:48). At the end of her life he took her, body and soul, into heaven—an image
      of our own resurrection at the end of the world (Rev. 12:1–2).

      WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE?

       

      Old catechisms asked, “Why did God make
      you?” The answer: “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve
      him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.” Here, in
      just 26 words, is the whole reason for our existence. Jesus answered the question
      even more briefly: “I came so that [you] might have life and have it more
      abundantly” (John 10:10).

      God’s plan for you is simple. Your loving Father
      wants to give you all good things—especially eternal life. Jesus died on the
      cross to save us all from sin and the eternal separation from God that sin
      causes (CCC 599–623). When he saves us, he makes us part of his Body, which is
      the Church (1 Cor. 12:27–30). We thus become united with him and with
      Christians everywhere (on earth, in heaven, in purgatory).

      What You Must Do to Be Saved
      Best of all, the promise of eternal life is a gift, freely offered to us by God
      (CCC 1727). Our initial forgiveness and justification are not things we
      “earn” (CCC 2010). Jesus is the mediator who bridged the gap of sin
      that separates us from God (1 Tim. 2:5); he bridged it by dying for us. He has
      chosen to make us partners in the plan of salvation (1 Cor. 3:9).

      The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles
      taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone, but not by
      faith alone (which is what “Bible Christians” teach; see Jas. 2:24).

      When we come to God and are justified (that is,
      enter a right relationship with God), nothing preceding justification, whether
      faith or good works, earns grace. But then God plants his love in our
      hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of love (Gal. 6:2).

      Even though only God’s grace enables us to love
      others, these acts of love please him, and he promises to reward them with
      eternal life (Rom. 2:6–7, Gal. 6:6–10). Thus good works are meritorious. When
      we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer him. Then
      he gives us grace to obey his commandments in love, and he rewards us with
      salvation when we offer these acts of love back to him (Rom. 2:6–11, Gal.
      6:6–10, Matt. 25:34–40).

      Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in him;
      we also must obey his commandments. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but
      do not do the things I command?” (Luke 6:46, Matt. 7:21–23, 19:16–21).

      We do not “earn” our salvation through
      good works (Eph. 2:8–9, Rom. 9:16), but our faith in Christ puts us in a
      special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love,
      combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Rom. 2:7, Gal.
      6:8–9).

      Paul said, “God is the one who, for his good
      purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Phil. 2:13). John
      explained that “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his
      commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is
      a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4, 3:19–24, 5:3–4).

      Since no gift can be forced on the recipient—gifts
      always can be rejected—even after we become justified, we can throw away the
      gift of salvation. We throw it away through grave (mortal) sin (1 John 5:16,
      Rom. 11:22–23, 1 Cor. 15:1–2; CCC 1854–1863). Paul tells us, “The wages of
      sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

      Read his letters and see how often Paul warned
      Christians against sin! He would not have felt compelled to do so if their sins
      could not exclude them from heaven (see, for example, 1 Cor. 6:9–10, Gal.
      5:19–21).

      Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God
      “will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life for those who
      seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but
      wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey
      wickedness” (Rom. 2:6–8).

      Sins are nothing but evil works (CCC 1849–1850). We
      can avoid sins by habitually performing good works. Every saint has known that
      the best way to keep free from sins is to embrace regular prayer, the
      sacraments (the Eucharist first of all), and charitable acts.

      Are You Guaranteed Heaven?
      Some people promote an especially attractive idea: All true Christians,
      regardless of how they live, have an absolute assurance of salvation, once they
      accept Jesus into their hearts as “their personal Lord and Savior.”
      The problem is that this belief is contrary to the Bible and constant Christian
      teaching.

      Keep in mind what Paul told the Christians of his
      day: “If we have died with him [in baptism; see Rom. 6:3–4] we shall also
      live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim.
      2:11–12).

      If we do not persevere, we shall not
      reign with him. In other words, Christians can forfeit heaven (CCC 1861).

      The Bible makes it clear that Christians have a
      moral assurance of salvation (God will be true to his word and will grant
      salvation to those who have faith in Christ and are obedient to him [1 John
      3:19–24]), but the Bible does not teach that Christians have a guarantee of
      heaven. There can be no absolute assurance of salvation. Writing to Christians,
      Paul said, “See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward
      those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness,
      otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22–23; Matt. 18:21–35, 1 Cor.
      15:1–2, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).

      Note that Paul includes an important condition:
      “provided you remain in his kindness.” He is saying that Christians
      can lose their salvation by throwing it away. He warns, “Whoever thinks he
      is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:11–12).

      If you are Catholic and someone asks you if you
      have been “saved,” you should say, “I am redeemed by the blood
      of Christ, I trust in him alone for my salvation, and, as the Bible teaches, I
      am ‘working out my salvation in fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12), knowing that
      it is God’s gift of grace that is working in me.”

      • mhertz

        THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE

        All the alternatives to Catholicism are showing themselves to be inadequate: the worn-out secularism that is everywhere around us and that no one any longer finds satisfying, the odd cults and movements that offer temporary community but no permanent home, even the other, incomplete brands of Christianity. As our tired world becomes ever more desperate, people are turning to the one alternative they never really had considered: the Catholic Church. They are coming upon truth in the last place they expected to find it.
        Always Attractive How can this be? Why are so many people seriously looking at the Catholic Church for the first time? Something is pulling them toward it. That something is truth.
        This much we know: They are not considering the claims of the Church out of a desire to win public favor. Catholicism, at least nowadays, is never popular. You cannot win a popularity contest by being a faithful Catholic. Our fallen world rewards the clever, not the good. If a Catholic is praised, it is for the worldly skills he demonstrates, not for his Christian virtues.
        Although people try to avoid the hard doctrinal and moral truths the Catholic Church offers them (because hard truths demand that lives be changed), they nevertheless are attracted to the Church. When they listen to the pope and the bishops in union with him, they hear words with the ring of truth—even if they find that truth hard to live by.
        When they contemplate the history of the Catholic Church and the lives of its saints, they realize there must be something special, maybe something supernatural, about an institution that can produce holy people such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Mother Teresa.
        When they step off a busy street and into the aisles of an apparently empty Catholic church, they sense not a complete emptiness, but a presence. They sense that Someone resides inside, waiting to comfort them.
        They realize that the persistent opposition that confronts the Catholic Church—whether from non-believers or “Bible Christians” or even from people who insist on calling themselves Catholics—is a sign of the Church’s divine origin (John 15:18–21). And they come to suspect that the Catholic Church, of all things, is the wave of the future.
        Incomplete Christianity Is Not Enough Over the last few decades many Catholics have left the Church, many dropping out of religion entirely, many joining other churches. But the traffic has not been in only one direction.
        The traffic toward Rome has increased rapidly. Today we are seeing more than a hundred and fifty thousand converts enter the Catholic Church each year in the United States, and in some other places, like the continent of Africa, there are more than a million converts to the Catholic faith each year. People of no religion, lapsed or inactive Catholics, and members of other Christian churches are “coming home to Rome.”
        They are attracted to the Church for a variety of reasons, but the chief reason they convert is the chief reason youshould be Catholic: The solid truth of the Catholic faith.
        Our separated brethren hold much Christian truth, but not all of it. We might compare their religion to a stained glass window in which some of the original panes were lost and have been replaced by opaque glass: Something that was present at the beginning is now gone, and something that does not fit has been inserted to fill up the empty space. The unity of the original window has been marred.
        When, centuries ago, they split away from the Catholic Church, the theological ancestors of these Christians eliminated some authentic beliefs and added new ones of their own making. The forms of Christianity they established are really incomplete Christianity.
        Only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and only it has been able to preserve all Christian truth without any error—and great numbers of people are coming to see this.
        YOUR TASKS AS A CATHOLIC

        Your tasks as a Catholic, no matter what your age, are three:
        Know your Catholic faith.You cannot live your faith if you do not know it, and you cannot share with others what you do not first make your own (CCC 429). Learning your Catholic faith takes some effort, but it is effort well spent because the study is, quite literally, infinitely rewarding.
        Live your Catholic faith.Your Catholic faith is a public thing. It is not meant to be left behind when you leave home (CCC 2472). But be forewarned: Being a public Catholic involves risk and loss. You will find some doors closed to you. You will lose some friends. You will be considered an outsider. But, as a consolation, remember our Lord’s words to the persecuted: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matt. 5:12).
        Spread your Catholic faith.Jesus Christ wants us to bring the whole world into captivity to the truth, and the truth is Jesus himself, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Spreading the faith is a task not only for bishops, priests, and religious—it is a task for all Catholics (CCC 905).
        Just before his Ascension, our Lord told his apostles, “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” (Matt. 28:19–20).
        If we want to observe all that Jesus commanded, if we want to believe all he taught, we must follow him through his Church. This is our great challenge—and our great p

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