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Five Reasons Why I Love the Catechism


In the twelve years we’ve been Catholic, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has remained dear to our entire family. Here are five reasons why:

1. It was instrumental in my husband’s conversion. Very early on in our studying of Catholicism, he bought a copy of the catechism, figuring that since he was interested in what the Church taught, he might as well go right to the official catechism. He read it cover to cover and checked every Biblical reference. He still reads it for personal encouragement and education and appreciates it more every time (He tells me!).

2. It is beautiful to read – poetic, solid, and satisfying, with footnotes from Scripture, history, and other Church documents. A random opening of my copy while writing this fell to paragraph #2842 on Christian Prayer: “When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return. By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has ‘the keys of death and Hades’ who ‘is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’.”  Magnificent. There is a footnote directing the reader to three passages in Revelation. What a devotional!

3. It covers everything, from difficult, contentious issues to heartbreaking, suffering issues to mystical, spiritual issues. Topics are neither shied-away from nor sugar-coated. We can read about sex, social justice, national laws, union with Christ, and the problem of pain (the section that brought me to my knees; see paragraphs 1499-1532.) It is something I direct my children to time and time again. 

4. It can be relied upon for instruction in our Holy Faith, for it is a “Full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life (From the prologue by Pope John Paul II).” There are no worries about whether or not an author is faithful to the Magisterium. Jesus told the apostles, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13)” and Paul told young Timothy how to behave within “the ousehold of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Timothy 3:15).” A bulwark is a defensive wall; I wonder if Paul had the formidable walls of Jerusalem in mind as he pictured the Church keeping Christians safe from false doctrines. The Catechism is the continuing of the Holy Spirit’s leading of the Church as it guards the precious deposit of faith and instructs the faithful. Jesus never left a book; he left men filled with Holy Spirit, guided into truth, forgiving sins (John 20:23), and going out to teach and baptize (Matthew 28:19-20). They did write, however, and our Church in her wisdom, gathered and compiled their stories and letters into a New Testament. The Catechism is another example of her wisdom in leading Christians here on earth.

5. Jesus is central. Again, from the prologue: “In reading the CCC, we can perceive the wonderful unity of the mystery of God, his saving will, as well as the central place of Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, sent by the Father, made man in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be our Savior. Having died and risen, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in the sacraments; he is the source of our faith, the model of Christian conduct, and the teacher of our prayer.” How powerful and peaceful.

I encourage you, dear Sistas, if there’s not a copy on your bed stand; put one there and dig into it. I bet you’ll love it!

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Apologetics Brantly Millegan Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Perspective from the Head

What Apostolic Succession Is and Why It’s Absolutely Essential

St Paul ordaining St TimothyCatholics believe that Jesus gave special authority to his Apostles to rule and guide the Church. These Apostles then ordained and passed on authority to others, called bishops (literally ‘overseers’ in Scripture, it’s the same word). These bishops have ordained and passed on authority to other bishops, and so on, all the way up to the Church’s current bishops.

This is called Apostolic Succession, and it is absolutely essential to the constitution and life of the Church. What makes a bishop a bishop is if they have been consecrated by a bishop who was consecrated a bishop, all the way back to the Apostles who received authority from Jesus. A priest is only a real priest if he has been ordained a priest by a real bishop. If there is a break at some point – if a bishop wasn’t consecrated properly, or was consecrated by a bishop who wasn’t properly consecrated himself – then the line of authority stops at that point. It only works if there is no break in the line going all the way back to Jesus, the ultimate source of all authority in the Church.

Of course, this only works if Jesus did in fact give authority to his Apostles in the first place, and if his Apostles did in fact consecrate bishops with the instructions to pass their authority on to others in perpetuity. If the idea of apostolic succession was made up at some later point, and so did not originate with Jesus, then apostolic authority and succession isn’t real.

Most Protestants deny apostolic succession exists or is necessary for the Church. But so what? Why does apostolic succession matter? Here three ways:

 

1) Doctrine: The entire basis of the bishops’ teaching authority in the Church is the apostolic authority they’ve received from apostolic succession. Christians are obliged to follow the teachings of the Magisterium (the college of bishops headed by the bishop of Rome, the Pope) not because the bishops are smart, educated, or holy (some bishops are, but certainly not all), but because they have authority that ultimately comes from Jesus to teach in the Church and definitively interpret the deposit of faith.

If the bishops are not really bishops and do not have authority from Jesus, then they are simply one voice among many – there’s no reason anyone has to listen to them any more than anyone has to listen to the opinions of other theologians or preachers. But if they do have authority from Jesus, as Catholics claim, then they really do have a special charism of the Holy Spirit to protect them from error when definitively teaching the faith, and all Christians would have a moral obligation to follow their teachings – or else be heretics.

 

2) Worship: Certain Sacraments can only be validly performed by a bishop or a priest (a priest has been ordained by a bishop and has some of the powers of a bishop). The Sacraments that can only be performed by bishops and priests are Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. Holy Orders can only be performed by a bishop. (Baptism can be performed by deacons as well under ordinary circumstances and laypeople in emergencies, and in Holy Matrimony the spouses marry each other.) So, for example, if a layperson tried to consecrate the Eucharist, nothing would happen: transubstantiation would not occur, the bread and the wine would remain simply bread and wine.

So the validity of those five Sacraments listed above rests entirely on the veracity of apostolic succession. If the priest at your parish is not really a priest (either because he wasn’t validly ordained or because apostolic succession is false), the Eucharist is just bread and wine and your sins are not being forgiven in Reconciliation. But if apostolic succession is true, and our bishops and priests are real bishops and priests with the indelible mark of Holy Orders on their souls, then those Sacraments are truly effective – and in fact, necessary to the Christian life.

 

3) Unity: Bishops not only have authority to teach and perform the Sacraments, they also have authority to govern the Church and they serve as visible markers of the Church for unity. In other words, you can know that you are fully a member of the Church is you are in communion with a bishop who is in communion with the bishop of Rome. The sin of schism is when a baptized person intentionally breaks from the bishop of Rome and the bishops in communion with him.

But again, this is only true if the bishops really are bishops and have apostolic authority from apostolic succession. If they are not, if apostolic succession is false, then there’s nothing special about them and you don’t have to follow them.

 

So you can see, if apostolic succession is false, then the Catholic Church is largely a sham and Protestants are right. Everything salient about the Catholic Church stands or falls on the reality of apostolic succession.

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Allison Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers

We Need the Magisterium

When Jesus explained to His twelve apostles that when He left, the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13), He meant All Truth. When He instructed them to go, baptize, and teach (Matthew 28:19-20), they went, baptized, and taught, exploding out of the Holy Land and turning the world upside down with the teachings of Jesus. They passed on their role and their descendants are our bishops, still guiding by the Holy Spirit into all truth, still baptizing, still teaching about Jesus. This is the Magisterium, from the Latin word for master. They lead the Church, the pillar and foundation of truth (I Timothy 3:15), which has compiled our early leaders’ letters into a holy book, the New Testament; and safeguards it along with the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament. A good Mother, She has taken God’s revelation, both oral and written, and organized it into a catechism. When the bishops (and chief among them, the bishop of Rome, presently Pope Francis) teach on Christian Faith and morals, we can rest in Jesus’ plan, for it is the truth.

I was recently reading an article written by an old friend, a Protestant pastor, to his congregation regarding his views on homosexuality. Some excerpts:

“I just don’t know … if homosexuality is a sin.”
“Sometimes understanding and interpreting the Scriptures can be a difficult thing.”
“When I think about my two (gay) friends, along with Jesus I don’t condemn them.”
“Should my friend get involved with another man and pursue the equivalent of a monogamous married relationship with him I still won’t condemn him.”
“I want my church to be a place that pursues God’s truth.”
“These views may be too muddled for some of you, but it’s where God has brought me.”

This is an example of what happens outside the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ~ Christians going rogue, trying to figure out the will of God and Christian faith, calling a homosexual relationship equivalent to a marriage, pursuing God’s truth without the pillar and foundation of truth, thinking that God brought him to a morally and faithfully confusing place. He needs the Magisterium badly. His congregation needs the Magisterium badly. His gay friends need the Magisterium badly.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

#2357. “Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

#2358. “This inclination … constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and understanding. Every sign of unjust discrimination … should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

#2359. “Homosexual persons are called to chastity … by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

#2360. “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of a man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and a pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.”

Done. Truth. No need to reinvent the wheel; no need to stress and wonder about sexuality, marriage, or chastity. I do not “check my brains at the door” because I accept the Church as a truth-teaching mechanism, set in place by Jesus Himself. One could spend a lifetime plumbing the depths, as Aquinas and Augustine could attest. She teaches the truth She has been given and stands in solidarity, offering life-giving sacraments to a humanity that struggles, suffers, falls, and rises again. This is the Magisterium at work: loving Jesus, guiding by the Holy Spirit, leading people to Heaven.

We need the Magisterium.

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Allison Apologetics Catechism Communion Conversion Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

I Know I Believe in the Real Presence

As I read and sweat my way through Church teachings, referencing and verifying as I considered what She taught and why, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was surprisingly simple to accept (such hubris, but I wasn’t quite sure that the Church was a truth-teaching institution.). The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6: 22-71) and the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20, among others) are proof texts, and when read with other pertinent Scriptures, as one must do for true interpretation (manna – Exodus 16:15, the feeding of the five thousand – Matthew 14:13-21, the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35, and Paul’s exhortations about dishonoring the Body and Blood – I Corinthians 11:27), the evidence is overwhelming.

Some disciples left Jesus after He reiterated the importance of eating His Body and drinking His Blood because it was “too hard” and He turned to ask the Twelve if they too would leave. Peter threw up his hands (my mental picture), saying, “Where else do we go? We believe You have the words of eternal life” (I don’t think he really grasped it.). When Christ held up the bread in the upper room and said, “This is My Body,” it all made sense. Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, is present in the blessed bread. That is why those saddened followers travelling to Emmaus, whose hearts “burned within them as He opened the Scriptures,” recognized Jesus only “in the breaking of the bread.” That is why Saint Paul chastised the Corinthians for their abuses and warned them that they would have to “answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord.”  The additional stories of manna and the feeding of the five thousand are types, or pre-pictures, of the Eucharist: perfect food from heaven, available every single day, enough for every single person with Jesus, miraculous once the Lord’s Hands blessed and broke the gifts.  His words, His blessing, His Body nourish our spirit and life ~ overwhelming, indeed!

When I received Jesus in the Eucharist at the 2004 Easter Vigil, after converting from fundamental, Pentecostal-style Protestantism, I was expecting some sort of emotional, physical response. But there was no burst of light and no angels heard singing; I did not tremble and my eyes remained dry. Soberly and steadily, I went through the proper postures. Then it was over. Holy Communion continued that way for many months: attentive listening, participating, receiving, praying, and singing without the waves of emotion with which I’d been accustomed. Intellectually, I understood that feelings are not what my faith is based on, that dignified liturgy as the expression of our ancient, ever-new Holy Faith is deeply satisfying. The Catholic Mass is always a “great service” because of the Eucharist, not because of the musical selections or sermon. On some level, however, I missed the fervor. I figured I needed to learn how to worship God in spirit and in truth, not in dancing and tears. I figured I needed to learn how to worship God the way the Israelites did: doing the right duties for hundred of years without necessarily experiencing exciting miracles or emotional highs. This was good for me. In those quiet Sunday mornings, I was quiet, too. Like the Israelites of old, I was part of something that, while not taking my breath away, gave me deep breath.

But the Holy Spirit did speak to Moses, as He did to Nehemiah, and to Mary. And He came to me. Leaving the service to nurse our wiggly infant one Sunday, my return proved too late for Holy Communion. The extraordinary ministers had turned their backs to the congregation and were lovingly folding, stacking, and returning the sacred vessels to their places at the side table. I had missed it. Missed bowing before Jesus, reaching for Him, assenting my Amen, receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Lord and Love. Without warning, I burst into tears. This response surprised me, as there was no logical lead up in my thoughts, no emotional exertion in my heart. It was quick; it was powerful; it shook me.  I stood outside the sanctuary, overwrought, weeping for Jesus and waiting for the rest of my family to join me.

I have missed Holy Communion several times since that day, feeding hungry babies or removing naughty toddlers (sometimes both) and have never again had such an impassioned reaction, but I will always remember it as how I feel that I know that I believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Once again, the facts of the Faith touched deeply within me and settled in love.

Thanks be to God for such a personal message, a special gift, an unspeakable blessing.

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Stacy

Why Contraception Will Never Be Permitted

 

Alright Sistas! Let’s talk about contraception and theology.

People opine a lot that someday there can be a development of doctrine that will permit the practice of contraception, but they don’t understand the reason why contraception can never be permitted.  Catholic moral laws are most fundamentally rooted in love.  That is probably the single most misunderstood part of moral theology.  It’s about love.

And this is not loving.

marriage, man and woman united as one, is the most 1) fundamental and 2) intimate social unit.  Scripture describes how the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, conceives the Word and begets the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, gives all of Himself to the Son except to be Father. Did you catch the eternal fecundity in God, conceiving and begetting?

From the Father and the Son together – as one substance – breaths forth the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, which is Love Himself.  In God there is perfect unity, perfect giving, perfect receiving, perfect love between three Persons, so much so that they are One God.

Families are a reflection of that perfection.

Anything that compromises the openness to communication and personified love for each other and for children cannot, therefore, be permissible. What is revealed by God is infallible, and Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, said that loving God and your neighbor is the basis of the whole law.

You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.  And the second is like to this:  You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments depends the whole law and the prophets.”  Matthew 22: 37-40

Father Benedict Ashley O.P. addresses contraception in his book, “Living the Truth in Love” and says that contraception, just as anything else that degrades the sexual act to an act only for recreation, “depersonalizes love.” (221-222) It is intrinsically immoral to render the beautiful and loving gift of the sexual act between a husband and a wife sterile by mechanical, surgical, or chemical means in order to merely obtain for one’s self sexual pleasure unrelated to procreation. That is what we call selfishness. Ahem, selfishness is a vice, and vices do not lead to real happiness.

This wonderful, loving truth is what makes the nasty demons roar their ugly lies.  Why?  Because the destruction of the family is Satan’s most effective weapon.  Break families and you break people, then you break society.  God made us to belong, to be loved, to be known – and we are desperate without it.  Satan is against love and unity, a cosmic war on the family.

Therefore, if a doctrine developed that permitted contraception, it would be a doctrine that directly contradicted the very basis of the entire moral law from God for how man is to live and find happiness, and for how man is to achieve an eternal life of bliss.  Doctrine cannot contradict the infallible revelations of God. God is Love. God is Unity. God perfectly communicates Love.

God is not, “Come here baby and let me hold you and use you, but first I need to medicate myself against you or wrap myself up in plastic so I don’t really touch you because you might do something to me that is unplanned.”

However, it should be noted that it is permissible to know and communicate the natural cycles of the body between married couples, and to choose to abstain from the procreative act during fertile periods, so long as the couple does not completely become closed to raising a family in love.

OK, bring it home then.

When I see my husband, the love of my life, stare at our baby boy as if he would pour all of himself into that child if only it were somehow mystically possible, and when I even begin to think of the damage it would do to that child were our sacred marital bond ever broken, I understand the Blessed Trinity, One God as three Persons, a little better and I am lifted Heavenward.

Contraception robs you of that.

 

The thief comes not, but for to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10