Religion and the
End of Man
|In creating us, God gave us the power and right to choose which path
we should follow in life: either the path of obedience, or the path of
disobedience to His commandments. The first seems wearisome and full of
thorns, but reward comes in the end: happiness with God. The second seems
full of pleasures and roses, but punishment awaits the traveler at the end:
eternal damnation in hell.
Each must choose for himself. We may find the choice a hard struggle. We
shall be strengthened in the choice of the difficult path if we remember
that we belong to God, that He loves us, that He will help us and is waiting
for us at the end of the road -- of obedience.
What is the destiny of man? -- Man's high destiny is to go to
God, because man comes from God, and belongs entirely to God.
Our reason tells us that Someone made us. That Someone is God.
Nothing can proceed from nothing. If there had ever been a moment
when nothing existed, nothing would ever have existed. Therefore, because we
exist, we know Someone who made us also exists; that Someone is God. "He made
us, and not we ourselves'' (Ps. 99:3). "All things have been created through
and unto Him" (Col. 1:16).
Our reason also tells us that God must have made us for some purpose. God
made man to know Him, to love Him, and to
serve Him in this world, and to be happy forever with Him in the next.
God made us for Himself. The end of man, as of all creation, is the
glory of God; to manifest the divine perfections, to proclaim the goodness,
majesty, and power of God.
"The Lord hath made all things for Himself" (Prov. 16:4). Whether he wishes
to or not, man must manifest God's perfections, dominion, and glory. Man's
very existence does this; even his sins will in the end show forth God's
infinite holiness and justice.
Through glorifying God, man is destined to share His everlasting
happiness in heaven. Man was created chiefly for the life beyond the grave;
this present one is merely a preparation for the eternal life.
In this life we are exiles, wanderers, pilgrims. Heaven, the Home of God,
is our true country, our true Home. There God wants to share with us His own
unmeasured bliss. "For here we have no permanent city, but we seek for the
city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14)
We belong to God. Since we are His creatures, we have certain duties
towards God which we must fulfill. Religion teaches us what these duties
What is Religion? -- Religion is the virtue by which we give to
God the honor and service due to Him alone as our Creator, Master, and Supreme
Lord. It is by religion that we know, love, and serve God as He commands us to
know, love and serve Him.
It is by religion, then, that we fulfill the end for which we were made, and
so save our soul. In order to practice this virtue, we must:
Believe all the truths revealed by God.
In religion we learn about God and His perfections. We learn something
about His great love for us. We learn what is right and what is wrong. We
learn what God commands us to do. We learn about the future that He has
prepared for us.
Carry Out in our lives what we learn about the duties we owe
to God, about His commands and wishes. Mere knowledge is not religion,
and will avail us nothing. The devil has knowledge, but he has no religion.
Religion includes the service of God in fulfilling what we have learned
of our duties towards Him. Religion is not a matter of feeling; it is a matter
of will and of action.
Our Lord says: "Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep
it" (Luke 11:28).The Apostle St. James said: "But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (Jas. 1).
How can we prove that all men are obliged to practice religion?
-- We can prove that all men are obliged to practice religion, because all men
are entirely dependent on God, and must recognize that dependence by honoring
Him and praying to Him.
It is absolutely necessary for us to practice religion. God gives
us no choice in the matter. Our chief business in life, the business
which God commands us to attend to, is to go to God. And this depends on our
practice of religion.
It is by religion that we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. By
believing what God has revealed, we know God. By knowing
God, we cannot help but love Him. By practicing what we learn and
obeying God's commands, we serve Him. "He who has my commandments
and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21).
Many people spend their lives in a vain pursuit of riches, honors, and
pleasures. But these never satisfy the heart of man even on earth. Besides,
they have to be left behind when the hour of death comes.
From whom do we learn to know, love, and serve God? -- Men
learn to know, love, and serve God from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who
teaches us through the Catholic Church.
The study in which Jesus Christ teaches us about God and how to know,
love, and serve Him, is the study of Religion. It is the most important study
anyone can undertake. The neglect of this study is the root cause of
crime in the world at present. Without a knowledge of God men give way to
their basest passions.
Our salvation is much more important than a knowledge of physics, poetry,
or history. All our science and knowledge, with our wealth and honors, will be
profitless if we do not save our soul. "What does it profit a man, if he gain
the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
This study needs thought and attention. We need to listen to a good
teacher. We cannot study it well by ourselves alone.
The deacon Philip asked the Ethiopian reading Holy Scripture, "Dost thou
then understand what thou art reading?" But he said, "Why, how can I, unless
someone shows me?" (Acts 8:31).
Who are those that advocate no study of religion? -- Those that
advocate no study of religion are generally termed free-thinkers, agnostics,
skeptics, and rationalists.
These thinkers claim that all problems can be solved by the use of the
intellect alone, without necessity of any principle, law, dogma or
"Freedom of thought" has a pleasant sound, but it is against reason; by it
the mind is fettered by error. We submit our minds freely to natural and
scientific truths; that is true freedom. If there is no freedom of thought in
mathematics, why in religion?
"Freedom of thought" is evidently a contradiction; we are not free
to think what is not the truth. There are fundamental laws that bind the
For instance, are we free to believe that the sun revolves around the
earth, even if it appears to do so?
The intelligent man, in order to attain the kind of freedom humanly
possible, should find out to which authority he must submit; he must discover
which is the Law. And this is why the rational man studies
Religion, to find out this fundamental Law.
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The Apostles' Creed
|The Apostles, before they parted, gathered together in Jerusalem in
the first Council of the Church. There they decided to put down in a brief
statement their principal doctrines, so that their teachings might be
uniform wherever they preached. This statement of the articles of faith we
call today "The Apostles' Creed." It was formulated in order to put into
fruition the command of Our Lord: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all
nations ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and
behold, I am with you all days" (Matt. 28:19-20).
Where do we find the chief truths taught by Jesus Christ through the
Catholic Church? -- We find the chief truths taught by Jesus Christ
through the Catholic Church in the Apostles' Creed.
A creed is a summary or statement of what one believes. "Creed"
comes from the Latin credo, which means I believe; that is, I
accept or hold true something on the word of another.
"I believe," with relation to the Apostles' Creed, means that I
firmly assent to everything contained in it. I believe it exactly as if I
had seen those truths with my own eyes. I believe it on the authority or
word of God, Who cannot deceive or be deceived.
The Apostles Creed is so called because it has come down to us from
apostolic times, and contains a summary of the principal truths
taught by the Apostles.
The Apostles' Creed is repeated at Baptism, as a declaration of faith. In
ancient times it was required before Baptism, as a sign of fitness for
reception into the Church.
The Apostles' Creed has come down to us intact, except for a few clauses
added by the Church later, in order to counteract various heresies. These
additions, however, are not new doctrines, but a clarification of what the
Creed already contained.
Thus the words "Creator of heaven and earth" were added to counteract the
Manichaean heresy that the world was created by the principle of evil; and the
word "Catholic" was added, to distinguish the True Church from churches
springing up around it. As our Lord said, "And you also bear witness, because
from the beginning you are with me" (John 15:27).
There are several other creeds used by the Church, in substance
identical with the Apostles' Creed.
The Nicene Creed, which is said in the Mass, was mainly drawn up at
the Council of Nicea, in the year 325. The Athanasian Creed is said by
priests in the Divine Office for Sunday.
Into how many articles may the Apostles' Creed be divided? --
The Apostles Creed may be divided into twelve articles.
All the articles are absolutely necessary to faith: if even one
article is omitted or changed, faith would be destroyed. It is symbolical to
divide the Apostles' Creed into twelve articles, because the Apostles numbered
twelve; thus we are reminded that the Creed comes to us and was taught by the
Apostles of Our Lord.
The following are the articles:
I believe in God, the Father
Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only
Son, Our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary;
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell; the third
day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, sitteth
at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to
judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The Holy Catholic Church; the
communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sins;
The resurrection of the body;
And life everlasting. Amen.
The twelve articles of the Apostles' Creed contain the mystery of the
Blessed Trinity, one God in three distinct Divine Persons, -- Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, -- with the particular operations attributed to each Person. The
Creed contains three distinct parts. The first part treats of God the Father
and creation. The second part treats of God the Son and our redemption. And
the third part treats of God the Holy Ghost and our sanctification.
What act of religion do we make when we say the Apostles' Creed?
-- When we say the Apostles' Creed we make an act of faith.
Christian faith is a supernatural gift of God which enables us to
believe firmly whatever God has revealed, on the testimony of His word. By
it we believe in the truth of many things which we cannot grasp with our
For example, we believe in God, although we cannot see Him. We believe in
the Trinity, although it is beyond our understanding. "Without faith it is
impossible to please God" (He. 11:6).
Faith does not require us to believe in anything contrary to reason.
When we believe what we cannot perceive or understand, we act according to
reason, which tells us that God cannot err, lie, or deceive us. We therefore
put our trust in God's word.
In many natural things we often believe what we do not see, as sound
waves and atoms, on the testimony of scientists who have studied them. Thus we
act within reason; but how much more reasonable it is to believe on the
word of God!
A great reward in heaven awaits those who suffer persecution or die
for the faith or some Christian virtue. The number of martyrs who have died
for the Catholic faith is estimated at more than sixteen millions.
All the Apostles suffered persecution, and all except St. John suffered
death by martyrdom, for their faith. St. John the Baptist was beheaded because
he censured Herod for violating the law of marriage. St. John Nepomucene was
put to death because he refused to violate the seal of confession. "Therefore,
everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge him before my
Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:32)
Neglect of the study of the truths of our religion is frequently
the cause of lukewarmness, a bad life, and final apostasy and impenitence. We
should be zealous in studying the Christian doctrine, in the catechism and
religion lessons, in sermons, missions, and retreats.
If we have any doubts, we should consult our priests; God will not forgive
ignorance if we voluntarily neglect the means He has granted to dissipate it.
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God the Supreme Being
|God created the world in six days. On the first day He made light and
darkness, day and night. On the second day He made the sky and divided the
waters. On the third day of Creation, God caused dry land to appear out of
the waters, and bade plants to spring forth from the land. On the fourth day
God made the sun, the moon, and the stars. On the fifth day He made creeping
things, birds and fishes. On the sixth day God made beasts, and finally,
man. Then on the seventh day God stopped working: He rested. "The heavens
show forth the glory of God." (Ps. 18:2).
Who is God? -- God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect,
Who made all things and keeps them in existence.
God made everything -- men, beasts, plants, planets, stars,
everything. Not only that; God keeps everything in existence. Were He
to take away His hand from what He created, everything would disappear into
nothingness quicker than thought. Without a cause, there could be no effects.
Without God, could there be anything at all?
"In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). "In him were
created all things" (Col. 1:16). "It is he who gives to all men life and
breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).
The traditions of all nations and races support the idea of the existence
of God. All nations and peoples have an inner conviction of God's
existence; their intellect supports their instinctive trust.
Even among the wildest, most remote, and most degraded pagans there is
invariably found the worship of some deity recognized as supreme, on
whom man depends. There are savage peoples without ruler, laws, or even
settlements, but never without some god that they worship with prayer and
What do we mean when we say that God is the Supreme Being? --
When we say that God is the Supreme Being, we mean that He is above all
creatures, the self-existing and infinitely perfect Spirit.
"I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no god" (Is.
44:6). "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,' says the
Lord God. 'who is and who was and who is coming'" (Apoc. 1:8)
What is a spirit? -- A spirit is a being that has understanding
and free will, but no body, and will never die.
God is a pure spirit. As God has no body, when we speak of His eyes
and His hands we only speak in a figurative manner, in order to make ourselves
more understandable according to our human way of speaking.
Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman at the well: "God is spirit; and they
who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Yet God has
often taken on visible forms, in order to be seen by men. Thus he showed
Himself in the form of a dove at the baptism of Jesus, and in the form of
tongues of fire on Pentecost. God is neither a dove nor tongues of fire; He
merely assumed those forms in order to be seen by mortal eyes.
Angels and devils are pure spirits. Men are only partly spiritual, because
they have a body. Man's soul is a spirit, absolutely independent of matter,
and by creatures indestructible.
As spirits, God and men have this in common, though in different degrees:
all have understanding, intellect, and free will. By his free will man can
even defy his Creator, God.
What do we mean when we say that God is self-existing? -- When
we say that God is self-existing we mean that He does not owe His existence to
any other being.
God made us, but who made God? God said to Moses, "I am who am" (Exod.
3:14). He exists of Himself, deriving His Being from no other. God is the
All other beings and things owe their existence to God. In comparison to
Him, we are nothing.
Man can never have a complete knowledge of God. Man is finite and
cannot fully understand the infinite. A cup can contain the immensity of the
ocean more easily than man can fully understand the Infinite God.
We know God only partly, from the order, harmony, and existence of things,
from our conscience, and from God's revelations to man.
What do we mean when we say that God is infinitely perfect? --
When we say that God is infinitely perfect, we mean that He has all perfections
God is immense and eternal, "an ocean without shore or bottom," the
unchangeable Being that only Himself can fully understand: "Of his greatness
there is no end" (Ps. 144:3)
God is so great and wonderful that He needs nothing to make Him greater or
more wonderful. He possesses all perfections, countless, innumerable,
God cannot be better, holier, or more perfect than He already is. He is at
the acme of perfection, the uncreated, the Infinite. "Heaven and the heaven of
heavens cannot contain thee" (3 Kings 8:27).
So perfect is God that He is infinitely incomprehensible, incapable
of being completely understood. Reason can verify the revelation that
God made of Himself. But when we make our reason or our emotions the final
authority, we make ourselves our own god, and shut the road to the
supernatural, the Infinite.
God alone can bridge the chasm that yawns between the finite and the
infinite. When we take advantage of His grace to seek Him in loving trust, He
holds out His hand, a Father calling to children, to cross the chasm safely to
The Creator is above all the created, though something of Him, some
likeness of His Being, may be found in every creature. But even were all
creatures, from the most glorious seraphim to the lowliest of moss, to combine
their powers and perfections, theirs would be a faint shadow of God's
What are some of the perfections of God? -- Some of the
perfections of God are: God is eternal, all-good, all-knowing, all-present, and
God's perfections do not exist separately in Him, but are one and identical
with Himself. They are only various manifestations of His one nature and
perfection. In God, for example, His goodness is one with His wisdom and power.
His perfections, besides being one and the same in Him, are also identical with
Him: that is, God Himself is infinity, wisdom, goodness, power.
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The Perfections of God
God is eternal: He has no beginning and no end. Before there ever was
anything, there was God. He always was, is, and ever will be. With God there
is no time: everything is present. We cannot imagine eternity, but we can
understand what it is to be without beginning or end.
4. The Perfections of God
What do we mean when we say that God is eternal? -- When we say
that God is eternal, we mean that He always was and always will be, and always
remains the same.
God had no beginning; there never was a time when there was no God. God
can never cease to exist; He will have no end. He will always be living,
There is no time with God: with Him there is neither past nor future;
everything is present. "One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a
thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8). "Before the mountains were made, or
the earth and the world was formed, from eternity and to eternity thou art
God" (Ps. 89:2). "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (Apoc.
God will always remain the same. He is the "Father of lights, with
whom there is no change" (Jas. 1:17).
God cannot change. The God that is God now is the same God that has ever
been, the same God that will ever be, from and throughout all eternity, the
"Father of Lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration"
What do we mean when we say that God is all-good? -- When we
say that God is all-good, we mean that He is infinitely lovable in Himself, and
that from His fatherly love every good comes to us.
God is Himself love. Love is part of His nature. Compared to God's
infinite goodness, the goodness of man is nothing, only the shadow of a
Men, creatures of God, are good because God made them to His image and
likeness. "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is sweet" (Ps. 33:9).
Out of His goodness, God created angels and men, although He had no
need of them. God loves His creatures far more than a mother loves the
children she has borne.
God gives us the beautiful world to live in. He takes care of our body and
soul. He showers benefits and graces on us day after day. He prepares for us a
place in heaven. Above all, He sent His Son down to earth to die for us.
What do we mean when we say that God is all-knowing? -- When we
say that God is all-knowing, we mean that He knows all things, past, present,
and future, even our most secret thoughts, words, and actions.
God is all-knowing. Before His eyes all secrets, even the most
hidden, are clear, even secrets that will not be thought of by man until the
end of the world.
God knows us for what we are: we cannot hide anything from Almighty God.
"All things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we have to give
account" (Heb. 4:13).
God, all-knowing, will one day make everything known to everybody,
disclosing our entire lives for all to read and know.
If we think of this power of God to see and know all things, and His
promise to make everything manifest on the last day, we can more easily resist
temptations to sin. "For there is nothing hidden that will not be made
manifest; nor anything concealed that will not be known" (Luke 8:17).
What do we mean when we say that God is all-present? -- When we
say that God is all-present, we mean that He is everywhere.
God is all-present, because there is nothing that can have existence
apart from Him. All creation exists in Him as thought exists in the mind.
There is no place where God is not.
"'Do I not fill heaven and earth?' saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:24). "In Him we
live and move and have our being'' (Acts 17:28). However, we must not make the
mistake of thinking that God, in Whom everything exists, is limited by this
everything. He has no limits, and exists outside as well as in all creation.
God is all-present, present everywhere, at the same time. He is not like
man, that cannot be in two places at the same time. God is wholly everywhere
at the same time.
The presence of God should be an incentive for us to do everything to
please Him. As we are careful never to do anything wrong in the presence of
our mother, how much more careful should we be in the presence of God! "Shall
a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him?" (Jer. 23:24).
Although God is everywhere, we do not see Him, because He is a spirit, and
cannot be seen with our eyes.
Similarly, we cannot see our own soul or that of another. "God is spirit,
and they who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
What do we mean when we say that God is almighty? -- When we
say that God is almighty, we mean that He can do all things.
God can do anything, by a mere act of His will. Nothing is
impossible to God.
"Things that are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
The only thing God cannot do is to make a contradiction:-- He cannot
will wrong, because wrong is a contradiction of His goodness.
God's omnipotence or power is known to us especially by the
magnificence of creation, and by His miracles.
Yet God created all the immensity of the heavens with nothing except His
word. "Be light made. And light was made" (Gen. 1:3). In the same way Our Lord
worked many of His miracles. "Great is the Lord ... of his greatness there is
no end" (Ps. 144).
Is God all-wise, all-holy, all-merciful, and all-just? -- Yes,
God is all-wise, all-holy, all-merciful, and all-just.
God is all-wise. The more we learn of the wonders of the universe,
the more we are amazed by the infinite wisdom of God, by His almighty power.
His knowledge is infinite. He knows how to direct all things to the highest
ends, and by the most fitting means.
God is infinitely holy in Himself. He loves good and hates evil.
Therefore He is also all-just. He will punish the wicked and reward the
good. "Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev. 19:2).
Partial justice is done in this life, for often the good are happy,
and the wicked are tormented by their conscience. But complete justice
will not be accomplished till the next life.
God is infinitely merciful.
He gives sinners time for repentance. He receives us back with joy when we
repent. But merciful as He is, we must not presume on His mercy, for "God will
not be mocked." "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long suffering and
plenteous in mercy" (Ps. 102:8). "He is long-suffering, not wishing that any
should perish, but that all should turn to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
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|Many people make themselves miserable worrying over the future. They
should have more trust in Divine Providence. Let them do the best they can,
and leave the rest to God, Who cares for them. Our Lord said, "Look at the
birds of the air: they do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns; yet your
heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they? ...
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or, 'What shall we
drink?' or, 'What are we to put on?' for your Father knows that you need all
these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all
these things shall be given you besides" (Matt. 6:26-33).
Does God see us? -- God sees us, and watches over us with
God preserves and governs the world. If He were to take away for one
instant His sustaining power, the whole creation would at once fall back into
It is as if He held us in His hand. If He withdrew it for a moment, we
would be nothing. "When thou shalt take away their breath, they shall die, and
return again to the dust" (Ps. 103:29)
Nothing happens without the will or permission of God. Our Lord
tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our
Heavenly Father, and that the very hairs of our head are numbered.
God is to the world and men as the engine is to a train, as the pilot is to
a ship. He guides the whole universe and all creatures. He guides the nations.
"Cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7)
What is God's loving care for us called? -- God's loving care
for us is called Divine Providence, His plan for guiding creatures to their
Divine Providence is good, constant, and just. It watches
over even the humblest and most despised creature on earth.
Of the paternal tenderness of God, Holy Scripture speaks thus: "Can a woman
forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she
should forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee in my
hands; thy walls are always before my eyes" (Is. 49:15,16).
God has special care for those who are poor, despised, and forgotten by
the world. He has often shown forth His glory by means of the humble.
So poor shepherds were the first to receive news of the birth of the
Saviour. So poor fishermen were His Apostles. So a poor maiden was His Mother.
If Divine Providence is good, why do poverty, sickness, sufferings, and
other physical evils exist? -- Physical evils are often the result of
the weakness of creatures in body and mind.
Although we often do not understand God's arrangements, we must have faith
and exclaim with the Apostle: "How incomprehensible are God's judgments, and how
unsearchable his ways!" (Rom. 11:33).
Physical evil is partly a punishment for actual sin. It serves to
sanctify the good, and helps them attain eternal salvation. The
greatest sufferers have often been the greatest saints. God sends suffering to
the just man in order to prove his love.
So holy Job lost everything he had, yet loved God more. So Tobias became
blind and poor, and only proved his love for God.
God never sends anyone suffering beyond his strength. To gain merit, we
must be patient and resigned under suffering. Let us imitate Our
Lord in the Garden, whose prayer was, "Father, not my will, but thine, be
done!" Our Lord taught us to say, in the Our Father, "Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven."
He who resigns himself joyfully to the will of God, in sickness, death,
poverty, persecution, and other misfortunes, obtains true peace of heart; he
will be blessed even on this earth.
God often sends physical evil to sinners in order to bring them
back into the right way. It serves as a warning to them.
Among those who were converted through bodily sickness, we may mention St.
Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Sufferings can be a boon, and should be welcomed. By sufferings,
patiently accepted, the punishment due for sin is diminished or cancelled. The
more we suffer in this world, the less would we have to pay in the next life,
As St. Paul said, "I am filled with comfort; I overflow with joy in all our
troubles" (2 Cor. 7:4). "For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in
us." And St. Ignatius spoke from experience when he said, "When God sends us
some great trouble, it is a sign that He designs great things for us, to raise
us to great holiness."
If Divine Providence is just, why do the good often suffer misfortunes,
and the wicked enjoy prosperity and honors? -- The misfortunes and
satisfactions of the world are not real and lasting, and cannot gauge God's
No sinner has true happiness; his conscience will not give him inner
peace. Riches, honor, and pleasures can never give peace to the spirit. On the
other hand, no lover of God has true misery, for he possesses inner peace and
a good conscience. Real reward and punishment begin only after
On earth sinners are rewarded for whatever good they do. Their good fortune
lasts only for this life. The just are punished on earth for whatever sins
they may have committed. Their reward is full in the other life.
We must therefore resign ourselves lovingly to the will of God.
Thus we shall have peace of mind even in the midst of the greatest trials.
Suffering should remind us that this is not our true home, and that we are
citizens of heaven.
"The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing" (Ps. 22:1). "In thee, O
Lord, have I hoped, because thou hast saved my soul" (Ps. 30:1, 8).
Is God responsible for sin? -- God is not responsible for sin;
sin is the result of man's wrong use of his free will.
God does not will or cause sin; He forbids it and will punish the
sinner. He permits sin for His own reasons, to sanctify the good, by trying
them and giving them opportunities for more faithful obedience.
God created man free to choose good or evil. He wishes us to choose good,
in order that we may merit heaven. But since we are free, we can, if we so
wish, choose evil. God is not responsible for our sins.
Even the evil that God permits to happen, He turns to our good. He
draws good out of evil.
The wicked persecutions of the Church make the Gospel better known and
loved among the just. Thus the patriarch Joseph said to his brothers, "You
thought evil against me, but God turned it into good" (Gen. 50:30). "For those
who love God, all things work together unto good" (Rom. 8:28).
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Adam and Eve, our first parents, knew God in the Garden of
paradise. God spoke to the patriarchs and prophets, and gave them messages
for the rest of men. God gave the Commandments to Moses. Our Lord Jesus
Christ, God Himself, came and taught about God.
From Adam and Eve down to the present, all men have acknowledged the
existence of God. Even pagans and primitive peoples recognize a Supreme
Being, a god. They have sacrifices, and they worship some deity whom they
recognize as superior and supernatural, on whom man depends.
How do we know by our reason
that God exists? -- We know by our reason that God exists, because of:
The existence of the world.
The order and harmony of the
The testimony of our conscience.
How does the existence of the
world prove the existence of God? -- The existence of the world proves
the existence of God, because it could not have come into existence by itself.
Everything in the world had a
beginning. Men, animals, plants, the earth, planets and stars, -- all had a
beginning. They could not have come into existence by themselves. They must
have been made by Someone Who had no beginning. Planets and men could
no more have made themselves than a watch can make itself.
The astronomer Kircher had a
friend who denied the existence of God. During a visit one day, this friend
saw a globe in the study of the astronomer. -- "This is an interesting
globe," said he; "Who made it?" -- "Why," replied Kircher, "it just made
itself!" The friend had a hearty laugh at the idea. Kircher asserted, "It
would be much easier for a little globe like that to make itself than for
the immense globe of the earth to create itself."
When we see footprints on the
sand, we conclude that someone has passed that way. The universe is filled
with the footprints of a Supreme Creator. Every single existing thing
or being gives clear testimony of Him. A light cannot kindle itself; after
it is kindled, it will go out in a few hours. But the light of the sun in
the heavens has burned for thousands of years and continues to burn.
How do the order and harmony
of the universe prove the existence of God? -- They lead us to infer
the existence of a Supreme Architect and Preserver of surpassing skill.
The heavenly bodies go along
their appointed courses age after age. The seasons succeed one another year
by year. There is splendor, beauty, arrangement, and order everywhere. The
whole universe is governed and preserved by immutable law.
If you plant an orange seed, you
are certain an apple will not spring from it. Every morning you are sure the
sun, when it rises, will appear in the east. At night you can go peacefully
to sleep, assured that after your rest the day will come again.
To say that this universal
order is the result of accident, or that the planets direct their own
courses, is as foolish as to say that an automobile goes sensibly around the
city streets running itself.
"The heavens show forth the glory
of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands" (Ps. 18:2). God
is the Intelligent Cause.
Long ago the pagan Cicero said:
"When we contemplate the heavens, we arrive at the conviction that they are
all guided by a Being of surpassing skill."
And Cicero also says, "There is
no nation to be found so savage as to be ignorant of the existence of God."
The great astronomer Newton often uncovered and bowed when God's name was
How does the testimony of our
conscience prove the existence of God? -- By our conscience we can
distinguish right from wrong.
Our conscience approves the right
and condemns the wrong. Thus within ourselves there is a recognition
of a Supreme Lawgiver to whom we are responsible, Who will reward the good
we do, and punish the evil.
"Only the fool says in his heart:
There is no God" (Ps. 13:1).
Those who persist in denying the
existence of God in spite of external and internal testimony are atheists
who are eaten up by pride, or live vicious lives, or both. Of them Our Lord
"Seeing they do not see and
hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand ... For the heart of
this people has been hardened, and with their ears they have been hard of
hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest at any time they see with
their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their mind, and be
converted, and I heal them" (Matt. 13:13-15).
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Divine Revelation comes down to us by two means: through Holy
Scripture, written down under divine inspiration, and through Tradition,
handed down orally from Apostolic times. We read the Bible with great
respect, for it is the Word of God.
We treat Tradition with as great reverence, for God speaks through
Tradition as well. It is wrong to believe the Bible alone without
Tradition. That is like believing the Word of God written in the morning
and denying it spoken in the afternoon.
Can we know God in any other
way than by our natural reason? -- Besides knowing God by our natural
reason, we can also know Him from supernatural revelation.
God has often revealed Himself to
men through means beyond the ordinary course of nature. This is
supernatural, or Divine Revelation, as opposed to the natural
revelation of Himself that God makes in the external world, and the
revelation He makes through our natural reason and conscience.
Some revealed truths are beyond
the power of the human understanding; we could never, by our own abilities,
have known such truths if God had not revealed them. For instance, could we
by ourselves have known about the Blessed Trinity, had God not revealed it?
The public revelation of truths
to men by God began with Adam and Eve and ended at the death of Saint
John the Apostle.
Private revelations have been
made to holy persons, such as those of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St.
Margaret Mary, and those of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette. But these
private revelations are never proposed to the faithful as articles of faith.
When the Church approves them, it merely states that there is nothing in
them contrary to faith or morals.
How may Divine Revelation be
classified? -- Divine Revelation may be classified into pre-Christian
and Christian revelation.
may be divided into:
primitive revelation, made to
Adam and Eve;
patriarchal revelation, made to
the patriarchs; and
Mosaic revelation, made to
Moses and the prophets.
God spoke to Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Paradise. He spoke to Abraham, to Noe, sending Noe to preach to
sinful men before the Flood. He sent Moses to the Israelites when Pharaoh
oppressed them. The patriarchs and prophets were called messengers of God,
and often received from Him extraordinary powers, of miracles and prophecy,
in order that they might be believed.
contains the truths revealed to us by Jesus Christ, either directly or
through His Apostles.
Our Lord commanded His
Apostles to teach all these truths to the end of time. "Go, therefore,
and make disciples of all nations."
Why should we believe in
Divine Revelation? -- We should believe in Divine Revelation because
God, Who is its Author, cannot deceive nor be deceived.
No reasonable man can believe in
any truth until he is sure it is revealed by God. We know that God is
the Author of Revelation because He has proved it by external acts,
especially by miracles and prophecies.
The writers who made Divine
Revelation known worked under direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Who is,
therefore its Author.
Miracles are extraordinary works
perceptible to the senses, that cannot be accomplished by the mere powers of
nature. They are brought about by the action of a higher power.
The coming to life of a dead man
is a miracle. So is the instantaneous cure of a man blind or paralytic from
birth. Our Lord and the Apostles worked many miracles.
Some extraordinary works never
before heard of or known but invented are not miracles. They are mere
discoveries of previously unknown processes or combinations.
An example is the radio. And so
were the first telegraph, telephone, wireless, phonograph, etc. All of these
are very wonderful. Even today people in general do not understand them
fully. But they are not miracles, because they are produced by the forces of
nature as harnessed through the ingenuity of man.
Prophecies are predictions
of future events that could not have been known by natural means. For the
confirmation of the faith, or for the benefit of men, God raised up
prophets. Generally speaking, the gift of prophecy is a sure sign that the
possessor is a messenger of God.
The prophets told about the
coming of the Messias. Their prophecies were fulfilled when Christ came on
earth. The major prophets were Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel. They
are distinguished from the twelve minor prophets, because of the greater
volume of their prophecies. Forecasting the weather correctly is not
prophecy. It is the result of a scientific knowledge of natural facts.
How has Divine Revelation
come down to us? -- Divine Revelation has come down to us through Holy
Scripture, written down under divine inspiration, and through Tradition,
handed down orally from Apostolic times.
From Adam and Eve, at different
times, God inspired men to write down His revelations. These passed
from generation to generation as sacred books.
For pre-Christian revelation,
there were forty-five of these sacred books, composing the Old
Testament. They were jealously guarded by the Israelites, the Chosen
People, whom God Himself had chosen to keep His truths intact for the
instruction of future generations.
Finally our Lord Jesus
Christ, Son of God, came to earth to reveal Divine truths to men.
After His death, His Apostles and disciples wrote about Him and His
There are twenty-seven of these
books, composing the New Testament. With the forty-five books
of the Old Testament they were scattered in different parts of the world,
until the Church gathered them together into one Book, Holy Scripture,
or the Bible.
The deposit of faith which Jesus
Christ entrusted to the Church is made up of two parts: Holy Scripture, and
Divine Tradition, this latter being composed of the truths
passed down by word of mouth, and not written down till after the death of
Christ's Apostles and disciples, principally by the Fathers of the Church.
Divine Revelation was completed
at the death of the last of the Apostles. Since that time no new
revelation has been made for the instruction of the whole of mankind.
Whenever the Church decides a point of faith, it does so according to
Scripture or Tradition. It simply finds out what has been revealed from
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Holy Scripture, or The Bible
|The Bible is the best Book in the world. It is the Word of God.
It is better than any other book that has ever been written or ever will
be written. Catholics are not only permitted, but urged, to read the
Bible. They must read a version approved by the Catholic Church.
Catholic Bibles have the necessary explanations for the guidance of the
faithful. To find a text in the Bible, as Matt. 16:26, turn to the
Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 16, verse 26. All texts are found in the
What is Holy Scripture, or
the Bible? -- It is the Word of God written by men under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and contained in the books of the Old and
the New Testaments.
The seventy-two sacred books,
together forming the Bible, were composed by forty writers in three
different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The period of composition
covers at least 1,300 years, from Moses, to St. John the Evangelist.
"God, who at sundry times and
in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last
of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1).
The writers were inspired by
God. By a supernatural influence God enlightened their mind and moved
their will to write all that He wished, and only that. They acted as free
instruments of God, Who directed them and preserved them from error.
The writers of Holy Scripture
were, however, not passive instruments. Each writer brought his
personality with him into what he wrote. The writers were like skilled
painters who paint from the same model. The products are similar and all
correct, but with differences according to talents.
Is God the Author of the
Bible? -- Yes, God is the Author of the Bible.
An author is not the
stenographer that writes down what he is told, but the one who tells
what is to be written. Since God is the Author, the Bible cannot
contain any error.
"All Scripture is inspired by
God" (2 Tim. 3:16) . Copyists and printers, however, can and do make
mistakes in copying the Bible.
Since the Bible is the Word of
God, it must be treated with the greatest reverence.
This is why we take solemn
oaths on the Bible, stand up when the Gospel is read, and have incense and
lights used when the Gospel is sung at solemn High Mass.
Can the books of the Bible
be proved to be reliable historical records? -- Yes.
Science throughout the
years has been proving itself the handmaid, instead of the enemy, of the
Bible. Recent excavations and researches have proved that such distant
events as the Fall of Jericho, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, and
the Deluge, really and actually happened, and are no mere figures of
Sir Charles Marston, the
eminent British archaeologist who has worked extensively in Palestine,
firmly declares that far from being mere mythology, the Old Testament is,
substantially, contemporary eyewitness accounts of events set down as they
took place. Remains he has found include information on events that took
place in the times of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Jeremias the Prophet;
even the name of Abraham has been found. Tablets found in Babylonia and
Assyria refer to the Deluge.
The Old Testament was
recognized by Jesus Christ, approved by Him, and often quoted by
Him. Evidences from the New Testament prove that this was written by
Christ's Apostles and disciples.
The style of the Gospels shows
clearly that they were written by Jews. That the writers lived in the
first century is shown by the vividness of their knowledge about
Jerusalem, which was destroyed before the end of that century. The
earliest Christian writers testify to the reliability of the Gospels; the
consent of the churches of the time proves such reliability.
The Gospels have not been
changed by the passage of centuries. This can be proved from the
oldest copies, from ancient translations and quotations. The Gospels could
not have been altered, because the fervor of the early Christians
carefully guarded them.
When in the fourth century St.
Jerome was ordered by Pope Damasus to gather all existing texts of the
Bible and translate them into Latin, there were some 35,000 ancient
copies. After thirty-four years of labor, he finished the translation, our
Catholic Bible, called the Latin Vulgate, from which the Catholic English
version has been made.
How is the Bible divided?
-- The Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New
The Old Testament,
written before Christ, consists of forty-five books:
books relating to the earliest ages of the world, or to the history of
the Jews, among which books are the five books of Moses and the four
books of Kings;
Seven doctrinal books,
made up of maxims and prayers, among which are the Psalms and the
books, of four greater and twelve lesser prophets, among which books are
Isaias, Jeremias, and Daniel.
The New Testament,
written after the Ascension of Christ, consists of twenty-seven books, as
The four Gospels according to
Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, containing the story of the life of
The Acts of the Apostles, by
St. Luke, containing the history of the Apostles after the Ascension of
Our Lord into heaven;
Twenty-one epistles by Sts.
Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude; and
The Apocalypse by St. John.
The four Gospels and the Acts
are mainly historical. The Epistles are doctrinal. The Apocalypse is
Who are the four
Evangelists? -- The four Evangelists are Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke,
St. Matthew was
one of the twelve Apostles. Before he followed Our Lord, he was a
tax-gatherer or publican called Levi.
Matthew was the first
Evangelist to write the Gospel, about six years after Our Lord's
Ascension. His work, written in Hebrew for the Jews of Palestine, was
translated into Greek in the time of the Apostles. His work shows Jesus as
proving Himself to be the promised Messias.
St. Mark was the
disciple of St. Peter, and wrote according to what he heard from St. Peter
He wrote for the Christians of
Rome about ten years after Our Lord's Ascension. St. Peter approved
what he wrote, which shows Christ as the Son of God.
St. Luke was
converted by St. Paul and became his disciple.
He wrote about twenty-four
years after Our Lord's Ascension, for a distinguished citizen of Rome.
His work contains many details about the Blessed Virgin.
St. John was
Christ's Beloved Disciple. He wrote about sixty-three years after
Our Lord's Ascension.
The last of the Apostles to
die, he wrote in his old age to testify, against heretics who had arisen,
that Jesus Christ is true God.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Before the 15th century when printing was invented, the Bible was
reproduced by copying in longhand. We should be very grateful to the
monks and nuns of ancient times who labored lovingly, making manuscript
copies of old documents that had come down from earliest times. Without
this loving care, we would not have our Holy Bible today.
Are all the truths revealed
for us by God found in the Bible? -- Not all the truths revealed for
us by God are found in the Bible; some are found only in Divine Tradition.
The Bible itself states
that it does not contain all that God revealed.
"There are, however, many other
things that Jesus did; but if every one of these should be written, not
even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be
written" (John 21:25)
The truths of Divine Revelation
which have not been written down in Holy Scripture have come to us by the
Tradition of the Church.
St. Paul bade the
Thessalonians: "Hold the teachings that you have learned, whether by
word or by letter of ours" (2 Thess. 2:15).
What is meant by Divine
Tradition? -- By Divine Tradition is meant the revealed truths
taught by Christ and His Apostles, which were given to the Church only by
word of mouth and not through the Bible, though they were put in writing
principally by the Fathers of the Church.
In a wide sense
Tradition embraces the whole teaching of the Church, including the
Bible, since it is only from the Church that we have the Bible. In a
stricter sense Tradition includes only what was handed down orally
from the Apostles.
The Apostles themselves say
that there is much that they have delivered to the faithful by word of
mouth (2 John 12; 1 Cor. 11:2). Among many examples of truths in
Tradition, not clearly manifested in Holy scriptures, are: the exact
number of sacraments, the time of institution of some sacraments, the
books that make up the Bible, the Baptism of infants, and Sunday
All the truths of Divine
Tradition now have found their way into books. From the first Christian
centuries the practices and doctrines of Tradition were preserved by
saintly teachers whom we call Fathers of the Church. They
were disciples of the Apostles, contemporaries of those disciples, or
disciples of the disciples. These holy and learned men instructed the
Church in the years of its first growth.
Chief among the Fathers of the
first six centuries (date is of death), are: the Doctors of the
Church (see below), and Saints Clement of Rome (99), Ignatius of
Antioch (107), Polycarp (155), Justin (165), Irenaeus (202), Cyprian
(258), Dionysius (265), Gregory Thaumaturgus (270), Optatus (372), Martin
of Tours (397), Gregory of Nyssa (398), Epiphanius (403), Celestine I
(432), Vincent of Lerins (450), and Caesarius of Arles (542).
Besides the writings of the
Fathers, the truths of Divine Tradition may be found chiefly in: (a)
writings of the Doctors of the Church; (b) decrees of Popes
and Church councils; and (c) the liturgy of the Church as found in the
Missal and rituals.
We call "Doctors of the Church"
those ecclesiastical writers, noted for learning and holiness of life, who
have by Church authority been proclaimed with that title, and whose feasts
have been extended to the whole Western Church. Among the Fathers of
the Church, these are honored as Doctors: Saints Hilary (368),
Athanasius (373), Ephraem (378), Basil the Great (379), Cyril of Jerusalem
(386), Gregory Nazianzen (389), Ambrose (397), John Chrysostom (407),
Jerome (420), Augustine (430), Cyril of Alexandria (444), Peter
Chrysologus (450), Leo the Great (461), and Gregory the Great (604).
Among the outstanding Doctors
of the Church of the Middle Ages are: Saints Peter Damian (1072), Anselm
of Canterbury (1109), Bernard (1153), Thomas Aquinas (1274), Bonaventure
(1274), Albert the Great (1280). Of later Doctors we have: Saints Peter
Canisius (1597), John of the Cross (1605), Francis de Sales (1612), Robert
Bellarmine (1621), and Alphonsus Liguori (1787).
Why must Divine Tradition
be believed as firmly as the Bible? -- Divine Tradition must be
believed as firmly as the Bible because it also contains the word of God.
Several years passed before
the Gospels were written down. In the meantime, Christians had to depend
on Tradition solely: Tradition is older than the New Testament.
When the books composing the
New Testament were written, the various writers had some definite and
immediate purpose in mind. For example, St. Paul wrote his Epistles to the
various churches of Gentiles that he had converted, to remind them of his
teachings in his absence. St. Luke wrote his Gospel for the citizen of
Rome, Theophilus, to instruct him in the new religion. St. John's Gospel
was to combat heresies denying the divinity of Christ.
If the Church teaches any
doctrine that cannot be found in Holy Scripture, it will be found
in Tradition, and therefore traceable to the Apostles.
Those who follow up the course
of a river gradually draw near the source, and discover whence the waters
flow. In the same way we can trace the historical sources of the teachings
of the Church and arrive at their source: the Apostles themselves.
Divine Tradition teaches us all
the doctrines that were taught by the Apostles. It comes to us from the
Apostles. Every single doctrine the Church teaches comes direct from
the Apostles. The Church does not issue new doctrines.
The four Evangelists wrote
their relations of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in widely
separated places; it is a proof of authenticity that the Gospels agree in
their essentials, and often even repeat the very same words. When the
writers of the New Testament did begin to write, they did not intend to
set down all the details of Catholic faith and practice, but only such
points as were immediately interesting or that needed clarification.
Without Tradition, would we
know what the Bible is? -- No.
Tradition teaches us what
books belong to the Bible. By tradition the Church kept intact all the
books of the Bible for fifteen hundred years before the existence of
denominations that nevertheless assert the Church does not care for the
reject Tradition. Consequently, they cannot agree about which books to
include in the Bible. One denomination eliminates one part, other
denominations omit other parts, according to the respective private
Having rejected Tradition,
Protestants cannot be certain that the books they have accepted are
genuine. On whose authority have they accepted what they have? Protestant
Bibles, the most popular of which is called the "King James version,"
omit all or parts of the Books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom,
Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Machabees (I and II), and parts of Esther and
Luther rejected the Epistle
of St. James, because the Apostle said that faith without works is
dead. Luther and followers omitted the Apocalypse, the Epistle to the
Hebrews, and the Epistle of St. Jude.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Church and Divine Revelation
|Before printing was invented about 1450, books could be
reproduced only by making manuscript copies on parchment or sheepskin. A
complete Bible cost a fortune, because of the time and expense necessary
for copying. Copyists made mistakes, or abbreviations which others
misunderstood. The illustration shows manuscripts in Hebrew, Greek, and
Latin, the languages oftenest used in early Bible copies. They give an
idea of the difficulties before the invention of printing.
Did Christ intend the
Gospel to be proclaimed by the circulation of the Bible? -- No; it
was mainly by preaching that He intended to convert the nations.
Our Lord said: "Go, make
disciples of all nations." "Preach the Gospel to every creature."
"He that heareth you heareth me." Christ did not say: "Go and make
all nations read the Bible."
The Apostles never
circulated a single volume of the Bible, but "they went forth and
preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them" (Mark 16:20).
The New Testament was not written till Christianity was already
Christ bade His Apostles teach
all men "to observe all commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). He commanded them to
preach, not necessarily to write.
God did not intend Holy
Scripture to be our rule of faith independently of a Living Voice. Even
under the Old Law, the Jews, in spite of their great veneration for
Holy Scripture, never dreamed of a private appeal to the Word of God.
When a religious dispute arose,
it was decided by the high-priest and the Council. Their decision was to
be obeyed under penalty of death. Thus the Jews did not appeal to the dead
letter of the law, but to the living voice of the tribunal that God had
When Christ came on earth,
He did not change this order of things. On the contrary He commanded
the Jews to obey their constituted teachers, however disedifying their
private lives might be.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds
and to his disciples, saying, "The Scribes and the Pharisees have sat on
the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, that they command you, observe
and do" (Matt. 23:2-3).
Until the Protestant outbreak
in the sixteenth century (1517), no attempt had ever been made to
have any people governed by the dead letter of the law in either
civil or religious affairs.
No one certainly pretends to
live in society according to his own private interpretation of the civil
laws. When cases come up, they are always decided by a competent tribunal.
Why cannot the Bible be the
sole guide to salvation? -- It cannot, because:
It is not within the reach
of every one. If it were the only guide, it should be within the reach of
every inquirer, for God wishes all men to be saved.
If the Bible were the only
guide to eternal salvation the primitive Christians would have been at a
disadvantage, for the books that make up the Bible were gathered together
only after the Church was established. Even when the parts were put
together, for centuries there were very few manuscript copies. Copies
remained few till the invention of printing in the fifteenth century.
If the Bible were the only
guide to salvation it would be of little help to those unable to read, as
well as to the great mass of mankind today, who have neither the knowledge
nor the capacity to penetrate the meaning of the written word.
The Bible is difficult to
understand, frequently full of obscurities and difficulties, even for
St. Peter himself said of the
Epistles of St. Paul, that they have "certain things difficult to
understand, which the unlearned and unstable distort, just as they do the
rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction" (2 Pet. 3:16). The
Fathers of the Church, who spent their whole lives in the study of the
Bible, all pronounce it full of difficulties, needing careful
The Bible does not contain
all the truths necessary for eternal salvation.
For example, every Christian is
obliged to sanctify Sunday. But nowhere in the whole Bible, from Genesis
to the Apocalypse, is there one word authorizing the sanctification
On whose authority do we
accept the Bible as the Word of God? -- We accept the Bible as the
Word of God on the authority of the Catholic Church.
By God's command, the Catholic
Church proclaimed the truths of Divine Revelation, as contained in both
Holy Scripture and Tradition.
Before His Ascension, Our Lord
said to the Apostles: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to
me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you ... and behold, I am with
you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20).
It was the Catholic
Church that in the fourth century declared which books were
inspired by God and which were not. For fifteen hundred years the
Catholic Church was the sole guardian of the Bible.
The Bible was not always as it
is now, a compact book, bound neatly. For several centuries the Bible was
in separated fragments, scattered over Christendom. At the same time other
books under the name of Scripture were circulated among the faithful.
It is the Church that assures
us that the translation from the original languages is faithful.
The Bible needs an interpreter because it is frequently very difficult to
understand. The Catholic Church alone was empowered by God
to interpret the Bible. No one is allowed to interpret it contrary to the
teaching of the Church.
The Protestant denominations
who favor private interpretation have divided and subdivided for
the same reason. No two of them interpret the Bible in the same manner. If
we are really to interpret the Bible privately, we must know the original
languages in which the books were written. How many can have that
Did God intend Holy
Scripture to be our rule of faith? -- No, God intended our rule of
faith to be the Living Voice of the teaching Church.
The Apostles and their successors
have always taught mankind, especially by preaching. Thus the Church
fulfills the command of Jesus Christ, and will fulfill it to the end of
the world, as He promised. If Our Lord wanted the Bible to be our rule
of faith, why did He not write a book, instead of founding a Church?
We can know the true meaning of
the doctrines contained in Divine Revelation from the Catholic Church, which
has been authorized by Jesus Christ to explain His doctrines, and which is
preserved from error in its teachings by the special assistance of the Holy
"But even if we or an angel from
heaven should preach a gospel to you other than that which we have preached
to you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8).
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God in Three Persons
|A good concrete illustration of the Blessed trinity is an
equilateral triangle. Such a triangle has three sides equal in every
way, and yet distinct from each other. There are three sides, but only
one triangle. As we see in this illustration, each Divine Person is
different from the other two, but all three are God. Each one is God,
distinct from the two others, and yet one with them. The three Persons
are equal in every way, with one nature and one substance: three Divine
Persons, but only one God.
Is there only one God?
-- Yes, there is only one God.
"I am the first, and I am the
last, and besides me there is no God" (Is. 44:6). There can be only one God,
because only one can be supreme, all-powerful, and independent of all.
How many Persons are there in
God?-- In God there are three Divine Persons -- the Father, the Son, and the
In speaking of the "Persons"
in God, we do not use the term in exactly the same way we use it when
speaking of people. We use it only for lack of a word to show our meaning
In speaking of a man as a
"person," we mean that he is an intelligent being, acting individually for
himself. The acts he performs belong to him and he is responsible for them
-- he himself, not his tongue, nor his mind, nor his whole body even, but
the whole of himself.
We speak of three "Persons" in
God because to each belongs something we cannot attribute to any other:
His distinct origin.
From all eternity the Father
begets the Son, and the Son proceeds from the Father. From all eternity
the Father and Son breathe forth the Holy Ghost, and He proceeds from
Them, as from one Source.
Are the three Divine
Persons really distinct from one another? -- The three Divine
Persons are really distinct from one another.
"So there is one Father, not
three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy
Ghosts. And in this Trinity nothing is afore or after, nothing is greater or
less; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal. So
that in all things, as in aforesaid, the unity in Trinity, and the Trinity
in unity is to be worshipped.'' (From the Athanasian Creed.)
This is the simplest way by
which the distinct origin of each Divine Person has been explained:
God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand.
God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of
Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of
ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one
with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father "begets" the
Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.
"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God; and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
God the Father, seeing His own
Image in the Son, loves the Son; and God the Son loves the Father
from all eternity. Each loves the other, because each sees in the other
the Infinity of the Godhead, the beauty of Divinity, the Supreme Truth of
God. The two Persons loving each other do not just have a thought, as
human beings would have, but from Their mutual love is breathed forth, as
it were, a Living Person, one with Them, and of Their own substance.
This is God The Holy Ghost. Thus the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love,
"proceeds" from the Father and the Son.
"But when the Advocate has
come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who
proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me" (John 15:26)
But we are not to suppose
that once God the Father begot the Son and now no longer does so, nor that
once the love of the Father and the Son for each other breathed forth the
Holy Ghost, but now no longer does. These truths are eternal, everlasting.
God the Father eternally knows
Himself, and continues to know Himself, and thus continues to bring forth
the Son. God the Father and God the Son continue to love each other, and
their delight in each other continues to bring forth the Spirit of Love,
God the Holy Ghost. In a similar way, fire has light and color. As long as
there is fire, it continues to produce light. As long as there is fire
with light, there is produced color. But all three exist at one and the
In this imperfect way we
vaguely see that God must necessarily be three Divine Persons,
because only in that way can God with His Divine Knowledge and Will be
complete in Himself.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to
us of the Blessed Trinity when before the Ascension He said to 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"
What do we mean by the
Blessed Trinity? -- By the Blessed Trinity we mean one and the same
God in three divine Persons.
The Father is God and the First
Person of the Blessed Trinity. Omnipotence, and especially the work of
creation, is attributed to God the Father.
God the Father could have
created millions of beings instead of you yourself; but He chose you out
of a love wholly undeserved, saying, "I have loved thee with an
everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). Let us then cry in thanksgiving, "Abba,
Father!" (Rom. 8:15). Let us show our gratitude by avoiding all that could
displease God the Father, by trying to please Him with virtue, by trying
for greater perfection, in obedience to that injunction of Our Lord's:
"You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect"
The Son is God and the Second
Person of the Blessed Trinity. To God the Son we owe our redemption
from sin and eternal death; by His death He gave us life.
For us God the Son debased
Himself, taking the form of a servant, ... "becoming obedient to death,
even to death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8). In Holy Communion we are united
with Him, for He Himself said; "He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood,
abides in me and I in him" (John 6:57). In return we should be "other
Christs," and, as the Apostle urged, "walk even as He walked."
The Holy Ghost is God and the
Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He manifests Himself in us
particularly in our sanctification. The word "Ghost" applied to the
Third Person means "Spirit."
At our Baptism God the Holy
Ghost purifies us from all sin and fills our souls with divine grace, so
that we become truly children of God, sons and heirs, and co-heirs with
Jesus Christ. By Baptism we become living temples of the Holy Ghost: "Or
do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who
is in you?" (1 Cor. 6:19).
In return for such benefits we
should make our body the instrument for the glory of God, keeping it from
all stain of sin, adorning it with virtues. "Glorify God and bear him in
your body" (1 Cor. 6:20). Let us keep our souls a sanctuary for the Holy
Spirit, that God may be happy to dwell in us.
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Unity of the Blessed Trinity
|"And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in
Trinity, and Trinity in unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor
dividing the Substance. ... But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son,
and of The Holy Ghost is one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
... The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son
is of the Father alone: not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy
Ghost is of the Father and the Son: not made, nor created, nor begotten,
but proceeding. ... And in this Trinity nothing is afore or after,
nothing is greater or less, but the whole three Persons are co-eternal
together, and co-equal" (From the Athanasian Creed).
Are the three divine
Persons perfectly equal to one another? -- The three divine Persons
are perfectly equal to one another, because all are one and the same God.
"Such as the Father is, such is
the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreated, the Son
Uncreated, and the Holy Ghost Uncreated. The Father Infinite, the Son
Infinite, and the Holy Ghost Infinite. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal,
and the Holy Ghost Eternal, and yet they are not Three Eternals but One
Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Infinite, but One
Uncreated, and One Infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son
Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties,
but One Almighty." (From the Athanasian Creed.)
All three Persons are equal in
every way, equal in power and glory. The attributes and external works
of God are common to all three Persons. However, in human speech we
attribute certain works to each Person.
Thus we attribute to the Father
the works of creation, to the Son the work of redemption, and to the Holy
Ghost the work of sanctification. In reality these works belong equally to
How are the three divine
Persons, though really distinct from one another, one and the same God?
-- The three divine Persons, though really distinct from one another, are
one and the same God because all have one and the same divine nature.
Each of the divine Persons is
"So the Father is God, the Son
is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but
one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy
Ghost is Lord. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord. For, like as
we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself
to Be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say,
there be three Gods or three Lords." (From the Athanasian Creed.)
There are three Persons, but
only one Being. The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Ghost.
The Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is
neither the Father nor the Son.
It was the Son Who became man
and died for us, not the Father or the Holy Ghost. But when we receive God
the Son in Holy Communion, we also spiritually receive God the Father and
God the Holy Ghost. The Blessed Trinity then dwells in us as in a Temple.
Can we fully understand how
the three divine Persons, though really distinct from one another, are one
and the same God? -- We cannot fully understand how the three divine
Persons, though really distinct from one another, are one and the same God,
because this is a supernatural mystery.
A supernatural mystery
is a truth which we cannot fully understand, but which we firmly believe
because we have God's word for it. A supernatural mystery is above reason,
but not contrary to it. No man can explain a mystery; neither can anyone
know it unless it is revealed by God. "Great art thou, O Lord, in counsel,
and incomprehensible in thought" (Jer. 32:19).
It is not unreasonable to
believe in a supernatural mystery. There are many natural mysteries around
us that no one has yet been able to explain, yet we believe them:
electricity, magnetism, force, and many of the processes of life.
The doctrine of the Blessed
Trinity is a strict mystery; that is, we cannot learn it from
reason, nor understand it completely, even after it has been revealed to
The doctrine contains two
truths our reason cannot fully understand: (1) that there is only one God;
and (2) that each of the three Persons is God. We can understand each of
these truths separately, but not when taken together.
The mystery of the Blessed
Trinity is not a contradiction. We do not say that there are three
gods in one God, nor that the three divine Persons are one Person.
We only say that there are
three Persons in one God, that is, three Persons, and one nature or
essence. Somewhat similarly, the soul of man has will, understanding, and
memory, but it is only one soul. Also, the sun has form, light, and heat,
but it is only one sun. Three flames put together make only one flame.
Why do we believe in the
mystery of the Blessed Trinity? --We believe in the mystery of the
Blessed Trinity because God Himself revealed it to us.
"Thy word is Truth" (John 17:17).
The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is the greatest of all mysteries. We
believe it because God has revealed it to us, but we cannot fully understand
it. It would be foolish to refuse to believe just because we cannot
understand; that would be like a blind man who refuses to believe there is a
sun, because he cannot see it. Is God limited because we are?
The Jews did not explicitly
believe in the Blessed Trinity, although there are references to the
mystery in the Old Testament.
Before making man, God said:
"Let Us make man to Our own image" (Gen. 1:26). David says: "The Lord said
to my Lord, Sit on my right hand."
Our Lord Jesus Christ
revealed the mystery. He said:
"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" (Matt. 28:19). "But when the Advocate has
come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who
proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me" (John
The Blessed Trinity
manifested Itself at the baptism of Jesus Christ.
God the Father spoke from the
heavens; God the Son was baptized; God the Holy Ghost descended in visible
form, in the form of a dove.
When do we profess our
faith in the Blessed Trinity? -- We profess our faith in the Blessed
Trinity especially when we make the sign of the cross.
We also honor the Blessed
Trinity every time we say the doxology or "prayer of praise":
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was
in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end."
The Feast of the Blessed
Trinity, called Trinity Sunday, is kept on the first Sunday after
All the sacraments are
administered in the name of the Blessed Trinity.
On our death-bed the Church
through the priest will comfort us with the words: "Even though he hath
sinned, he hath not denied the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
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|God is almighty. He can make anything from nothing, by a mere act
of His divine will. It was thus that He created the heavens and earth
and everything that is in them. Man can make many wonderful things, but
he must make them out of something. He must use the things God created.
Before he can make a stone house, he must have stone, cement, brick,
etc. But God needs nothing to make anything. Only God could create the
very first thing or matter in the universe.
What do we mean when we say
that God is the Creator of heaven and earth? -- When we say that God
is the Creator of heaven and earth, we mean that He made all things from
nothing by His almighty power.
"All things were made through
him, and without him was made nothing" (John 1:3) "For in him were created
all things" (Col. 1:16).
In the beginning God alone
lived. Then out of nothing, by His almighty power, He created
heaven and earth, and all things in heaven and on earth. Only God can
create; that is, He alone can make something out of nothing. Time
began with this creation. Before it there was only eternity.
"Before the mountains were
made, or the earth and the world was formed, from eternity Thou art God"
God created heaven and earth,
and everything in heaven and earth. By this is meant everything
which is not God. "Heaven" refers to the angels and their abode; and
"earth" to all the material universe, including the earth, stars, planets,
and all things and beings in them.
God created everything by an
act of his will. "He spoke and they were made; he commanded and they
were created" (Ps. 32:9).
In its first book, Genesis,
Holy Scripture tells the story of Creation. In the beginning all was void
and empty and dark; that is, there was nothing but chaos, which God
Himself had created. Then out of this chaos God brought about
order and law, creating heaven and earth.
"In the beginning God created
heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon
the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters" (Gen.
In how many days did God
create the world? -- God created the world in six days, resting on
the seventh day.
These "days" of creation were
not necessarily days of twenty-four hours like those we have today, since
our sun had not yet appeared. Catholic theologians commonly interpret them
as long periods of time. Thus the “seventh day” is still going on.
For Holy Scripture says that on that day God rested; that is, He ceased to
create new kinds of things.
The Hebrew word for “day” may
stand for a day, a week, a month, a century, or any indefinite period of
time. Fundamentalism is an enemy of Science; it takes the “days” of
Creation as of 24-hour periods, like the periods we call “days” in our
Very probably the sacred writer
divides creation into six days in order to consecrate each day of
the week by connecting it with one or more of the Creator's works; and to
impress on the Jews the divine command to sanctify the seventh day.
In the creation, God worked
from the lower to the higher: He first made plants, and then He created
the animals that would use them for food. Man was the crown of His earthly
creations; all other works in the material universe, were for man’s
enjoyment and use.
On the first day, God
said: "Be light made," and light was made. Then He divided light from
darkness, and called the light Day and the darkness Night. On the
second day, God made the sky or firmament and divided the waters.
The "heaven" thus made is the
material heaven in which the stars, the moon, and the sun pursue their
On the third day, God
made dry land to appear, bade it bring forth plants.
In its account Holy Scripture
concerns itself chiefly with our earth. Originally a fiery ball of
gaseous matter, it gradually lost its heat, and land began to appear,
apart from the sea. The moisture and warmth encouraged the development
of organic life, the beginning of which had been implanted by God in the
original primary matter.
On the fourth day, God
made the sun, moon, and stars. On the fifth day He made creeping
things, birds, and fishes. On the sixth day, He made beasts and
cattle. Finally, "God created man to His own image."
Man is different from the
animals in his possession of reason and free will. Surpassing them all
in dignity, he is the crown of God's creations, the one for whom the
world had been made ready.
On the seventh day,
God "rested ... from all His work which He had done."
On the seventh day God ceased
to make new kinds of things. This "seventh day" continues to the
present; everything that is "made" now is a development or a combination
of already existing matter. It is true that "nothing is new under the
sun." However, God continues to work in this sense: that He preserves
and governs created things, and that He creates souls for those to be
Is there no contradiction
between the account in the book of Genesis, and the latest discoveries of
science, concerning the origin of matter? -- No, there is not the
least contradiction between the account in the book of Genesis, and the
latest discoveries of science, concerning the origin of matter.
An apparent contradiction arises
through the mistake of uninformed persons, who forget that the Church reads
the Bible bearing in mind the principal object of the sacred writers.
In writing the account of the
creation, the sacred writer, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, wished
to impress upon the Jews (for whom he was writing) that there is but one
God, and that He created the entire universe, living and lifeless.
At that time the Jews were
surrounded by idolatrous peoples who believed in the existence of many
gods, and worshipped all kinds of creatures, even the sun, moon, plants,
animals, and images.
In pursuing his aim, the sacred
writer used the form that was most effective, under the
circumstances, to convey his meaning. It is a popular form: that
is, it relates historical events in popular expression and order.
The words used, while in
themselves not scientifically exact, are in conformity with ordinary
speech, and understandable by ordinary people. In the same way today
we say, "The sun rises in the east", even when we know through the
investigations of science that the sun does not "rise" at all. Events are
set down in an order not necessarily scientific, but suited to the
understanding of a primitive people, and therefore of all mankind. We must
remember that the sacred writer was not aiming to teach physics or
anthropology, but Faith.
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Do Revelation and Science
contradict each other? -- No; Revelation and Science do not, and
cannot, contradict each other, for both are of God.
There may at times be an
apparent conflict between faith and science; but this is only
apparent, and never real. God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot lead us
True Science is the handmaid of
Religion. Science and the scientific method are means of arriving at the
truth, and Religion is Truth. The greatest scientists have been
Christians; a majority of outstanding leaders in science were Catholics,
and many were priests. Only the shallow dabblers in science absurdly
pretend that there is a conflict. The apparent conflicts arise from
false interpretations, as when one takes for scientific truth what is
false or not proved, or accepts as a doctrine of faith something not
taught by the Church.
There can never be a real
conflict between Revelation and Science, because they deal with entirely
different spheres. Revelation is concerned with Faith and spiritual
things; physical Science is concerned only with material things.
The Bible's purpose is to teach
salvation; but people make the mistake of considering it a treatise on
Science. St. Thomas and St. Augustine taught that when the Bible describes
some phenomenon of nature, it sets it down in terms of its appearances.
No scientific experiment or
theory can dispense with the necessity of a Creator. Unless His
existence is accepted, we can never explain: (a) the origin of matter,
even the most elementary; (b) the origin of motion; (c) the origin of the
very first living organism, and of the spiritual soul of man; and (d) the
origin of the order and law so apparent in the universe.
What are the only
difficulties found by some scientists in the Biblical account of the
creation? -- The only difficulties found by some scientists in the
Biblical account of the Creation are connected with the order or sequence of
events followed in the Book of Genesis.
If we study the proper
interpretation, even these difficulties will be found not to exist.
The account in the Book of
Genesis is in logical, not chronological, order. The writer groups
together similar works of creation, for the easier understanding of a
The Church has not made any
positive definition of the way in which the Biblical account of Creation
is to be interpreted.
Catholics are free to accept
the interpretation that they prefer, so long as they also accept the fact
taught: that God created the whole universe and everything in it.
Neither Revelation nor Science
gives a definite answer to the question concerning the age of the world.
Geologists assert that long periods of time were necessary for the
formation of the various strata of the earth's surface. Astronomers assert
that some stars are a million light-years from the earth.
A Catholic is free to hold on
this point whatever he believes is a sound and scientific conclusion. The
estimates of scientists vary.
|As a practical demonstration that there is no contradiction
between Divine Revelation and Science, we here list some of the
thousands of scientists who through the ages have been practising
members of the Catholic Church and at the same time outstanding in
Science. These men not only found no conflict between science and
religion, but became more firm in their faith as they delved deeper into
science. As Marconi, one of the greatest scientists of our time,
declared: "Science alone is unable to explain many things, and most of
all, the greatest of mysteries -- the mystery of our existence. I
believe, not only as a Catholic, but also as scientist." We do not
include here the names of Catholics preeminent in navigation,
architecture, art, music or literature, limiting ourselves to natural
and physical science.
Some Catholic Scientists
|Algue, a priest, invented the barocyclonometer,
to detect approach of cyclones.
||Ampere was founder of the science of
electrodynamics, and investigator of the laws of electro-magnetism.
|Becquerel, Antoine Cesar, was the founder of
||Becquerel, Antoine Henri, was the discoverer of
|Binet, mathematician and astronomer, set forth
the principle, "Binet's Theorem."
||Braille invented the Braille system for the
|Buffon wrote the first work on natural history.
||Carrell, Nobel prize winner in medicine and
physiology, is renowned for his work in surgical technique.
|Caesalpinus, a Papal physician, was the first to
construct a system of botany.
||Cassiodorus, a priest, invented the watch.
|Columbo discovered the pulmonary circulation of
||Copernicus, a priest, expounded the Copernican
|Coulomb established the fundamental laws of
||De Chauliac, a Papal physician, was the father of
modern surgery and hospitals.
|De Vico, a priest, discovered six comets.
||Descartes founded analytical geometry.
|Dumas invented a method of ascertaining vapor
||Endlicher, botanist and historian, established a
new system of classifying plants.
|Eustachius, for whom the Eustachian tube was
named, was one of the founders of modern anatomy.
||Fabricius discovered the valvular system of the
|Fallopius, for whom the Fallopian tube was named,
was an eminent physiologist.
||Fizeau was the first to determine experimentally
the velocity of light.
|Foucault invented the first practical electric
arc lamp; he refuted the corpuscular theory of light; he invented the
||Fraunhofer was initiator of spectrum analysis; he
established laws of diffraction.
|Fresnel contributed more to the science of optics
than any other man.
||Galilei, a great astronomer, is the father of
|Galvani, one of the pioneers of electricity, was
also an anatomist and physiologist.
||Gioja, father of scientific navigation, invented
the mariner's compass.
|Gramme invented the Gramme dynamo.
||Guttenberg invented printing.
|Herzog discovered a cure for infantile paralysis.
||Holland invented the first practical sub marine.
|Kircher, a priest, made the first definite
statement of the germ theory of disease.
||Laennec invented the stethoscope.
|Lancist, a Papal physician, was the father of
||Latreille was pioneer in entomology.
|Lavoisier is called Father of Modern Chemistry.
||Leverrier discovered the planet Neptune.
|Lully is said to have been the first to employ
||Malpighi, a Papal physician, was a botanist, and
the father of comparative physiology.
|Marconi's place in radio is unsurpassed.
||Mariotte discovered Mariotte's law of gases.
|Mendel, a monk, first established the laws of
heredity, which gave the final blow to the theory of natural selection.
||Morgagni, founder of modern pathology; made
important studies in aneurisms.
|Muller was the greatest biologist of the 19th
century, founder of modern physiology.
||Pashcal demonstrated practically that a column of
air has weight.
|Pasteur, called the "Father of Bacteriology," and
inventor of bio-therapeutics, was the leading scientist of the 19th
||Picard, a priest, was the first to measure
accurately a degree of the meridian.
|Regiomontanus, a Bishop and Papal astronomer; was
the father of modern astronomy.
||Scheiner, a priest, invented the pantograph, and
made a telescope that permitted the first systematic investigation of
|Secchi invented the meteorograph.
||Steensen, a Bishop, was the father of geology.
|Theodoric, a Bishop, discovered anesthesia in the
||Torricelli invented the barometer.
|Vesalius was the founder of modern anatomical
||Volta invented the first; complete galvanic
battery; the "volt" is named after him.
|Other scientists: Agricola, Albertus Magnus, Bacon,
Bartholomeus, Bayma, Beccaria, Behalm, Bernard, Biondo, Biot, Bolzano,
Borrus, Boscovitch, Bosio, Bourgeois, Branly, Caldani, Cambou, Camel,
Cardan, Carnoy, Cassini, Cauchy, Cavaliere, Caxton, Champollion,
Chevreul, Clavius, De Rossi, Divisch, Dulong, Dwight, Eckhel, Epee,
Fabre, Fabri, Faye, Ferrari, Gassendi, Gay-Lussac, Gordon, Grimaldi,
Hauy, Heis, Helmont, Hengler, Heude, Hilgard, Jussieu, Kelly, Lamarck,
Laplace, Linacre, Malus, Mersenne, Monge, Muller, Murphy, Murray,
Nelston, Nieuwland, Nobili, Nollet, Ortelius, Ozaman, Pelouze, Piazzi,
Pitra, Plumier, Pouget, Provancher, Regnault, Riccioli, Sahagun,
Santorini, Schwann, Schwarz, Secchi, Semmelweis, Spallanzani, Takamine,
Tieffentaller, Toscanelli, Tulasne, Valentine, Vernier, Vieta, Da Vinci,
Waldseemuller, Wincklemann, Windle, and a host of others, too many to
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|Whoever we are, wherever we are, each of us has always a guardian
angel at our side. He sees everything we do: both good and evil. We should
always be very careful not to offend or hurt him. We should often thank him
for his love and care. We should ask him to intercede with God for us in our
necessities. We should pray to him often, especially in temptation or
Which are the chief creatures
of God? -- The chief creatures of God are angels and men.
God created angels and men for His
own external glory. Their creation was a reflection of His wisdom and
By reason alone we cannot know that
angels exist. However, reason indicates that in the orderly sequence of
creatures from the lowest to the highest, there would be a greater gap between
man and God, did not the angels exist.
God created angels and men for
their good and happiness. They find their happiness in their union with
God. God did not create angels or men for His own happiness; He is perfectly
happy in Himself alone.
What are Angels? --
Angels are created spirits, without bodies, having understanding and free will.
Angels are spiritual beings superior
to man and inferior to God; this is of faith. We do not know the number of
angels, but we can infer from Holy Scripture that their number is very great.
Before the creation of man, God
created hosts of angels. They are pure spirits, without bodies, in
contrast to men, who have both body and spirit.
When angels or devils appear to
men, they assume human form or some other visible shape. Thus the angels that
appeared to the Blessed Virgin and to Zachary assumed human form. The devil
that tempted Eve appeared as a serpent.
Even demons are pure
spirits. They were angels before they became devils.
The word "angel" means messenger,
and angels have often been sent by God to make known His will to men. Even the
devils do service to God, since God always turns the attacks of the devil to
show forth more brightly His own glory.
What gifts did God bestow on
the Angels when He created them? -- When God created the angels He
bestowed on them great wisdom, power, and holiness.
Angels are the most excellent
beings created by God. They are nobler in nature than men. They know more, and
have greater power. Of all God's creatures, angels resemble Him most.
We can imply the knowledge of the
angels from the words of Our Lords: "But of that day (the day of Judgment) and
hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father only" (Matt.
24:36). The power of angels was shown in Egypt when one destroyed all the
first-born of the Egyptians; another angel destroyed the hosts of the Assyrian
King, for blaspheming God.
The angels were not created equal.
They rank according to the amount of gifts given, and the work assigned to
In the Bible nine choirs of angels
are mentioned: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues powers,
principalities, archangels, and angels.
Did all the angels remain
faithful to God? -- Not all the angels remained faithful to God; some of
God gave free will to the
angels, as He did to men. He put them to a test, in order to make them earn
the happiness of heaven.
We do not know the exact nature of
the test which God gave the angels.
In this trial, many angels, using
their free will, refused to submit themselves to God; for this serious
sin they were punished.
"For God did not spare the angels
when they sinned, but dragged them down by infernal ropes" (2 Pet. 2:4).
Wherever the devils were later permitted to go, they had in a way their hell
with them, for they were forever deprived of the love of God.
What happened to the angels who
remained faithful to God? --The angels who remained faithful to God
entered into the eternal happiness of heaven, and these are called good angels.
"See that you do not despise one of
these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven always behold the face
of my Father" (Matt. 18:10).
The good angels behold the face of
God continually, praise and glorify Him, and are perfectly happy in His
Angels are commonly represented
with wings to show the speed with which they pass from place to place. They
are also shown as small children to show their innocence and perpetual youth.
They have harps to indicate their perpetual praise of God, and lilies, to
symbolize their perfect purity.
When we say that the angels were in
heaven before their test, we do not mean that they saw God. They
were very happy where God had placed them, but they did not see God until they
had been proved.
How do the good angel help us?
-- The good angels help us by praying for us, by acting as messengers from God
to us, and by serving as our guardian angels.
Our Lord Himself said of little
children: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones for I tell you,
their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven" (Matt.
The good angels are God's
messengers, and often reveal God's will to man.
The angel Raphael accompanied
Tobias on his journey. The angel Gabriel was sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary
at the Annunciation. Angels appeared to the shepherds at the Nativity. An
angel was sent to St. Joseph after the departure of the Magi, and after the
death of Herod. Angels appeared to the women at Christ's sepulchre, and to
Certain angels have special
charge of nations, communities, churches, etc.
Our Lord Himself several times
spoke of angels; especially the guardian angels.
How do our guardian angels help
us? -- Our guardian angels help us by praying for us, by protecting us
from harm, and by inspiring us to do good.
Our guardian angels are given
special care of us, watching over each from birth to death.
We should always love and pray to
our Guardian Angel who never leaves our side. The Church celebrates the feast
of the Guardian Angels on October 2.
Our guardian angels put good
thoughts into our minds, moving our will to what is good. They protect us in
dangers of soul and body. They offer our prayers and good works to God. They
pray for us. They help us in our work and needs.
"He hath given his angels charge
over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Ps. 90:11). For instance, angels
kept Daniel safe in the lions' den, and the three young men in the fiery
furnace. We often here of little children meeting with accidents and escaping
unhurt. But the chief work of our guardian angels is to keep us safe from the
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|It was the archangel Michael who led the good angels: "And there was
a great battle in heaven; Michael and his angels battled with the dragon,
and the dragon fought and his angels. And they did not prevail, neither was
their place found any more in heaven" (Ap. 12:7,8).
What happened to the angels who
did not remain faithful to God? -- The angels who did not remain
faithful to God were cast into hell, and these are called bad angels, or devils.
"Depart from me, accursed ones, into
the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt.
We also call them demons or
fallen angels. Led by the most excellent of the angels created by God,
Lucifer or Satan, the bad angels refused to obey God when He tested
them. God did not give them a chance to repent, but cast them at once into
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O
Lucifer. ... Thou saidst in thy heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, ... I will
be like the Most High,'" (Is. 14:12-14). Jesus said, "I was watching Satan
fall as lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18).
God did not create devils, but
glorious angels. The rebel angels turned themselves into devils by
By one grave sin against God these
angels of light became vile demons, and were condemned to hell for all
eternity. We should draw a lesson from this and determine never to sin.
What is the chief way in which
the bad angels try to harm us? -- The chief way in which the bad angels
try to harm us is by tempting us to sin.
The bad angels tempt man and
try to draw him away from God. Often the devil appears as an angel of light,
and we are tempted by evil which appears good. Under this guise the devil is
"Be sober, be watchful! For your
adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour"
(1 Pet 5:8-9).
Without God's permission, the devil
can do us no harm. God sometimes permits the devil to tempt just men, to
cleanse them from imperfections.
Our Lord Himself was tempted by the
devil. God permitted Job to be harmed bodily by the devil. Saint Anthony,
Saint Teresa, and many other saints suffered from the temptations of the evil
one. But these temptations only drive the just to greater love of God. “The
life of man is a warfare” (Job. 7:1).
Sometimes devils are permitted to
enter the body of a man, exercising power over his faculties; this is
called diabolic "possession". At other times devils torment one from without;
and this state is called diabolic "obsession".
When God permits diabolic obsession
or possession, it is to show in some way His glory, or to punish sin, convert
sinners, or provide some means for the practice of virtue.
In cases of diabolic possession or
obsession, the aid of the Church should be sought; for the Church received
from Christ the power of exorcism. This is the act of driving out or
warding off evil spirits. It is only with the permission of his bishop that a
priest is permitted to exorcise evil spirits.
The Church forbids Catholics to
have anything to do with spiritism. This is calling up the
spirits of the dead.
Some manifestations are
spirit-rapping, table-lifting, slate-writing, apparitions, communications
through mediums in a state of trance. Most of the spiritist seances are
fraudulent, but sometimes the devil manifests himself. God can permit the
souls of the dead to return to earth. But there is no indication that He
permits Himself to obey mediums. The devil may sometimes impersonate the
spirits of the dead. Satan is old and skillful in deceit, and can assume the
appearance of an angel of light.
Do all temptations come from
the bad angels? -- Some temptations come from the bad angels; but other
temptations come from ourselves and from the persons and things about us.
This is what we mean when we say
that temptations come to us from the flesh, the world, and the
The evil inclinations of our weak
and corrupted nature tempt us to sin. The world, with its sinful wants and
vanities, tempts us to sin. The devil goes about continually tempting us,
making use of both our nature and the world for his evil purposes.
In itself, temptation is not a
sin. It becomes sinful only when: (a) we bring it upon ourselves by
carelessness or overconfidence; (b) we play with, take pleasure in, or yield
The greatest saints have often been
most strongly tempted. Our Lord even permitted Himself to be tempted. Thus we
see that temptation is not a sin, because we are not responsible for it.
God permits us to be tempted in
order to try us, to let us win an eternal reward.
God subjected the angels to a test.
Those who passed it are now enjoying Him in heaven, their reward. "Because
thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove
thee" (Tob. 12:13).
God permitted the devil to tempt
our first parents. Temptations serve to keep us humble. God permits all
mankind to have temptations but never temptation beyond their strength to
resist. "God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your
strength" (1 Cor. 10:13).
The stronger the temptation, the
greater the graces God gives for its conquest.
The conquest by the saints of
wicked temptations have made them greater saints. Christ Himself was tempted
by the devil, to gluttony, to avarice, and to pride. He wanted to show us that
by resisting we may rise to greater love of God. Good men who art worried
because so many temptations assail them should remember that ants quickly
gather over a jar of honey; the devil strives to catch the good, because he is
already sure of the wicked.
Can we always resist
temptations? -- We can always resist temptations, because no temptation
can force us into Sin, and God will always help us if we ask Him.
The length of time during
which a temptation persists does not make it sinful, if we continue resisting
it. A temptation may attack us all our lives, but as long as we fight it, or pay
no attention to it, as long as we do not yield, we commit no sin. We have not
been conquered, and God will reward us for the good fight.
No temptation can do us harm
if we obey God's laws and keep away from sin. If we resist, temptation will
flee from us.
Our lot for all eternity depends
entirely on ourselves. God votes for heaven; the devil votes for hell. The
deciding vote is ours. Shall we vote for heaven or for hell? "Resist the
devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
When assailed by temptation, one
must at once resist. It is easier to conquer temptation at the
beginning than later on, just as a fire is easier to put out at the outset.
Since nothing can be done without
divine grace, one must pray. One must imitate the Apostles who had recourse to
Jesus when a storm arose. Let him say at once, "Lord, make haste to help me!"
Some remedies against
Watchfulness and prayer.
"Watch and pray, that you may not
enter into temptation" (Matt. 26:41). Avoid idleness, keeping always
occupied, either by work, or by wholesome recreation. If evil thoughts enter
the mind, think of other things, in this way ignoring the temptation.
Frequent confession and Holy
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
and the Guardian Angels.
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An Image of God
|The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the first man and the
first woman in these words: "And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the
earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life; and man became a
living soul. Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was
fast asleep, he took one of his ribs. ... And the Lord God built the rib
which he took from Adam into a woman" (Gen. 2:7, 21, 22). Such was the
creation of Adam and Eve, our first parents. God gave them power over all
created things: the earth, the beasts, birds, fishes, plants, and all things
What is man? -- Man is
a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.
Before the creation of man, God said,
"Let us make man to our image and likeness; and let him have dominion over the
fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole
earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:26).
God formed the body of man from the
slime of the earth; but He breathed the soul into man's body. In this
way the soul came direct from God, and indicates closer likeness to Him.
We should always reverence our
likeness to God, trying to perfect it by making our soul as holy as possible.
Once the enemies of a king tried to make his son do something wrong. But the
youth proudly and resolutely answered, "No! I am the son of the king!" By
Baptism man becomes the adopted son of God, Who is infinitely higher than any
earthly king. His soul is like his Father in Heaven.
The soul of man is different from
the soul of brute animals. Animals have senses and instinct, but
neither reason nor free will. Free will is that power of the soul to
choose whether to act or not to act.
If a horse has not eaten for a day,
and you put some hay before him, he will eat, because his instinct moves him
to do so. But a hungry man may fast for days, and still refuse to eat however
hungry he may be, if he wills not to eat. The difference between man’s
free will and animal instinct is that a man can say "No" to himself.
The soul and the body are not
loosely connected parts of man; they are united in a substantial union.
The soul is not located in any particular member of the body, but is whole and
entire in each part
Is this likeness to God in the
body or in the soul? -- This likeness to God is chiefly in the soul. Man
continues in this likeness to God only when he remains in God's grace, for then
he is a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4).
Like God, man's soul is an
immortal spirit, with understanding and free will. Some deny the existence
of the soul, because it cannot be seen; yet the same people would not deny the
existence of human reason, even if this cannot be seen, either.
Some claim that man has two souls,
one good and one evil, striving for mastery. But the struggle that we often
experience comes from only one soul with different tendencies arising from the
fact of our being made of both body and soul, partly material and partly
spiritual. In a living person, the soul should not be considered apart from
the body; their union is as close as the relation between a musician and his
instrument at the hour of a concert.
Through his two faculties of the
soul, understanding and free will, man obtains dominion over the
material world, as God possesses power over the entire universe.
As God said before creating man:
"Let him have dominion over the beasts and the whole earth" (Gen. 1:26).
Through his likeness to God, man has the power to know the true, the good, the
beautiful, so far even as to know the Source of all truth, goodness, and
beauty, God Himself.
How can we prove that the soul
of man is immortal? -- We can prove that the soul of man is immortal,
because man's acts of intelligence are spiritual; therefore, his soul must be a
spiritual being, not dependent on matter, and hence not subject to decay or
If even matter cannot totally
disappear, however small the particle, how can the soul of man, of a far higher
order, be thought to suffer extinction?
Man has mind and will. He
can reflect, reason, plan for the future, make judgments, remember. These
prove his soul spiritual. Such a soul cannot die as the body does.
Man longs for an ideal state of
perfect happiness, such happiness as is impossible to attain on earth. This
universal longing must have been placed in men's souls by God Himself; it is a
desire for the infinite happiness of a union with the Creator. If, therefore,
man's soul were not immortal, he would have no chance to realize his dream of
bliss, and God would be cruel in implanting the longing for it in his breast.
There have been many instances of
the dead appearing to the living. In the Gospel, Moses and Elias
appeared on Mount Thabor to Christ and three of His Apostles. At Christ's
death, many who were dead rose and appeared in Jerusalem.
The Blessed Virgin has through the
centuries continued to appear to men; such instances are almost innumerable.
Saints have also returned to earth to comfort or instruct the living; even
souls in purgatory have returned, to beg for prayers. We must, however, be
very careful about believing in particular instances of appearances by the
dead; the devil can and often does use this instrumentality to trick the
Belief in the immortality of
the soul and a life after death is universal among mankind, including the most
In the Bible are many instances of
the belief of the Jews in another life, where the souls of the dead would be.
For instance, one of their laws forbade holding with the dead. The Greeks and
Romans believed in Tartarus and Elysium, places for the dead. Other nations
have different cults to the dead, especially during their burial ceremonies.
Such cults would be meaningless did those who took part in them not have an
idea of another life for departed souls.
If the soul were not immortal, the
wicked who commit evil all their lives would go unpunished. The just who
suffer continually on earth would not receive any reward. This would be
injustice impossible to the perfect justice of God.
If even man, imperfect as he is,
can see innumerable examples of injustice in life, could not God? Would He not
have a way of correcting such injustice? And if so, since it cannot be
corrected in this life, there must be another, where immortal souls go to
obtain perfect justice.
Holy Scripture, the Word of God,
teaches that the soul is immortal.
"And many of those that sleep in
the dust of the earth shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto
reproach, to see it always" (Dan. 12:2). Our Lord Himself said to the good
thief, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). "And do not
be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matt. l0:28).
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32).
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Adam and Eve: Our First Parents
|Our first parents were perfectly happy in Paradise. If they had not
sinned, they would never have died or suffered from sickness and sorrow.
When the time came for their leaving the earth, they would have been taken
body and soul to Heaven. The tree of life grew in Paradise. By eating of its
fruit Adam and Eve were preserved from death, sickness, and all manner of
weakness of the body. All these gifts were lost as a punishment of the sin
our first parents committed.
Who were the first man and
woman? -- The first man and woman were Adam and Eve, the first parents
of the whole human race.
God made Adam's body out of the
slime of the earth, and breathed an immortal soul into it (Gen. 2:7). God then
cast a deep sleep upon Adam, and taking one of his ribs formed it into Eve
Adam's body was formed from the
earth. But his soul was immediately created out of nothing by the
almighty power of God. The soul of every person is created in this way. We do
not inherit our soul from our parents; it comes directly from the hand
of God at the same moment that we receive life.
Adam and Eve were our first
parents. All of mankind makes up one great family.
Sacred Scripture says that before
the creation of Adam "there was not a man to till the earth" (Gen.2:5) ; and
that Eve was the "mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20). Legends of all races
tell of an original happiness from which man fell, and of a flood that
covered the earth.
All men have common bodily
The beat of the pulse, the
temperature of the body, the physical structure, and even such faculties as
the sense of smell, of sight, of hearing,--all these vary little among
different races. Differences are results of variations in climate, food, ways
of living, and opportunity.
Emotionally and intellectually all
races are the same.
Researches have discovered a
universal sameness in ideas of right and wrong; there is a universal moral
code, even among the most primitive of tribes. For example, all men consider
wrong the murder of those who are not enemies, cruelty to children, incest,
and irreverence. If the moral code were the result of fear of reprisal, why
was not stealing considered wrong when committed against an enemy? Science
almost compels the conviction of the origin of mankind from only one pair of
ancestors; Religion declares it.
What was the chief gift
bestowed on Adam and Eve by God? -- The chief gift bestowed on Adam
and Eve by God was sanctifying grace, which made them children of God and gave
them the right to heaven.
God created Adam and Eve in the
state of innocence and holiness. This made them pleasing to God, and full of
love for Him. It made them children of God, and therefore heirs of heaven.
This state of innocence we term "sanctifying grace".
"God filled them with wisdom and
the knowledge of understanding.... He created in them the science of the
spirit, he filled their heart with wisdom. ... And their eye saw the majesty
of his glory, and their ears heard his glorious voice" (Ecclus. 17:6,11).
God's abiding grace made Adam and
Eve so happy that their happiness almost equaled that of the angels.
"Thou hast made him a little less
than the angels; thou hast crowned him with glory and honor" (Ps. 8:6).
What other gifts were
bestowed on Adam and Eve by God? -- The other gifts bestowed on Adam
and Eve by God were happiness in the Garden of Paradise, great knowledge,
control of the passions by reason, and freedom from suffering and death.
If our first parents had not sinned
these gifts would have been transmitted to all men as the possession of human
God put Adam and Eve in the
"paradise of pleasure", a garden which contained all kinds of plants,
flowers, birds, and beasts, - everything good that could be imagined.
All the birds and beasts were
perfectly obedient to Adam and Eve. In the midst of the garden grew the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil. Near it was the tree of life, which
protected Adam and Eve from disease.
God also gave Adam and Eve
infused knowledge; that is, without experience or study they knew all
that full-grown persons needed to fulfill the purpose of their creation, and
as educators of men.
For example, Adam knew the
indissolubility of marriage; his insight helped him give suitable names to
God blessed Adam and Eve with a
freedom from subjection to their lower appetites, such as impurity,
drunkenness, etc. They had no inclination to evil.
Their will was free from all
weakness, weakened by no sensual desires. On account of the absence of
rebellion of the flesh against the spirit, they felt no shame even though
they were naked in Paradise.
Lastly, God gave Adam and Eve
freedom from bodily disease and death.
Adam and Eve were created
immortal, and were made free from all subjection to sickness, which is
the prelude to death. Had Adam and Eve been faithful to God, they would
never have died, nor suffered disease.
What commandment did God give
Adam and Eve? -- God gave Adam and Eve the commandment not to eat of
the fruit of a certain tree that grew in the garden of Paradise.
God wanted Adam as head and
representative of the human race to merit heaven. And so, after
granting him His abiding grace, and blessing him with wonderful gifts, and
giving him the Garden of Paradise to live in, He commanded him not to eat of
the fruit of a certain tree.
"Of every tree of Paradise thou
shalt eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat;
for in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death" (Gen.
2:16,17). The fruit of the forbidden tree was not evil in itself, for in
Paradise God did not place anything bad. It was bad only because it was
forbidden; and if Adam and Eve partook of it they would have disobeyed God.
If Adam and Eve had been faithful
to God, they would have passed without disease and without bodily death from
their earthly Paradise to heaven, God's home, where they would see Him face
All the children of Adam, the
entire human race, would have been born as Adam had been Created, in a state
of friendship with God, and with all his gifts. If one had sinned, he would
have been punished by God, but not being the head of the entire human race,
he would not have passed on the stain to his descendants. Everybody would
then have suffered for his own sins alone.
Did Adam and Eve obey the
commandment of God? -- Adam and Eve did not obey the commandment of
God, but ate of the forbidden fruit.
The devil tempted Eve to eat of the
fruit. and she ate; then she gave some to Adam, and he also ate (Gen. 3:1-13).
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and the Bible
|Although there ore some points of similarity between the skeletons of
man and the ape, the differences are numerous and fundamental. As one
scientist remarked, evolutionists might as well claim that man descended
from any other form of life, because differences between man and the ape are
as important as between man and other forms. The ape has neither chin nor
forehead, Its foot grasps like a hand. Its teeth are not arranged in close
rows. If it were forced to stand erect, it would be looking upwards, not
forward. The average weight of its brain compared to that of its body is as
1 to 70. For man the ratio is 1 to 35. The ape cannot speak articulately.
How did the body of the first
man originate? -- According to the Bible, the body of the first man was
made by God from the slime of the earth.
"And the Lord God formed man of the
slime of the earth" (Gen. 2:7).
The natural and obvious meaning
of these words from the Book of Genesis is that the body of Adam was made
directly by God from created substance. Such is the traditional
The Church teaches that the Genesis
account is substantially historically true. But Catholics are not forbidden
certain liberty of interpretation. For example, the "day" of creation is not
necessarily - and not probably -- our 24-hour day. We may consider the work
done by God in one "day" as an immediate act, or as the result of a long
period of development through the functioning of natural forces.
Holy Scripture was not written for
the purpose of serving as a technical reference work in science. The
sacred writer's aim was to tell the story of creation, for the belief of the
people, not for scientific investigation.
What is the theory of
evolution? -- Evolution is a theory concerning the origin and
development of plants, animals, and man.
The theory holds that life began
with the simplest forms, then developed into more complex forms, until at
last the most complex form, man, was "evolved".
Some evolutionists hold that the
monkey or ape and man both developed from a common ancestor. Darwin's
first man was a highly-developed ape. "Man when he was in honor did not
understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them"
Many speak as if the theory of
evolution had been thoroughly and scientifically proved. This is not
so; at present conjectures still largely underlie the theory. Natural
science alone can never explain how the first human body was actually
Unaided, it cannot explain the
origin of inorganic matter, or the origin of life in the simplest organism.
Divine Revelation alone can give the answer to the origin of man, and of all
The evolutionists based their
theories on the discovery of the so-called "missing link," from which the
first man is supposed to have developed, a link between man and the ape.
There is no such "missing link". All skeletons discovered have been proved
to be either of genuine men or of real apes. Of the distinguished modern
scientists who deny that evolution is an established fact, we might mention:
Fabre, the outstanding naturalist of modern times; Millikan, the great
physicist; John Burroughs, the naturalist; Professors Richet (Paris), and
Henderson (Harvard); Dr. Dwight, the anatomist; Alexis Carrel, and Sir Bertram
However, even if the theory of
evolution could be scientifically proved, even if a "missing link"
should be discovered, the theory would not be opposed to Catholic
doctrine, which merely requires belief in the immediate creation of Adam's
soul, in the image of God. Any "evolution" was surely begun by an Intelligent
We therefore take literally the
Book of Genesis, which tells of the peculiar creation of man, of the formation
of the first woman from the first man, of the original happiness of our First
Parents in the state of justice, of their integrity and immortality, of the
test to which God put them, of their transgression of the divine command at
the instigation of the devil in some form, of the loss of the original
innocence, and of the promise of the Redeemer.
What is the origin of the human
soul? -- God directly creates every human soul out of nothing.
From the very beginning, God has
created every human soul out of nothing.
Thus He created the soul of Adam,
when after forming his body, He "breathed into his face the breath of life,
and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). Every human soul is created at the
same moment that one comes to life, at conception.
Man's soul is not produced from
some other soul or matter. It is spiritual and simple. It did not exist
before the person lived. It did not come to exist after he was already alive.
Man's life is due to his soul. As soon as the soul leaves the body, life
The investigations of scientists
have discovered a singular universality and sameness in ideas of right and
wrong, a moral code, in all races and peoples, however primitive. These are
universally looked upon as wrong: the wanton murder of one not an enemy,
stealing from one's own group, maltreatment of children, irreverence, incest,
adultery. If this attitude resulted from fear of reprisal, why is not murder
considered wrong when against an enemy? Why has incest always been regarded as
wrong, when primitive men surely could have no idea of the evils of
inbreeding? One must conclude that this universal conscience comes from
Man's soul is not derived
from his parents. Only his body is derived from them. There is no possible
"evolution" of the soul, for it is a spiritual substance, not subject to the
laws of physical nature, and could not possibly be developed from a lower or
material form of life.
Manifestations of the soul, like
cleverness, talent, traits of character, etc., by which children resemble
their parents, are due to the attributes of the body that they derived
from their parents, or to training in the family. If one holds a colored glass
to the light the reflection will have the color of the glass. But the glass
did not make the sun whose reflection is cast. Is even the mind a product of
evolution? The most primitive man is capable of abstract reasoning. The most
intelligent beasts cannot think in concepts.
How many centuries were there from
Adam to Christ? -- The Church has never given a decision; this question will
perhaps never be answered.
It is generally admitted that
the Bible teaches nothing definite on the matter. The line of patriarchs,
which it gives, with their ages, probably contains many gaps.
A man is said to be a son of
another, whereas he may only be a remote descendant. In the same way the Bible
speaks of Our Lord as the Son of David, although David preceded Him 1000
Some Catholic theologians state
that the age of man may be stretched to ten, or one hundred thousand years
or even longer. Neither scientists nor theologians have come to a definite
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|God punished Adam and Eye for the sin they committed. "And the Lord
God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which
he was taken" (Gen. 3:23). All the calamities in the world today, war,
disease, poverty, etc., are consequences of Adam's sin. We inherited all the
weaknesses that were part of his punishment.
What happened to Adam and Eve
on account of their sin? --On account of their sin Adam and Eve lost
sanctifying grace, the right to heaven, and their special gifts; they became
subject to death, to suffering, and to a strong inclination to evil, and were
driven from the Garden of Paradise.
Adam and Eve immediately lost God's
abiding grace and friendship, their holiness and innocence: they lost
This was the worst punishment.
Having lost sanctifying grace, they lost the right to heaven, to see God.
They lost their special gifts:
they became subject to suffering and death.
Their minds and wills were so
weakened that they became inclined to evil, subjected to temptation. "In the
sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of
which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return"
God expelled Adam and Eve from the
Garden of Paradise.
"And the Lord God sent him out of
the paradise of pleasure" (Gen. 3:23,24).
Some wonder how the eating of one
fruit could have been so grievous a crime. We must remember that God gave Adam
and Eve every blessing. He only required them, as proof of their
faithfulness, to abstain from eating the fruit of one tree.
Doubtless Paradise was filled with
trees having more delicious fruit than the forbidden tree. Pride and
disobedience and ingratitude caused them to sin. They defied God, and despised
His threats. They wanted to be as Powerful and great as God.
What has happened to us on
account of the sin of Adam? --On account of the sin of Adam, we, his
descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his
punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been obedient to God.
"Therefore as through one man sin
entered into the world and through sin death, and thus death has passed into
all men" (Rom. 5:12).
This sin in its is called
original sin. It is the state in which every descendant of Adam comes
into the world, totally deprived of grace, through inheriting the punishment,
not of Adam's personal sin, but of his sin as head of the human race. This sin
is called original because it comes down to us through our origin, from Adam.
Thus all men are born in sin,
that is, they are born without the friendship of God, and with no right to
heaven. Original sin does not come to us from Eve. but from Adam alone, since
God made him representative and head of the whole human race. Eve was punished
for her disobedience, as Adam was, but did not pass on her guilt to all
mankind. Our original sin comes from our first father.
Because of original sin, heaven was
closed to all men until the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord
instituted the sacrament of Baptism in order to restore to us the right to
heaven that Adam had lost.
A person after baptism is in the
state of grace and free from sin. If he dies immediately after baptism, even
if he had committed sins, he goes straight to heaven. His sins and their
punishment are all forgiven him.
What are the chief punishments
of Adam which we inherit through original sin? --The chief punishments
of Adam which we inherit through original sin are: death, suffering, ignorance,
and a strong inclination to sin.
By original sin we became subject
to disease and death. This was part of the punishment God laid on Adam.
"In what day soever you shall eat
of it, you shall die the death" (Gen. 2:17).
Our whole nature became inclined to
evil. Our reason is in perpetual conflict with our passions.
Even after our souls are cleansed
of original sin by baptism, the corruption of our nature and other
punishments, such as sickness, evil inclinations, etc., remain. "The
imagination and thought of man's heart are prone to evil" (Gen. 8:21). "The
flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17)
Is God unjust in punishing us
on account of the sin of Adam? --God is not unjust in punishing us on
account of the sin of Adam, because original sin does not take away from us
anything to which we have a strict right as human beings, but only the free
gifts which God in His goodness would have bestowed on us if Adam had not
All mankind must suffer for the sin
of Adam because he was the head and representative of the whole human
In much the same way. the ruler of
a country represents the whole people. He declares war or makes peace, and the
people are affected by his acts. When Alfonso XIII of Spain was dethroned, his
children lost their right to the throne through no fault of their own. So also
the children of a rich man who goes bankrupt lose all the inheritance they
hoped for, through no fault of theirs.
We should have shared in Adam's
blessings of soul and body without any merit of our own, if he had not
sinned. In the same way we share in his guilt.
If Adam had not sinned, we would
have been born in the state of holiness and grace that had been his. Each man,
however, would have been free to commit actual sin, and to be cast into hell.
However, not being the head of the human race, he would not have transmitted
his sin to all mankind.
Was any human person ever
preserved from original sin? --The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved
from original sin in view of the merits of her Divine Son, and this privilege is
called tier Immaculate Conception.
"And when the angel had come to her,
he said, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among
women'" (Luke 1:28).
From the very first moment of her
conception the Blessed Virgin was preserved from all stain of original
sin. She was conceived and born without original sin.
God, having ordained that Mary was
to be the Mother of His Son, could not permit her soul to lack for a single
instant all those graces that would make her most pleasing to Him.
Our Blessed Mother's soul was
created as pure and spotless as the soul of Eve. Where Eve committed
sin and lost her spotlessness, our Mother Mary kept herself pure and spotless
to the end of her life.
We commemorate the Immaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8.
St. John the Baptist was
cleansed from original sin while he was still in the womb of his mother. He
was born free from sin, but he was, like us, conceived in sin.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Christ permitted Himself to be tempted by the devil. After Our Lord's
forty days' fast in the desert, the devil appeared to Him and tempted Him to
gluttony, to pride, and to avarice. But Our Lord resisted the devil and sent
him away. Then angels came to minister to Him. God wishes to show us that
temptation, far from being a sin in itself, is a source of merit if we
resist firmly. Then God will send us His blessings and consolations, and we
shall be dearer to Him after our successful fight against temptation.
What is actual sin?
--Actual sin is any wilful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden
by the law of God.
There are two general classes of
sins: original and actual. Original sin is the kind of sin that we
inherit from Adam. Actual sin is the kind of sin that we ourselves
commit. In general, when we speak of "sin" we mean actual sin.
Sin is an offense against God, a
violation of His commandments. To sin is to despise God, to disobey Him, to
offend Him. One who sins takes the gifts that God has given, and uses them to
No person exists who does not sin,
however holy he may be. The only human being who was created without sin,
and never committed sin, was the Blessed Virgin; this was a
special privilege bestowed on her because she was to be the Mother of our
St. John says: "If we say that we
have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
In what way do we fall into
sin? --We fall step by step from temptation into sin.
The different steps at times follow
each other rapidly and are accomplished in the twinkling of an eye.
Sin is not committed without
temptation. First an evil thought comes into the mind. This in itself is not
sinful; it is only a temptation.
A man may be in a jewelry store
looking at some jewels. The salesman turns away to talk to someone else,
leaving a precious diamond ring on the counter. The thought enters the man's
mind that it would be easy for him to take the ring and walk away unnoticed.
This is temptation, not sin.
If we do not immediately reject the
thought, it awakens in the mind an affection or liking for it.
If the man in the above example
does not resist and reject the thought, but plays with it, and becomes pleased
with the idea, he thereby gives partial consent, and commits a slight sin.
Next the thought is followed by an
evil desire in which we take pleasure.
If, still playing with the thought,
the man wishes that he could take the diamond ring without being noticed, the
consent is complete, and he commits a sin in his heart (interiorly).
The resolution to commit the
sin when occasion presents itself follows. Then the exterior act is
Finally, tile man glances to see if
the salesman is still busy. Then lie takes the ring and walks aivay with it.
Thus the wish or desire has been translated into an exterior act. Even should
the man be prevented from stealing, he is guilty of grave sin.
Why is an exterior sin more
evil than an interior sin? --An exterior sin is more evil than an
interior sin, because it is attended by worse consequences.
An exterior sin often causes
scandal, and is more severely punished by God here on earth as well as after
Drunkenness reduces the drunkard
and his family to poverty and sickness. Impurity destroys the body, sometimes
producing insanity. Murder often leads the culprit to the electric chair.
And worse, an exterior sin
increases the malice of the will, and destroys the sense of shame. The
repetition of exterior sins forms the habit of sinning, and vice is
formed. The conscience goes to sleep, and the sinner becomes so hardened that
he no longer sees the evil and wickedness of his sin.
Thus it becomes easier and easier
for him to commit sins of a worse kind. His state becomes worse and worse
until finally he becomes a hardened sinner who believes himself
Are all evil acts sinful?
--Not all evil acts are sinful; there may be times when such acts are not
When we do not know that the
act is sinful.
Noe became intoxicated, but
committed no sin, because he was not aware of the strength of the wine. So one
might by mistake take poison instead of medicine and die, but he would not be
guilty of suicide. Such an act is termed a material sin.
When the act is done through no
fault of our own.
If one is not aware that a certain
day is a day of abstinence, and eats meat, he commits no sin. Again, one might
by pure accident and through no negligence on his part drop a loaded revolver.
Even if it explodes and kills a person, he is not guilty of murder.
When we do not consent to the evil.
A stronger man may take our hand,
and in spite of our refusal and protest force it to drop a lighted match into
a gasoline tank. Even if there is an explosion and a whole town is set on
fire, we are not guilty of arson. In the same way, as long as one does not
consent to an evil thought, it remains a temptation, and he commits no sin.
When are we guilty of sins
which we ourselves do not commit? --We are guilty of sins which we
ourselves do not commit when we cooperate with another person's sins.
We share in another's sin: (a) by
counsel; (b) by command; (c) by consent; (d) by provocation; (e) by praise or
flattery; (f) by silence; (g) by assistance; (h) by defense or concealment;
and (i) by not punishing the evil done.
Thus rulers, legislative leaders,
parents, employers, teachers, superiors, owners of shows and theatres,
editors, publishers, and others in a position of responsibility, may easily
render themselves guilty of the sins of others. One who is to blame for
another's sin is as guilty as if he had committed the sin himself.
One who tempts or provokes another
into sin is perhaps the more guilty of the two.
Our Lord says: "But whoever causes
one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to
have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths
of the sea" (Matt. 18:6).
How many kinds of actual sin
are there? --There are two kinds of actual sin: mortal sin and venial
Another classification is: (a) sins
of thought; (b) sins of desire; (c) sins of word; (d) sins of deed; (e) sins
If we take pleasure in thinking
proudly of ourselves, we sin by thought. If we cannot rest content
because we envy somebody's clothes and wish we had them, we sin by desire. If
we get angry and say angry words to someone, we sin by word. If we are so
angry that we begin striking the person, we sin by deed. If we do not do what
is our duty, such as going to Mass on Sunday, we sin by omission.
Sins are also classified into (a)
our own sins; and (b) sins in which we cooperate and for which we are
We must not be presumptous and
over-confident. We must remember that when we do not sin, it is only through
the grace of God. "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor.
10:12). A humble distrust of ourselves is a preservative against sin.
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|Mortal sin is the greatest evil in the world. It separates us from
God. Because of our mortal sins, Jesus Christ suffered agonies and died on
the cross. To strengthen our resolution not to commit sin, we should
remember also that even a single mortal sin is enough to send us to hell.
What is mortal sin?
--Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.
Any wilful thought, word, action or
omission, in serious violation of God's law, is a mortal sin. Examples
of mortal sin are blasphemy, wilful murder, adultery, arson, robbery, etc.
Mortal sin occurs as soon as God is no longer our final end in our thoughts,
words, and actions.
Each mortal sin we commit is a
three-fold insult to Almighty God: it insults Him by rebellion or
disobedience, by ingratitude, and by contempt.
Circumstances of person, cause,
time, place, means, object, and evil consequences enhance or
decrease the guilt of the sin.
Thus mortal sins, although all
mortal, differ in the weight of their guilt.
Why is this sin called mortal?
--This sin is called mortal, or deadly, because it deprives the sinner of
sanctifying grace, the supernatural life of the soul.
Without sanctifying grace, the soul
is displeasing to God, unclean, and can never behold Him or be with Him
Without sanctifying grace, the soul
is without God; and without God, the devil makes the soul his habitation.
"Know thou and see that it is an evil and bitter thing for thee to have left
the Lord thy God" (Jer. 2:19).
The sinner loses charity towards
God and his fellow-men, and by the weakening of his will and the
darkening of his intellect, is liable to fall into other mortal sins.
The devil cries to his
subordinates, "God hath forsaken him; pursue him and take him, for there is
none to deliver him" (Ps. 70:11).
Without sanctifying grace, the soul
is truly "dead"; and if an adult dies in that state, he will suffer the
torments of the damned.
The word "mortal" comes from the
Latin mors, which means death. St. John Chrysostom said,
"Sinners are dead while they live, and the just live after they are dead."
Besides depriving the sinner of
sanctifying grace, what else does mortal sin do to the soul? --Besides
depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, mortal sin makes the soul an enemy of
God, takes away the merit of all its good actions, deprives it of the right to
everlasting happiness in heaven, and makes it deserving of everlasting
punishment in hell.
Man was made for God, and
what an awful calamity it would be to become His enemy! It would be as if the
food which was made to support and sustain man should all of a sudden turn to
poison him instead.
Through mortal sin, the sinner
becomes a stranger to divine love, and to the love of neighbor; his heart
turns cold because he has put out the flame of charity by grave sin. His
reason, a gift of God, is obscured, and he fails to perceive the things of
God. Thus a sinner the more he sins, becomes more insensitive to evil; his
will is finally so weakened that all conscience is lost, and he falls into
greater and greater sins more and more easily.
"Adulterers, do you not know that
the friendship of this world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to
be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).
During all the time that the sinner
remains in mortal sin, all his good works do not help him to heaven: he earns
no merits until he gives up his state of mortal sin.
As the Apostle says, "If I give my
body to be burned and have not charity, I am nothing." One who falls into
mortal sin may be compared to a merchant coming into his home port, laden with
all kinds of treasures collected from abroad, upon which he has spent years of
labor and incalculable wealth. Just as he enters the harbor his ship is
torpedoed, and he saves nothing for all his trouble. In a similar manner, one
who dies in mortal sin gains nothing, however numerous the good works he may
in life have performed.
However numerous the merits
previously earned by the sinner, however many his good works, if he dies with
only one mortal sin on his soul he goes to hell forever.
Is this not something to be feared?
It is because mortal sin presupposes a hatred of God. Let us be
reasonable men, and consider the utter folly of selling our birthright, God
and heaven, for the mess of pottage that is sin and its effects. "Then he will
say to those on his left hand, 'Depart from me, accursed ones, into the
everlasting fire'" (Matt. 25:41).
What three things are necessary
to make a sin mortal? --To make a sin mortal, these three things are
First, the thought, desire,
word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously
wrong. - The matter must be grave, something very important.
A slight act of vanity or impatience
is not serious matter, but murder is. Things seriously evil are known to be such
from Sacred Scripture, Tradition, the teachings of the Church, or from their
Second, the sinner must be
mindful of the serious wrong. - He must have full knowledge and reflection
or attention, and know that what he does is grievous.
The person must know the malice and
evil of what he is doing. A man who steals a precious diamond ring in the belief
that it is glass has not full knowledge. A man who throws a lighted match
thoughtlessly aside may throw it into a gasoline tank and cause an explosion,
but he has not full attention. "For I formerly was a blasphemer, a persecutor
and a bitter adversary; but I obtained the mercy of God because I acted
ignorantly, in unbelief" (1 Tim. 1:13).
Third, the sinner must fully
consent to it. -He must do it of his own free will, saying deliberately,
"I will do this."
When one realizing what he is doing,
still freely does it, he gives the matter deliberate consent. Therefore infants
and idiots cannot commit mortal sin; they cannot fully realize what they do.
Is mortal sin a great evil?
--Mortal sin is a great evil, the greatest evil in the world, a greater evil
than disease, poverty, or war, because it separates us from God.
"But they that commit sin and
iniquity are enemies to their own soul" (Job. 12:10).
It is a rebellion against
and contempt of God, the blackest ingratitude towards Him.
Our heavenly Father gave us
everything we have, and in return we offend Him. We desecrate His temple. "Do
you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells
in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). By mortal sin a vile and insignificant creature
offends and insults the infinite Creator.
It is crucifying Christ
again, "since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and make him a
mockery" (Heb. 6:6).
We can never fully realize the
malice of mortal sin. We can get a small idea of it by remembering that God
sent His own beloved Son to suffer untold agonies, to save us from its
Mortal sin must be a most terrible
thing indeed to make a just and merciful God create hell for the everlasting
punishment of the rebellious angels and of sinners who die with even only
one mortal sin.
Even considering only its temporal
penalties mortal sin is great folly. Upon it follows moral disquiet; the
sinner loses the serenity and cheerfulness of the just soul. "The wicked are
like the raging sea, that cannot rest" (Is. 57:20). Sickness and want are
often consequences of sin, as well as loss of a good reputation.
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|We are prone to look upon venial sin as of no consequence, and to be
careless about guarding against it, forgetting that it is second only in
evil consequences to mortal sin. In Holy Scripture we see from many examples
how God regards venial sin; even in this life He has punished it most
severely. For only a slight doubt about God's mercy, because of the
wickedness of his people, Moses was punished: he was not permitted to lead
the Israelites into the Promised Land.
What is venial sin?
--Venial sin is a less serious offense against the law of God, which does not
deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and which can be pardoned even without
A sin can be venial in two ways:
When the evil done is not
seriously wrong. If we sin against God in matters of slight
importance, we commit venial sin.
Grumbling when told by Your
mother to open the window is not gravely wrong; it is a venial sin.
When the evil done is seriously
wrong, but the sinner sincerely believes it is only slightly wrong, or does
it on the spur of the moment, without sufficient reflection, or without
full consent of the will.
Stealing an expensive diamond
ring is seriously wrong, but if the sinner took it in the belief that it was
only a cheap imitation, the sin had not full consent, and is venial. If one
eats meat on a day of abstinence, thinking it only a slight sin to do so; or
if one in a sudden outburst of anger insults a companion seriously, he
commits a venial sin for lack of sufficient reflection and consent.
Examples of venial sin are
impatience, slight faultfinding, lies that harm nobody.
The word "venial" comes from the
Latin venialis, meaning easily pardonable. Even the most just of
mortals falls into venial sin again and again. God permits this to keep us
humble. The most imperfect of mortals attains a very high degree of perfection
as soon as he can avoid all deliberate venial sin: as soon as he does
not commit any sin deliberately, with full advertence and consent.
If a person is in the state of
grace, venial sins are forgiven in many ways without necessity of
Provided one has sorrow and a
sincere resolution not to commit the sins again, they are forgiven not only by
Confession, but also by Holy Communion, by acts of contrition, prayer, good
A distinction exists between venial
sins and imperfections. Imperfections are faults that arise from
ignorance or weakness, not from a bad will.
For instance involuntary
distractions in prayer, "white lies" told while telling a story or in
exagerations or jokes, bad manners that hurt no one much, are imperfections.
We should, however, try to avoid all imperfections, for they are not
praiseworthy, are often a cause of irritation to others, and make us
accustomed to doing what is not correct.
How does venial sin harm us?
--Venial sin harms us by making us less fervent in the service of God, by
weakening our power to resist mortal sin, and by making us deserving of God's
punishments in this life or in purgatory.
Although venial sin is not a
grievous offense against God, it is nevertheless a great moral evil,
next alone to mortal sin.
It is like a drop of ink in a
glassful of clear water; the ink, however little, takes away the clearness.
If often committed, venial sin
weakens the will, lessens our power to resist evil, and makes it easier
for us to fall into mortal sin.
"He that contemneth small things
shall fall by little and little" (Ecclus. 19:1). "He who is faithful in a
very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in a very
little thing is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). A great fire is started by
a tiny breeze. Venial sin, by weakening the will, makes us indisposed for
good, and lukewarm in God's service.
Venial sin deprives us of many
actual graces we need for resisting temptation.
When a mirror is dusty, it cannot
reflect the image clearly; similarly the mirror of the soul, when dusty with
venial sin, cannot reflect the light of grace and justice. God will not bestow
his blessings and graces on one whose soul is disfigured by venial sin, as a
distinguished personage is not expected to embrace a man who is disfigured by
a skin disease.
Venial sin deprives us of heaven
for a time.
If we die with venial sins on our
souls, or without fully satisfying for them, we have to expiate for them in
A great desire not to offend God in
the least is the best proof of love and loyalty towards our heavenly
Holy Scripture shows many instances
of God's hatred for venial sin, which He punishes severely even on earth. For
her curiosity, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. "But I tell you,
that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of
judgment" (Matt. 12:36).
How can we keep from
committing sin? --We can keep from committing sin by praying and by
receiving the sacraments; by remembering that God is always with us; by
recalling that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost; by keeping occupied
with work or play; by promptly resisting the sources of sin within us; by
avoiding the near occasions of sin.
Prayer and the sacraments
protect us from sin. They are like a strong fortress against which the enemy
strikes in vain, and within which the soul remains safe in the grace of God.
When the Apostles were in danger on
the lake of Genessareth, they had recourse to prayer. We are ever in danger
from sin while we live; let us build up around us a rampart of prayer. God
will protect us, as He protected the Apostles; He will answer.our prayer. The
soul nourished by the sacraments is strong, and will not easily succumb to
sin; as a healthy body does not easily succumb to disease.
Even good people fall into sins,
frequently because they forget God's presence. Let us remember that the
eye of God is always upon us, every single moment. Then, if we love Him, we
would never sin, never insult His presence by sin.
If we had a distinguished personage
before us, would we commit indecent acts? Would we steal, or use bad language?
But is not God the most distinguished of all persons, and is He not always
looking on us?
When we are in the state of grace,
our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
God dwells in it as Jesus Christ
lives in the tabernacle. If we remember this always, we shall be greatly
helped in avoiding sin.
The most practical way of avoiding
sin is to keep occupied with work or play. Man must do something; if he
does not do something good, he will do something evil.
A busy instrument cannot be used in
doing mischief. Robbers will hesitate to enter a house where the occupants are
busy. If we are occupied in doing good, we have no time to sit idly and wag
our tongues in gossip.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Occasions and Sources of Sin
|Vice is easily formed, but requires great struggle to overcome it.
The longer a man indulges in vice, the harder is the struggle. He becomes
its slave. He is completely carried away by his passions. Only the great
grace of God, coupled with a resolute will, can eradicate vice, once it is
strongly rooted in a man's nature. This is one reason why we must be most
careful to avoid sin, in order not to become victims of vice. If we are so
unfortunate as to fall into sin, we must at once repent and resolve to avoid
it in the future.
What are the near occasions of
sin? --The near occasions of sin are all persons, places, or things that
may easily lead us into sin.
Most common occasions are:
Bad companions. One
who provokes or leads us into sin is not our friend. We must stop going with
One rotten apple in a basket of
good apples quickly rots the rest. The same is true of human beings. Sin is a
contagious disease. If we do not wish to he infected, we must go far away from
Dance halls. Not
every dance is sinful. But many dances are occasions of sin; and public dances
without the presence of respectable adults are extremely dangerous. A safe
rule to follow is never to go to any place where you would be ashamed to take
your virtuous mother or sister.
In many dances, the women tend to
dress with extravagance and immodesty, just to "follow the fashion".
Sometimes, too, dances are an occasion for the taking of liberties, due to
late hours, and the spirit of unrestrained pleasure.
Bars and liquor saloons.
These are very proximate occasions of sin, leading to intemperance, and worse
Those who frequent saloons are
likely to be not only habitual drunkards, but constant gamblers, who neglect
their homes and duties, become involved in disputes, and finally end badly
even in the temporal sense.
Bad newspapers and magazines are no less dangerous because their wickedness is
often not apparent, many hiding their evil under the guise of cleverness,
science, art, etc.
Bad periodicals gradually undermine
faith and make one insensitive to evil. It is the duty of every
Catholic to subscribe to a Catholic periodical, and never to favor a wicked
Bad books. Many
novels are harmless; some are very helpful, but many are positively wicked. We
must be very careful in the selection of the books we read. There are national
book clubs under Catholic auspices. Among them may be mentioned the
Catholic Book Club, and the Pro Parvulis Book Club, headquarters of
both of which are in New York City.
These book clubs send members lists
of books of merit according to literary standards, and not offensive to
Catholic morals. They publish reviews of current fiction most useful for the
general reader. We must remember that poisonous food will only kill the body,
but poisonous reading kills the soul.
Indecent pictures and shows.
Today many moving pictures and theatrical shows are not decent. We must be
careful to choose only the good, those approved by the National Legion of
Decency. This Legion, working under the hierarchy, each week issues a list
giving the moral evaluation of current films; it reviews and classifies. It
asks every Catholic to take a pledge not to patronize lewd pictures.
This pledge is nothing
extraordinary for any decent person, Catholic or non-Catholic; it merely puts
down clearly something that any upright person is obliged in conscience to do.
The Legion of Decency was formed in
order to unite the laity with the hierarchy in a persistent drive to prevent
the showing of lewd pictures. If every decent person kept away from such
obscene shows, the producers would surely make better pictures. Supply is
according to the demand; we get what we ask for.
How should we act towards
occasions of sin? --We should never seek, and always try to avoid,
occasions of sin.
It is wrong voluntarily to seek
the occasions of sin.
"He that loveth the danger shall
perish in it" (Ecclus. 3:27). However, those who by their calling or other
necessity are continually exposed to such dangerous occasions, as priests,
officials, doctors, and others, must put their trust in God, Who will give
them grace and protect them.
We must avoid occasions of
sin as soon as we perceive them.
If one goes to the theatre and sees
that the play is an indecent play, he must stand up and leave at once.
Otherwise he commits a sin. He will fall into further sin, and commit besides
the sin of not avoiding the occasion.
What are the chief sources of
actual sin? --The chief sources of actual sin are: pride,
covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth, and these are commonly
called capital sins.
They are called capital,
from the Latin caput (which means head), because they are the
heads or sources of all sins. Thus they originate sins of luxury, gossip,
excessive ambition, etc.
They are called capital sins, not
because they are the greatest sins in themselves, but because they are the
chief reasons why men commit sin. They are the origin of every
sin, all other sins arising from them as from their fountainhead.
These sins are termed deadly,
because they are either mortal of their own nature, or may easily become
mortal. They may be mortal or venial according as the matter is serious or
These sins are called vices,
because they produce permanent disorders in the soul. They are the seven
fatal diseases of the soul, which end in death.
He who will be a friend of God must
divest himself of these vices. Before we can plant the beautiful garden of
virtues, we must root up the thorns and weeds growing out of these deadly
Does God punish sin?
--Yes, God punishes sin, partly in this life, but chiefly after death.
In this life sinners suffer from
remorse of conscience, fear, and unhappiness. Their sin often brings upon them
disease or death, the hatred and scorn of their fellow-men, and other temporal
punishments. Even on earth, "the wages of sin is death".
Thus a robber or murderer is ever
afraid his crime will be detected. If it is discovered, he is sent to
prison or to the electric chair.
The punishment of the sinner is
fully meted out to him only after death. Then the unrepentant
sinner is punished in hell. Justice is not always done in this world, where
the wicked often prosper and the just are made to suffer.
On earth, God rewards the sinner
for whatever good he may do. It is only in the next life that the evil he does
is given its full and just punishment.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Pride makes one admire himself, in the belief that his excellence,
imagined or real, is the result of his own worth. Our Lord condemned pride
in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (1). Jesus said that the
humble and repentant publican was justified in the eyes of God, while the
proud Pharisee went home unjustified. Covetousness is one of the ugliest of
sins. It was a sin of Judas. He loved money so much that he even betrayed
Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver(2).
What is pride? --Pride
is an inordinate love of one's own excellence, an excessive self-esteem.
Our Lord is the best example of
meekness and patience. Did He use His almighty power to punish those who did
Him evil? For hours He hung meekly on the cross, until He died. Every day God
is patient with sinners, giving them time to change their ways. God, the
Supreme One, is not proud.
The proud man overestimates
himself, and believes himself the source of his own excellence. The
virtue of humility, which disposes us to acknowledge our limitations,
is opposed to pride.
Some are proud of their appearance;
others of their family, talents, position, money, and the virtues they
imagine, they possess. Even if we do have excellent abilities or
possessions, we should not be proud of them, remembering that they all come
from God. Instead, we should be humbly thankful, and see in what way we can
make a return to God for such gifts. "Every proud man is an abomination to the
Lord" (Prov. 16:5).
Pride may be called the mother
of all vices, for most sins can be traced to it. From pride arise
ambition, vanity, presumption, disobedience, hypocrisy, obstinacy in sin.
"For pride is the beginning of all
sin: he that holdeth it shall be filled with maledictions and it shall ruin
him in the end" (Ecclus. 10:15). "Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind or
in thy words, for from it all perdition took its beginning" (Tob. 4:14). Pride
was the sin of our First Parents, who wanted to be as great as God. It was the
sin of King Pharaoh; he was so proud that in spite of the miracles Moses
worked, he refused to be convinced. For this God "hardened his heart" (Exod.
9:12); that is, God permitted him to close the window of his soul against the
grace of the Holy Ghost, "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the
Lord has rejected thee" (1 Kings 15:26).
The proud man tries to attract
notice and praise, strives after honors, distinctions, and other worldly
He is over-confident in himself,
and despises the assistance of God. Pride was the sin of Lucifer. The proud
man pretends to be greater than he is, and tries by all manner of means to
attract the praise of others, even using false humility to do so.
God hates pride, and punishes it
severely, He often punishes secret pride by withdrawing His assistance from
the proud man. And deprived of God's aid, the proud man often falls into
grievous sins leading to his humiliation.
"The beginning of the pride of man
is to fall off from God" (Ecclus. 10:14). "God resists the proud" (1 Pet.
5:5). "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled" (Luke 14:11). Thus the
proud King Herod was eaten up by worms and died. Thus, the proud Roman Empire
fell and became nothing. Our Lord pointed out the pride in the heart of the
Pharisee, and praised the humble publican.
If we, however, despise sin as
beneath us, that is not pride, but a virtuous self respect.
A decent regard for cleanliness and
neatness is not vanity. The ambition to exceed in good things, as in studies,
in order to make the best use of God's gifts, is to be commended. God wishes
us to be His excellent children. (See Chapter 44, on Humility,
What is covetousness?
--Covetousness is the excessive love for, and seeking after, wealth and other
Covetousness is also called
avarice. A covetous person strives for more riches than he requires, and is
never content, however much he already possesses.
He greedily clings to what he has,
and is stingy and hates to give anything away. For money Judas betrayed
the Lord. "There is not a more wicked thing than to love money; for such a one
setteth even his own soul to sale" (Ecclus. 10:10). "Take heed and guard
yourselves from all covetousness, for a man's life does not consist in the
abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).
We meet with covetous persons among
both rich and poor. Often among the rich there is money without avarice, and
among the poor, avarice without money.
From covetousness arise
hard-heartedness towards the poor, lying, cheating, usury, defrauding laborers
of wages, and other sins.
"Those who seek to become rich fall
into temptation and a snare . . . For covetousness is the root of all evils"
(1 Tim. 6:9-10). It destroys faith, for the avaricious are so absorbed
in money-getting that they have no time for their spiritual welfare.
To provide for one's future and
that of one's family is praiseworthy. To avoid waste and extravagance
is a virtue.
To accumulate even considerable
wealth, by proper means, is not wrong. The rich, however, must remember their
obligation to use their wealth for the glory of God, not for their own pride.
Liberality, which disposes
us rightly to use worldly goods, is opposed to covetousness. (See Chapter 44,
on Humility, Liberality, Chastity)
The avaricious man is very
foolish. He works hard all his life and becomes hated by men: he earns
besides eternal damnation after death and all for nothing. When he dies
all he has are a few feet of earth for his grave; his money is left to heirs
who most probably ridicule his miserliness or waste the money to gain which he
lost his soul. "For when he shall die, he shall take nothing away; nor shall
his glory descend with him" (Ps. 48:18).
What is lust? --Lust
is the inordinate seeking of the pleasures of the flesh.
Lust defiles a man as no other sin
does. It degrades man to the level of the beast. Pride is the sin
commited by Lucifer, avarice by Judas, and lust by the brute.
Of all vices, lust is most severely
punished on earth. It leads to loss of health and reason. It was the
cause of the Deluge. It was the cause for the destruction with fire and
brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrha. "But immorality and every uncleanness or
covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becomes saints" (Ephes.
Those tempted to lust should
remember that man was made to the image and likeness of God. Will they
so rashly destroy that image, to make themselves like to beasts? In fact,
beasts are better than lustful men, for beasts act in that manner from
instinct; they have no soul like God.
Impurity weakens the will and
darkens the understanding. For this reason amendment is very difficult, and
the sinner falls into many other sins. So Solomon, who yielded to lust,
finally lost all his wisdom and turned to worship false gods.
From lust spring jealousy, hatred,
murder, loss of faith, despair, instability, worldliness, selfishness, and
The consequences of lust are seen
in the case of Henry VIII. It was the cause of his apostasy, and his apostasy
dragged an entire nation into similar apostasy. "For know this and understand,
that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (for that is idolatry)
has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephes. 5:5) (See
Chapter 44, on Humility, Liberality, Chastity)
Sodomy, or sins against purity by
persons of the same sex, is a form of lust.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth
|Our Lord showed how hateful gluttony is in the parable of the rich
man, Dives, and the poor Lazarus (1). Dives was so greedy that he would not
even give scraps to Lazarus, who sat at his gate. But when Dives died, he
went to hell, while Lazarus went to heaven. The brothers of Joseph (2), were
so envious of him that they sold him to some merchants going to Egypt. God
rebuked their sin by blessing Joseph in Egypt, and causing him to be in a
position to help his envious brothers later.
What is anger?
--Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure, combined with a desire to inflict
punishment on the offender.
An angry man loses his reason.
In anger a man will do what he afterwards regrets. From anger arise hatred,
revenge, (quarreling, blasphemy, contumely, and murder. The virtues of
patience and meekness are opposed to anger. (See Chapter 45 on
Meekness, Abstinence, Zeal, Brotherly Love)
Anger, or wrath, is a temporary
madness. A man with this vice flies into a rage at every little thing. He
always puts the blame of his anger on others, and even when he is alone be
gets angry. "The wrath of man does not work the justice of God" (Jas. 1:20).
Wilful murder, one of the
"sins that cry to heaven for vengeance," arises from anger.
When the first willful murder took
place, and Cain killed his brother Abel, God said to Cain, "The voice of thy
brother's blood crieth to me from the earth" (Gen. 4:10).
He who indulges in anger injures
his health, becomes hated, incurs damnation.
Many men have had a stroke of
paralysis brought on by anger; some have even died. If anger is so hurtful to
the body, how much more to the soul!
When we feel ourselves becoming
angry, we should never speak or act, but try to calm ourselves by
St. Francis de Sales said: "I have
made an agreement with my tongue never to utter a word while my heart is
excited." "Let every man be slow to speak and slow to wrath" (Jas.
If we should be so unhappy as to
have offended anyone by our anger, we should hasten to apologize.
"Do not let the sun go down upon
your anger" (Ephes. 4:26)
A just anger against
sin and injustice is praiseworthy. We may hate the sin, but not the sinner.
Christ had this just wrath when He
drove the sellers from the Temple. Holy Scripture says, "Be angry and do not
sin" (Ephes. 4:26).
What is gluttony?
--Gluttony is an excessive desire for or indulgence in food or drink.
Gluttony is greediness,
intemperance in eating and drinking. Of the gluttonous, St. Paul said that
"their god is the belly " (Phil 3:19). We should not be either too greedy
or too dainty about the nourishment we take. The virtue opposed to
gluttony is temperance.
We should not eat more than we need
to support life. "We do not live to eat, but eat to live." We must not
take what is injurious to health, even if its taste is pleasing. We must have
regular hours for our meals. We should not be too particular about food, eat
what is set before us, and not get angry when a dish is not very appetizing.
The purpose of food is to give strength for the work we do while still on
earth preparing for our final end.
Gluttony produces dullness of mind,
laziness, and sensuality. The vice of drunkenness is a terrible evil,
leading to worse sins. A man when drunk loses his reason, and often makes a
fool of himself. If reason is the chief difference between man and the beast,
why should one extinguish it by drunkenness?
"The sensual man does not perceive
the things that are of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:14). "He who sows in his
flesh, from the flesh also he will reap corruption" (Gal. 6:8). It is well for
young people to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking till
after they are twenty years of age. If they do this, the likehood is that they
will not contract vice. (See Chapter 45 on Meekness, Abstinence, Zeal,
Note: Smoking is against the 5th
commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." (RMO) Saint Maximilian Kolbe is the patron
Saint of SUBSTANCE ABUSE which includes alcohol, tobacco, heroin, marijuana.
crack, cocaine, and any other substances that are abused.
What is envy? --Envy
is a bitter feeling at the excellence or good fortune of those who are better
or happier, with a desire to rob them of what they have.
Envy consists in discontent
or anger at the success of another, as though it were evil to oneself. It also
consists in rejoicing over another's misfortune, as if it were a good to
Envy is against the commandment of
God to love our neighbor. It is the mark of the petty mind and the
hard heart. The devil envied Adam and Eve in Paradise; Cain envied Abel,
whose offering was pleasing to God. Some are, so envious that they even envy
the holiness of others, but without any desire or attempt at imitation. This
was the case with the Pharisees, and their envy led them to plot the death of
Envy leads to calumny,
gossip, detraction, hatred, scandal, and other sins. An envious man looks on
everything with malice; as a result his envy does not even make himself happy,
but destroys his peace of heart.
The sons of Jacob were envious of
their brother Joseph because he was the favorite son. Their envy led them to
sell him into Egypt. Often the envy in a man's heart causes him to be so
soured on the world that he sells himself for nothing to the devil.
A form of envy, one of the greatest
sins, is envy at another's spiritual good. This is a most diabolical
sin; it shows that the sinner has closed his heart against the charity of God,
and instead houses God's enemy, Satan. The virtue opposed to envy is
charity, or brotherly love. (See Chapter 45 on Meekness, Abstinence, Zeal,
What is sloth?
--Sloth is the neglect of one's duties, spiritual or temporal, through
The rule of the universe is
activity; life and movement may be found in all nature. The slothful man is
the exception; and he by his laziness goes against nature.
"Go to the ant, O sluggard, and
consider her ways, and learn wisdom" (Prov. 6:6). The slothful keep putting
off doing anything till tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, which often
Many complain of hard luck,
but often misfortunes come from laziness. The virtues of diligence and
zeal are opposed to sloth.
Even on earth, most rewards go only
to the industrious and energetic.
Spiritual sloth is called
lukewarmness. It is also called tepidity.
The lukewarm person would like to
have the rewards given by God, but will not move a finger to serve Him. As
soon as it is necessary to exert himself, he shrinks from the effort. Great
Sinners have been known to become great saints, but the lukewarm, never. Holy
Scripture says: "I would that thou wert cold or hot. But because thou an
lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth"
Sloth leads to many sins;
idleness begets vice. The lazy neglect good works.
If man has no useful occupation,
his natural activity turns to all kinds of mischief. A busy person avoids many
temptations. (See Chapter 45 on Meekness, Abstinence, Zeal, Brotherly Love)
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Promise of the Redeemer
Second Article of the Apostles' Creed
|Immediately after the Fall, God promised a Redeemer to Adam. He
forgave man, although He had not forgiven the rebel angels. He was more
merciful to man than to the angels. In making the promise, God spoke of the
Blessed Virgin, who was to be the Saviour's Mother.
Did God abandon man after Adam fell into sin? --God did not
abandon man after Adam fell into sin, but promised to send into the world a
Saviour to free man from his sins and to reopen to him the gates of heaven.
God could have abandoned man as a consequence of Adam's sin; then the human
race would have suffered eternal separation from Him.
- The promise was first made to Adam before God sent him out of
Paradise. God said to the serpent who had tempted Eve: "I will put enmities
between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy
head" (Gen. 3:15)
In this passage, the woman spoken of is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her seed
is Our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the Redeemer promised by God. God said that
there would be complete enmity between Our Lord with His Mother on one side,
and the devil with his followers on the other.
- This promise was renewed several times to the Patriarchs of the Old
Testament: to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Because Abraham remained true
to the worship of God in the midst of idolatry, God led him to Canaan. As a
reward for his obedience, God promised, "I will make of thee a great nation
... and in thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2,3).
This promise was repeated twice.
The same promise "in thy seed shall all the nations be blessed" was
repeated to Abraham's son Isaac, and to Isaac's son Jacob. Finally, hundreds
of years later, God commanded the prophet Nathan to repeat to King David the
very same promise, "He shall build a house to My name, and I will establish
his kingdom forever" (2 Kings 7:13)
- Later, God sent the Prophets. Through them He foretold many things about
the Redeemer: about His birth, His Person, His sufferings. His death, and His
God enlightened the Prophets so that they could speak in His name to the
Jews or Israelites' the descendants of Abraham. There were about seventy
prophets, the last being Malachias, who lived some 450 years before Christ.
- God chose the Jews as the people among whom the promised Saviour
would live; for this reason we call the Jews the "chosen people". God prepared
them for the coming of the Saviour: by heavy trials, by severe laws, by
miracles, by prophecies.
The selection of the Jews did not mean rejection by God of the other
nations. Every renewal of God's promise recalled blessings in which all
were to share. Even among other nations there were just men, In Greece,
Socrates spoke against the worship of idols. Holy Job lived in Arabia. The
Magi were of the East. Vergil the poet prayed the virgin-born Son to
come and reign over His people.
Why did God wait thousands of years before sending the Redeemer?
--God wished men to realize the enormity of sin.
- God wished men to see how low they could sink without His help. He wanted
the world to prepare for the Redeemer.
Men became so wicked that God destroyed all in the Deluge, except
Noe and his family. God permitted men to sink into the deepest misery,
so that they might be roused to a longing for the promised Saviour. When the
Saviour at last came, all nations were sunk in idolatry and wickedness
except the Jews. Even among the Jews there was continuous dissension and sin.
- From the time of Adam the true religion was preserved till the
advent of the promised Saviour by the patriarchs, prophets and other holy men
inspired by God to teach and lead his Chosen People.
In spite of the imperfection of the old religion, there was always only
one true religion. It was but a shadow of the perfection that was to come,
but was the true religion before Christ: the Jewish Faith.
Who is the Saviour of all men? --The Saviour of all men is
Men would know the Saviour by certain signs which God revealed through the
- Of His advent the Prophets spoke:
- The Messias was to be born in Bethlehem, when the Jews were no longer
"And Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of
Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in
Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of
eternity" (Mich. 5:2). "The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a
ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the
expectation of nations" (Gen. 49:10)
- The Messias was to be born of a virgin of the House of David.
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be
called Emmanuel" (Is. 7:14)
- The Messias would be preceded by a precursor who would preach in the
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the
Lord: make straight in the desert the paths of our God" (Is 40:3).
- A new star was to announce the birth of the Messias; He would be adored
by kings from distant lands bringing Him gifts.
"A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a scepter shall spring up from
Israel" (Numb. 24:17). "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer
presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts" (Ps.
- Many children would be put to death at the time of His birth.
"A voice was heard on high of lamentation, or mourning, and weeping, of
Rachel (representing the Jews) weeping for her children, and refusing to be
comforted, because they are not" (Jer. 31:15).
- Of the person of the Messias the Prophets spoke: He was to be the
Son of God. He would work great miracles, and teach the people. He would he
King of a new kingdom, which was not to be destroyed, and was to include all
"The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee"
(Ps. 2:7). "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the
deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the
tongue of the dumb shall be free" (Is. 35:5-6). "The God of heaven will set up
a kingdom that shall never be destroyed ... and it shall consume all these
kingdoms, and itself shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44).
- Of His sufferings the Prophets spoke:
He was to enter Jerusalem riding on an ass. He would be betrayed by one who
ate at the same table with Him. He would he abandoned, mocked, beaten, spat
upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, and given gall and vinegar to drink. Lots
would be cast for His garments. His hands and feet would be pierced with
nails. He would die between two evildoers.
- All the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the
Redeemer, the Saviour that God in His mercy had promised.
The angels announced Him as the Redeemer to the shepherds when He was born,
and to St. Joseph in a vision. "For God so loved the world that he gave his
only-begotten Son" (John 3:16)
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|Throughout the centuries God sent prophets to predict different
events and facts concerning the promised Saviour. Among the most important
prophets were Jeremias, Isaias, Daniel, and Ezechiel. Daniel predicted the
exact time of the birth of the Redeemer. He said His kingdom would have no
end, and would embrace all kingdoms. Isaias prophesied that the Messias
would be born of a virgin, would be both God and Man, and would die
patiently and willingly like a lamb for our sins.
What is the chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ?
--The chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ is that He is
God made man.
- Christ Himself said that He is God. The Jews understood His claim
literally, and He was condemned to death for blasphemy, for making Himself
the Son of God.
Christ said: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt.
28:18). "And the high priest said to him, 'I adjure thee by the living God
that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to
him, 'Thou hast said it'" (Matt. 26:63). "I and the Father are one" (John
- Christ proved His claims by wonderful miracles, by
prophecies, by His knowledge of all things, and by the holiness of His life.
These miracles Christ worked in His own name, not as His followers did, who
worked in the name of God. He simply said: "I will, be thou made clean"
Christ Himself appealed to His miracles as a testimony of the truth
of His doctrines and divinity, saying: "If you are not willing to believe me,
believe the works" (John 10:38) . Christ foretold future events. Among
other things, He predicted His passion, death, and resurrection, the treason
of Judas and the perpetuity of His Church.
- The Apostles, the followers of Christ Himself, plainly
taught that Christ is God, and died in testimony of their faith.
St. John says: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and
the Word was God." "And the Word was made Flesh." St. Paul writes: "In him
(Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). St. Thomas
openly professed the divinity of Christ when he said: "My Lord and my God"
(John 20:28). St. Peter said: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living
- The Church teaches that Jesus Christ is God. Its teachings
have spread throughout all nations, in spite of untold obstacles.
The Church has grown by the simplest of means, its spread ever accompanied
by wonderful miracles, by which God designs to show forth the truth of the
Church. The doctrine of the divinity of Christ is the foundation of the
- Even the enemies of the Catholic Church have admitted their belief
in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Napoleon, about to die, said: "I know men, but Jesus Christ was more than
man. My men deserted me in the field when I was there leading them. Christ's
army has been faithful for centuries. A Leader who has an army which functions
though He is dead is not man."
Why is Jesus Christ God? --Jesus Christ is God because He is
the only Son of God, having the same divine nature as His Father.
"And they all said, 'Art thou, then, the Son of God?' He answered, 'You
yourselves say that I am' ' And they said, 'What further need have we of
witness? For we have heard it ourselves from his own mouth'" (Luke 22:70-71)
- Man after the Fall was unable to regain of himself his former holiness. He
became like a sick man who could not arise from bed. He needed Someone
to raise him up. Since the sin he had committed had been an offense against an
Infinite God, the atonement needed had to be by an Infinite One, the Son of
"God so loved the world that he gave his onlybegotten Son" (John 3:16).
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).
- Christ is called the "Word". Just as the thought in our
minds finds expression in a word, so the Son of God dwelling in the bosom of
His Father was shown to the world when the Word became man.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God.... The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1: 1,14).
Why is Jesus Christ man? --Jesus Christ is man, because He is
the Son of the Blessed Virgin, and has a body and soul like ours.
- The birth of Jesus Christ is a fact of history. He was born of
Mary, who was espoused to a carpenter named Joseph, who lived in Nazareth of
The archangel Gabriel said to Mary, "The Holy One to be born shall be
called the Son of God."
- Jesus Christ is true man, because He has a body and soul like ours.
He derived His human nature from His mother.
History tells us of Jesus Christ, Who preached in and about Jerusalem over
nineteen hundred years ago. Many records tell of His appearance, of His words,
of His actions, of His teachings. Nobody doubted that Jesus Christ was a Man,
for He could be seen and touched like other men. He lived and died Just as men
of all times live and die.
How can we prove that the religion God has revealed through Christ is
worthy of belief? --We can prove that the religion God has revealed
through Christ is worthy of belief, because:
- Jesus Christ, announcing Himself as the true Son of God, whose coming was
foretold by the prophets, preached doctrines which He said all must
If Christ is God, then the religion He established is true, and the Church
He founded is the true Church. We can believe everything He says, even without
understanding it, because God cannot err.
If Jesus Christ were not God, then Christianity would be a farce, and the
sooner it were done away with the better. If Christ were not God, then He were
an impostor who, by claiming divinity, had led billions into error for almost
- Christ worked wonderful miracles, which showed that the God of
truth approved His teachings.
Christ worked so many miracles publicly that all flocked to Him to be
cured. "But when John had heard in prison of the works of Christ, he sent two
of his disciples to say to him, 'Art thou he who is to come, or shall we look
for another?' And Jesus answering said to them, 'Go and report to John what
you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to
them'" (Matt. 11:2-5)
- Christ performed miracles on inanimate objects, as when He changed water
to wine, calmed the storm, multiplied loaves.
- He healed in an instant the sick, the blind, the lame. He expelled
- He raised the dead to life; as the daughter of Jairus, the son of the
widow of Naim and Lazarus. Even His enemies acknowledged His miracles. The
Pharisees planned to kill Lazarus, because the Jews believed in Jesus as a
result of the miracle.
- He worked miracles on His own Person, as in the Transfiguration,
Resurrection, and Ascension.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. As God, He is equal
with the Father and the Holy Ghost. He is infinite, almighty, eternal. As
man He has a body and soul like ours. Jesus Christ has two natures which
cannot be separated, but which are distinct: the human, and the divine. But
He is only one Person-the Divine Person. Jesus Christ is not a human Person.
Is Jesus Christ more than one Person? --No, Jesus Christ is
only one Person; and that Person is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Throughout the Gospels we can read about Jesus Christ as only one
Person,-eating, sleeping, talking, and dying, as only one Person.
- A "person" is a being that is intelligent and free, and responsible
for his actions. We attribute to him whatever good or evil he does in the use
of his human powers, because he owns or controls those powers.
I am a human person, and everything I do is done by a human person. But
Christ is a Divine Person, since He is God. Whatever Jesus Christ did
while He was on earth was of infinite dignity, since it was the work of a
- Jesus Christ is Our Lord, the Son of God the Second Person of the Blessed
Trinity, true God and true Man. We call Him "Our Lord" because
as God He is Lord and Master of all, and as our Saviour He redeemed us with
Christ is our Creator, Redeemer, Lawgiver. Teacher, and judge. All these we
mean when we say Our Lord. St. Paul says: "He is the Blessed and only
Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords ... to whom be honor and
everlasting dominion. Amen" (1 Tim. 6: 15,16).
- There is only one Person, the Divine Person, in Jesus
Christ. Jesus Christ is not a human person. Everything in Him even as
Man is divine and worthy of adoration.
When we adore the Sacred Heart, or the Precious Blood, we do not adore mere
flesh, but the flesh united to the divinity. In Christ the human and the
divine are inseparable.
How many natures has Jesus Christ? --Jesus Christ has two
natures: the nature of God and the nature of man.
- A "nature" is a substance that is complete in itself as a source of
activity. It differs from "person" in that while "person" determines what an
individual is, "nature" determines what an individual can do.
Thomas Aquinas' teachings on "nature" (Please Click Here)
Thomas Aquinas' teachings on "person" (Please Click Here)
In Jesus Christ Our Lord there are two natures: His divine and His human
nature. Therefore He could and did act as God; He could and did act as man,
while all the time He was God the Son.
- Because of His Divine nature, Christ is truly God; because of His
human nature, He is truly man. In His Divine nature He is the Second
Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, the Eternal Word. He took His
human nature from His Mother.
It was to the Blessed Virgin that the Archangel Gabriel announced: "And
behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou
shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of
the Most High" (Luke 1:32).
Therefore Jesus Christ is both God and man; He has both Divine and human
powers; He has knowledge, can will and act as God and as man. For example,
with His human nature Jesus worked, ate, spoke, felt pain. But it was His
divine nature that enabled Him to become transfigured, walk on the waters,
raise the dead.
- These two natures were united in a Divine Person Jesus Christ, the
God-Man. They were intimately united, but they remained distinct.
Neither was absorbed by the other. When iron and gold are welded into one
solid mass, they continue to retain all their individual properties distinct
from each other. The union of the divine and human natures in Christ is called
the hypostatic union.
Christ is true God and true man; this is why we call Him God-Man. Beings
obtain their nature from their origin; for this reason a child has a human
nature, from its human parents. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed
Trinity, has His origin from God the Father, and hence He has a divine nature;
moreover, as man He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus His human
nature. This is why Christ often referred to Himself indiscriminately as "Son
of God" or "Son of Man".
- As a consequence of these two natures, Christ had also two wills.
We can see this very clearly in His prayer in the Garden of Olives before
His Passion. He said: "Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done." He was
referring to His human will, for His divine will was surely the same as His
What does the name Jesus mean? --The name Jesus means Saviour
- Our Lord is called Jesus because He came to save men from
sin, and to open the doors of heaven to them.
Before the birth of Our Lord, an angel appeared to St. Joseph and said:
"Thou shalt call His name Jesus" (Matt. 1:21). At the Annunciation the angel
Gabriel had spoken the same words to Mary.
"After eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised,
His name was called Jesus" (Luke 2:21).
- We should say the name of Our Lord with great reverence. We should
bow our head every time we utter it.
"In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven,
on earth, and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10). The symbol IHS is composed of the
first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek.
What does the name Christ mean? --The name Christ means "The
- "Christ" is a Greek word, with the same meaning as "Messias". In the Old
Law it was the custom to anoint with oil prophets, high priests, and
Our Lord is the greatest of the Prophets. He is the High Priest Who offers
Himself for all mankind. He is the King of angels and men. Therefore it is
fitting that we should call Him Christ. He truly is the Anointed One.
- We are called Christians because we are disciples of Christ.
We believe in His teachings, and obey His commandments. The followers of
Christ were first called Christians at Antioch.
NOTE: We are also called Christians because we are members of the Holy
Roman Catholic Church in the same way that being a member of the Jones family
is indispensable to being a "Jones." (RMO)
"Can a Protestant
be a Christian?" (Part 1)(Please Click Here)
Protestant be a Christian?" (Part 2)(Please Click Here)
Those who deny the doctrines of Christ, especially His divinity, are not
Christians. Unfortunately, many today are Christians only in name.
- Jesus Christ was announced to the world through many types. By
"types" we mean persons or actions which strongly suggested or foreshadowed
Christ. "Types" are to the reality what a photograph is to the actual person;
but for lack of the reality, types are a good substitute, to give an idea of
the substance foreshadowed.
Some of the types of Jesus Christ were: the gentle and just Abel, who was
murdered by his brother; Noe, who alone persevered and saved the human race
from extinction by his justice; Isaac, who willingly carried the wood on which
he was to have been sacrificed; Joseph, who was sold for a few pieces of
silver, but later saved his brethren from death; Moses, who freed the Jews
from slavery and led them to the Promised Land; David. who was born poor, did
great deeds for his people, and became King.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Third Article of the Apostles' Creed
|"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town
of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin bethrothed to a man named Joseph, of
the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And when the angel had
come to, her, he said, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed
art thou among women.' When she had seen him she was troubled at his word,
and kept pondering what manner of greeting this might be. And the angel said
to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou host found grace with God. And
behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and
thou shalt call his name Jesus'" (Luke 1:26-31).
What is meant by the Incarnation? --By the Incarnation is
meant that the Son of God, retaining His Divine nature, took to Himself a
human nature, that is, a body and soul like ours.
- The Incarnation is the greatest act of humility possible. By it the Son of
God, eternal, almighty, infinite, voluntarily took upon Himself human nature
with its weaknesses. He circumscribed Himself with a human body that would
feel sickness and pain, and with a human soul that would cause Him agony.
Incarnation means "becoming flesh". Thus the Son of God took a human
body and soul and united it to His divine Person. Without ceasing to be God,
the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became man at the same time. The
divine nature of Christ is from all eternity. Only His human nature
began at the Incarnation.
- By virtue of the Incarnation Jesus Christ came to earth. This is a
mystery which we can never fully understand, but must be content to honor
"The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Christ as man was
like us in all things except sin. He could not sin, because He is God. But in
all other things He was like us: he had a human body, a human soul, a human
will. Can we understand this with our reason? Hardly. As St. John Chrysostom
said: "I know that the Son of Gad became man. but how, I do not know." God,
Who produced the universe from nothing, also caused the Incarnation.
How was the Son of God made man? --The Son of God was
conceived and made man by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the
Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Three persons of God cooperated in the Incarnation, but only the Second
Person took on flesh: only He took to Himself a human nature.
- The Incarnation is peculiarly the work of the Blessed Trinity. They
formed a human soul and a human body, and these they united to the Second
Person of the Blessed Trinity: the result was Our Lord Jesus Christ, God-Man.
To the power of the Holy Ghost we attribute the Incarnation, because the
Third Person of the Blessed Trinity peculiarly expresses the Spirit of Love:
and the Incarnation is the supreme example of God's love for men.
- It was fitting that God the Son should become incarnate, rather than the
Father or the Holy Ghost; for the Son proceeds from the Father, and
could be sent by Him.
God the Son then could, as the fruit of His Redemption, send God the Holy
Ghost. Thus through the Son of God we became adopted sons of God.
When was the Son of God conceived and made man? --The Son of
God was conceived and made man on Annunciation Day, the day on which the Angel
Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of
- In Nazareth of Galilee lived the Blessed Virgin Mary. One day the
Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and said: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord
is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28).
Mary was surprised. The angel said: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast
found grace with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt
bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call His name Jesus." This event is called
the Annunciation commemorated by the feast on March 25.
- Mary knew that the angel was sent by God. She answered: "Behold the
handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)
At these words of the Blessed Virgin, Jesus Cluist became man in her womb,
and the incarnation was accomplished.
- The mystery of the Incarnation is commemorated daily by the Angelus,
a prayer said by Catholics morning, noon, and night, at the ringing of the
The Angelus bell is rung in a particular way: at the verse, it is sounded
three times: a pause follows while the Hail Mary is recited. "This procedure
is repeated three times for the three verses and three Hail Marys. Then
follows continual ringing while the Prayer is said.
During the Easter time the prayer Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) is
substituted for the Angelus. Those who do not know these prayers by heart, or
who cannot read, may say five Hail Marys instead.
Did Jesus Christ have human parents? --Jesus Christ had a
human mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, but He had no human father.
- The Blessed Virgin was Christ's mother as man, but not as God.
However, the Blessed virgin is truly the Mother of God, because the
humanity and divinity of her Son are inseparable. In a similar way we call our
parents mother and father, although they only gave us our body, and not our
- Christ had no human father. The Blessed Virgin remained a virgin all her
life. The conception of Our Lord is a great miracle and a mystery that we
cannot understand. We can only accept it as true on the word of God, Who is
St. Joseph was the legal spouse of Mary, but both of them preserved their
virginity, consecrating it to God. They always lived together as brother and
sister. St. Joseph was only the guardian or foster father of Our Lord.
- We should honor and love Saint Joseph, because Our Lord
honored and loved him. Holy Scripture calls him a just man. He was a most
pure man; and this is why God selected him as the virgin spouse of Mary,
to care for her and the Child Jesus.
Jesus loved St. Joseph and obeyed his slightest wish. Mary even called
Joseph the father of Jesus.
- It seems that Saint Joseph was born in Bethlehem of Judea. But at the time
of the Annunciation, he and Mary were living in Nazareth of Galilee. He
was a carpenter. It appears that he died before the beginning of Christ's
The memory of Saint Joseph was venerated from the very earliest centuries.
In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph Patron of the Church. He is also
patron of a happy death. We should invoke his protection often. His
feast, kept on March 19, has been celebrated since the 15th century.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in
swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for
them in the inn. And there were shepherds in the same district living in the
fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of
the Lord stood by them and the glory of God shone round about them, and they
feared exceedingly. And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for
behold, I bring you good news of ,great joy which shall be to all the
people; for there has been born to you today in the town of David a Saviour,
who is Christ the Lord' "
When was Christ born? --Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin
Mary on Christmas Day, in Bethlehem, more than nineteen hundred years ago.
- When Jesus Christ was born, the Jews were no longer independent. In 64
B.C. Pompey reduced their kingdom and subjected it to Rome.
Because the Jews were always plotting rebellion against Rome, the Jewish
king was replaced by Herod, a Gentile, the first non-Jew to become king. Thus
the scepter was "taken away from Juda", and the time predicted for the Messias
- Today we reckon dates from the birth of Christ. This has been the
continuous custom since the time of Charlemagne, although many rulers from the
5th century had adopted the practice.
However, there is an error of some four to six years. Generally, it is
supposed, as a matter of historical fact, that Christ was born 7-5 B.C.
An error in the calculation of dates in later centuries produced this anomaly.
- Bethlehem is a little town in Judea, near the city of Jerusalem.
Joseph and Mary went there in obedience to the Emperor at Rome, who had
commanded all his subjects to register in the towns of their ancestors.
Joseph and Mary were both descended from King David, whose city was
Bethlehem; this is why they went to register there. They tried to find a place
to stay in even for only a night, but could find refuge nowhere. And so they
sought shelter in a poor stable; there Jesus was born.
- Jesus was born in a stable, a poor place. He preferred poverty and
humiliation in order to suffer more for us.
He wished to show Himself a friend of the poor, and to teach that the best
way to heaven is through humility, and detachment from worldly
- The Church celebrates the Nativity on December 25. The feast
is called Christmas. On this day every priest is granted the
privilege of saying three Masses: one in commemoration of Christ's eternal
birth from God the Father; another in remembrance of His temporal birth of the
Blessed Virgin Mary; and a third to recall His spiritual birth in the hearts
of the faithful.
The word "Christmas" comes from Christ and Mass The feast is
so called because on that day the Mass commemorating the birth of Christ is
- An angel appeared to shepherds and told them of the Nativity. A star
led three Magi (Wise Men) to Bethlehem.
The shepherds represented the poor. The Magi represented the rich.
All offered their gifts to the Infant Jesus. Our Lord does not look at the
price of our gifts, but at the purity of our hearts.
The Church commemorates the adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the
Epiphany, January 6. "Epiphany" means manifestation. In
the persons of the Magi, who were not Jews, Our Lord was manifested to all
nations of the earth, who were at the time lost in paganism. With the Magi, we
are called to the Truth; the Old Testament was ended, and the world had
entered upon a new Covenant with God. And if, like the Magi we offer Jesus
Christ the gold of our love, the myrrh of self-sacrifice, and the incense of
our prayers, we too shall be united with God.
- Many churches and homes set up a crib at Christmas. This custom, although
of very ancient origin, was popularized by St. Francis of Assisi.
In the year 1223, he visited Pope Honorius III and sought approval of his
plans to make a scenic representation of the Nativity. Having obtained the
Pope's consent, Francis left Rome, and arrived at Greccio on Christmas Eve.
There in the church he constructed a crib, grouping around it images of the
Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, of the shepherds, the ox, and the ass. At the
midnight Mass St. Francis acted as deacon. After singing the words of he
Gospel, "And they laid Him in a manger" , he knelt down to meditate on the
great gift of :he Incarnation. And people around saw in his arms a Child,
surrounded by a most brilliant light.
Since then the devotion to the crib has spread far and wide. The crib
remains in church until the octave day of the Epiphany. At the proper time the
images of the Three Kings and their retinue are added, making a daily advance
towards the crib.
Most homes also set up a decorated Christmas tree. It is a reminder of the
tree of the cross. The boxes of Christmas gifts remind us of the
great Gift that God sent us.
Santa Claus, the jolly and beloved distributor of Christmas
gifts, is an American adoption of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, of the fourth
century. This Saint is popular in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands,
where he is made the secret purveyor of gifts to children on December 6, his
feast day. The custom was brought to New York by the Dutch, quickly spread
throughout the United States and became absorbed into the Christmas
What incidents in Our Lord's life were closely connected with the
Nativity? --The following incidents in Our Lord's life were closely
connected with the Nativity: the Circumcision, the Presentation, and the
flight to Egypt.
- The Child received the narne Jesus when He was eight days old. He was
circumcised, according to the custorn of the Jews. At the Circumcision
Jesus began His role of Mediator between God and man, shedding His blood for
the first time for us.
"Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for He shall save his people front their
sins" (Matt. 1:21). "Therefore God . . . has bestowed upon him the name that
is above everv name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of
those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (Phil. 2:9,10). "If you ask
the Father anything in my name. he will give it to you" (John 16:23). The
feast of the Circumcision is celebrated on New Year's Day. Thus the
Church teaches us to begin everything in the name of Jesus.
- When Jesus was forty days old, His Mother presented Him in the
Temple at Jerusalem. In imitation, though the rite is essentially different,
mothers today after childbirth seek the blessing of the Church in a
thanksgiving ceremony called "churching".
The feast of the Presentation is celebrated on February 2. It is
also called the purification of the Blessed Virgin, or Candlemas Day.
On this day candles are blessed and carried in procession, in memory of the
words of holy Simeon, when Jesus was presented in the Temple. He said Our Lord
was "a Light of revelation to the Gentiles".
- Mary and Joseph took the Child Jesus to Egypt to save Him from King
Herod, who wanted to kill Him.
An angel appeared to Joseph and told him to take the Child Jesus and His
mother away to Egypt. They stayed in Egypt until the death of King Herod. Then
an angel appeared to Joseph and bade him return to the land of the Jews.
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The Hidden Life of Jesus Christ
|After the finding in the Temple, Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph
to Nazareth. There He lived with them, doing all He could to help His Mother
and St. Joseph in their work. Jesus, God Himself, obeyed mortals, because He
wanted to set us an example. He lived a life of obedience, humility, and
poverty in Nazareth till He was about thirty years old , This hidden life
teaches us, among other things, the value in the eyes of God, of prayer,
humility and obedience.
How may the life of Jesus
Christ be divided? --The life of Jesus Christ may be divided into
three parts: His childhood to the time when He was twelve years old; His
hidden life, to the time when He started His teaching; and His public life, to
the time of His death.
After the murder of the Holy
Innocents, the Child Jesus lived in Egypt with His mother and St.
Joseph until the death of Herod, then returned with them to the Holy Land.
An angel appeared to Joseph and
said, "Arise, and take the Child and his Mother, and go into the land of
Israel" (Matt. 2:20). Just as St. Joseph had obeyed without question when told
to take the Child to Egypt, so now he obeyed, knowing that God Who watches
over the birds of the air would watch over those given into his charge.
The Holy Family lived in
Nazareth. From there, every year Mary and Joseph went to worship at the
Temple of Jerusalem. When Jesus was twelve years old, He went along with His
parents to celebrate the Pasch at Jerusalem. Then Mary and Joseph left the
city to return to Nazareth, but Jesus remained behind without their knowledge.
"But thinking that he was in the
caravan, they had come a day's journey before it occurred to them to look for
him among their relatives and acquaintances. And not finding him, they
returned to Jerusalem in search of him" (Luke 2:44-45) We can only imagine the
distress of Mary and Joseph upon having lost Jesus, most precious to them, the
Child that had been entrusted to their care. And what was their joy when after
three days search they found Him in the Temple, in the midst of the wise men
there, hearing and questioning them! Mary told how great had been her grief
when she said, "Behold, thy father and I have been seeking thee sorrowing"
(Luke 2:48). But Jesus replied, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not
know that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)
Jesus dearly loved Mary and Joseph,
but He did not hesitate to cause them pain and part from them, in order to
obey His heavenly Father's will. In imitation of Him, many young people leave
home and their dear parents, to enter the priesthood or a religious
congregation, to serve God completely.
Some non-Catholic interpreters
insist that Jesus had brothers, that He was not the only Son of Mary. Those
spoken of in the Gospels as the "brethren" of Our Lord (Matt. 13:55), were His
blood relatives; it was the practice among the Jews to call near relatives
So Abraham called his nephew Lot in
this manner: "Let there be no quarrel between me and thee.... for we are
brethren" (Gen. 13:8). As St. John Chrysostom wrote, Our Lord on the cross
would not have needed to commend His Mother to his Apostle John, if she had
had other children.
How long did the hidden life
of Jesus Christ last? --The hidden life of Jesus Christ lasted from
His return to Nazareth at the age of twelve until He entered into public life,
at the age of thirty.
Of this part of Christ's life all
we directly read from Holy Scripture are two statements: "And He went down
with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.... And Jesus
advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men" (Luke 2:51, 52). In
these two sentences is contained the history of eighteen years of the
life of Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
In the Temple, at the early age of
twelve, Jesus had proved His wisdom before the doctors of the law. As St. Luke
writes, "And all who were listening to him were amazed at his understanding
and his answers" (Luke 2:47). But did He continue after this unusual and
favorable beginning; did He stay on to preach His doctrine? No; instead, He
meekly followed His parents as a young child of that age, and went to live
with them in obscurity in Nazareth.
The actions of Jesus Christ are
intended for us as examples and instructions, as much as His words. As
He said, "I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also
should do" (John 13:15) The hidden life of Jesus is for us a perfect model of
humility. He lived in poverty and lowliness: the Mother He chose was a
poor woman; His foster-father was a carpenter; the town in which He spent the
greatest part of His life was an obscure place despised by the Jews: "Can
anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)
By His hidden life Jesus Christ
teaches us to learn holiness and wisdom before we presume to teach others. He
teaches us, by living in obscurity, to fight against our vanity, which makes
us desire to be doing only what seems great and important, which makes us
desire to be praised and noticed. By His hidden life Our Lord teaches us to
subdue our pride, to live day after day without impatience or complaint,
unknown to the world, and even despised, if that is the will of God for us;
then we shall have true peace of heart. And so Jesus said, "Learn from me, for
I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. 11:29). For long years of obscurity in
Nazareth, He was just "a carpenter's son".
The hidden life of Jesus Christ is
for us a perfect model of obedience: "And He was subject to them." The
God of all created things, almighty and infinite, was subject to two poor and
unknown mortals. He obeyed them in all things, promptly, constantly,
cheerfully, and with great love.
Let us model our obedience on this
perfect pattern. Let us obey our superiors as representatives of God, giving
them due respect and prompt obedience. When our parents command us, and we go
about doing what they want, but with murmuring and without spirit, is that the
obedience that the Child Jesus gave in Nazareth? When we have to do some
unpleasant or difficult task, let us imitate Jesus in His very words: "Yes,
Father, for such was thy good pleasure" (Matt. 11:26).
In this way our obedience will be
like that of Jesus, supernatural; we shall obey human beings for the love of
God; we shall really be obeying God Himself, in the persons of those He has
placed over us. By the example of His hidden life our Lord set the principle
for the religious life, particularly for that in contemplative orders.
Jesus "advanced in wisdom and grace
before God and men." Although He possesed all wisdom and grace from the first
moment of His mortal life, He manifested them only gradually and in a
way that was in keeping with His years.
We can obtain much merit before God
without doing any striking actions, by merely being humble and obedient in the
place of life in which it has pleased God to put us. If Christ the Son of God,
God Himself, was content to be humble, poor, and unknown, to do common tasks
day by day for the greater part of His earthly life, is there any reason why
we should be ever trying to exalt ourselves, to attract admiration, ever to
feed our vanity?
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The Public Life of Jesus Christ
|Our Lord spent the three years of His public life teaching, healing
the sick, working miracles to prove His mission and Divinity. One of His
most wonderful miracles was the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead
and buried four days. But Jesus went to the sepulchre and ordered the stone
closing it to be taken away. Then He cried: "Lazarus, come forth!" And
Lazarus came forth from the grave. Because of this miracle, the Pharisees
became more envious, and even planned to kill Lazarus, so as to make it
appear that Jesus had not raised him from the dead.
When did Christ begin His
public life? --Christ began His public life when He was about thirty
After spending long years in
obscurity and humble toil, Jesus Christ next entered upon a period of
activity, going about and teaching publicly. He left His home in Nazareth, and
began His public life by an act of great humility: His baptism at the
hands of St. John the Baptist in the river Jordan.
The mother of St. John the Baptist
was St. Elizabeth, cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. John lived a life of
very rigorous penance in the desert, preparing himself for his role of
forerunner or precursor of the Saviour. About two years before Christ started
His public life, John the Baptist went out of the desert, and began to preach
penance; he baptized in the Jordan all those who believed in his teachings and
wished to begin a new life.
St. John the Baptist was the
forerunner or precursor of Christ. He spoke to the people of the
coming Messias, and pointed Jesus out to them as the "Lamb of God." He was put
to death by Herod, because he reproved the ruler for his immoral life.
Jesus came to John to be baptized;
immediately afterwards, as Our Lord came out of the river, the Holy Ghost came
down upon Him in the form of a dove, and a Voice from heaven was heard saying:
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).
After His baptism, Jesus went into
the desert, where He fasted forty days and forty nights. This teaches
us to look upon baptism as a call to penance, and to prepare for all kinds of
activity by mortification and prayer.
The forty days of Lent are intended
to commentorate the forty days' fast of Our Lord. Lent lasts from Ash
Wednesday till midnight of Holy Saturday.
After Our Lord's long fast, the
devil was permitted to tempt Him. Christ rebuked the devil, and angels
came to minister to Him.
From this temptation of Our Lord we
know that a temptation is not sinful. As long as we resist the devil, we are
pleasing to God, however strong may be the temptation that assails us. "God is
faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with
the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it"
How long did Christ's public
life last? --Christ's public life lasted about three years, during
which He went about preaching, teaching, and doing good.
Upon His return from His forty-day
fast in the desert, Jesus called His first disciples. In a few days He
performed His first miracle, changing water into wine at a marriage-feast in
Cana, at the request of His Mother, although, as He told her, His time had not
Among the outstanding works of
Jesus during the first year of His active life were: He drove sellers out of
the Temple, saying they made it a "den of thieves". He cured the ruler's son,
Peter's mother-in-law, the paralytic at the pool, the daughter of Jairus. He
calmed the tempest.
Jesus began the second year of His
public life by an act of utmost significance: He chose from the many that
followed Him, "the Twelve", His twelve Apostles, Himself calling them
Apostles. In the Sermon on the Mount He summarized His teachings; it is the
law of love taking the place of the law of fear.
During the second year of His
mission, Christ performed many miracles, among which were: the cure of the
centurion's servant, of the widow's son at Naim; the first multiplication of
the loaves; He walked on the water, and bade Peter walk on it, too. He forgave
Mary Magdalen, and sent the Apostles on their mission. He began teaching in
the form of parables, comparing what He wanted to teach with common things.
Among His parables of this period were: the sower, the rates and wheat, the
mustard seed, the pearl of great price.
In His third year of
teaching, Jesus went to Galilee and Phoenicia, because in Judea where He had
been teaching, the Pharisees for envy and jealousy sought to kill Him. In
Phoenicia He gave in to the entreaties of a Gentile, a Canaanite, who
persevered in asking Him to cure her daughter.
In Galilee Jesus cured a
deaf-and-dumb man, using signs that the Church has adopted in its baptismal
ceremonies; he performed the miracle of the second multiplication of
the,loaves. On Mount Thabor He was transfigured in the presence of Peter,
James, and John. Among other cures were those of the ten lepers, and the man
blind from birth. He promised the primacy over all to Peter, paid the tribute
to Caesar, forgave the woman caught in adultery, sent out his seventy-two
disciples on a mission, called the rich young man, instructed Mary and Martha,
and was the guest of Zacheus. He told the parables of the unmerciful servant,
the Good Samaritan, the lost sheep, the lost groat, the greater supper, the
unjust steward, the prodigal son, Dives and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the
publican, the laborers in the vineyard.
Finally, at the end of His public
life, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. By this time the envy of the
Pharisees was so great that they determined to bring about the death ofJesus;
Judas came as a ready tool.
Magdalen anointed Our Lord, as He
said, for His burial. He entered Jerusalem in triumph riding on an ass, with
children waving palms and singing. He told the parable of the husbandmen and
the heir, to show the Pharisees that He knew of their designs against Him. And
last of all, He ate the Last Supper with His Apostles, there instituting the
What was Chrisfs aim in His
public life? --Christ's aim in His public life was to teach what God
requires all to believe and practice, so that all may enter the kingdom of
For this purpose He gathered some
seventy-two disciples, and from them chose twelve Apostles, to whom He
gave special instruction and training. By them He established His Church,
which was to carry on His work after His death, to continue teaching what He
had openly and publicly taught.
He spoke to large crowds, sometimes
numbering four or five thousand people, as when He multiplied the loaves and
fishes. Christ taught in the simplest manner, so that all might understand
without difficulty. He used plain, homely words. He often used signs and
parables, and illustrated His meaning by examples from nature and common life.
In the doctrines He taught,
a leading idea is: "Seek first the kingdom of God."
He taught a new rule of faith, and
gave new commandments. He taught the precept of love, even for our enemies. He
revealed certain mysteries: such as those of the Blessed Trinity, of His own
divinity, of the Last judgment. He instituted the seven sacraments.
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Fourth Article of the Apostles' Creed
|After the Last Supper, Jesus went with His Apostles to the Garden of
Gethsemani. And going a little ,further, He fell upon His face, praying:
"Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; yet not as I
will, but as Thou wiltest" (Matt. 26:39). After praying three times the same
prayer, Jesus said to His disciples: "Behold, the hour is at hand, and the
Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go.
Behold, he who betrays Me is at hand" (Matt. 26:45-46). Judas had come.
What important events marked
the end of Our Lord's public life? --The following events marked the
end of Our Lord's public life: His solemn entry into Jerusalem, the Last
Supper He ate with His Apostles, and finally, His passion and death.
Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem
in triumph, riding on an ass, with children waving palms and singing.
The Church commemorates the
entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. On that day palms are blessed, and
there is a procession, in memory of the palms that the joyous people waved at
the entrance into Jerusalem of Our Lord. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before
Easter. The week following it is called Holy Week.
On the Thursday evening after His
entry into Jerusalem, Jesus ate the Paschal Supper with His Apostles.
We call it the Last Supper, for it was the last meal He ate before His death.
The Jews celebrated the feast of
the Pasch in memory of their deliverance from Egypt. They had been saved by
the blood of the paschal lamb.
After the Supper, Our Lord
washed the feet of the Apostles. He did this to teach us humility.
In commemoration, the celebrant of
Holy Thursday Mass today washes the feet of twelve men, after the Gospel.
After the washing of feet, Our Lord
instituted the Blessed Eucharist, said the first Mass, and gave
His Apostles their first Holy Communion.
What is meant by the
Redemption? --By the Redemption is meant that Jesus Christ, as
Redeemer of the whole human race, offered His sufferings and death to God as a
fitting sacrifice in satisfaction for the sins of men, and regained for them
the right to be children of God and heirs of heaven.
A redeemer is one who pays
in order to get back something lost. He gives satisfaction, compensation for
an offense or injury done another.
No creature could, of himself, make
satisfaction for sin. Sin offends an infinite God, and therefore would need
infinite satisfaction. Therefore Someone Infinite, Jesus Christ, had to offer
Jesus Christ suffered and died as
man; as God He could neither suffer nor die. He suffered excruciatingly in
order to make full reparation for sin, and to impress on us the great evil of
sin. Even only one sin is so abominable to God that not all the deluges and
fires can wipe off the stain. Only the blood of God Himself can do so. "The
Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is. 53:6).
Christ died for all men,
without exception. He is the Redeemer of all men. Not all men are saved
because not all accept the graces which Christ merited for us by His
death. Many do not believe in Him. Of those who believe, many lead sinful
"Christ also loved us and delivered
himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God" (Eph. 5:2). We can
never realize fully that God died for us. We can never repay Him in this life
or the next. The only way we can show our appreciation is to live according to
What were the chief
sufferings of Christ? --The chief sufferings of Christ were His bitter
agony of soul, His bloody sweat, His cruel scourging, His crowning with
thorns, His crucifixion, and His death on the cross.
Christ had often foretold His
Passion. "For he was teaching his disciples, and saying to them 'The Son of
Man is to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and
having been killed, he will rise again on the third day"' (Mark 9:30). Again:
"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to
the chief priests and the Scribes; and they will condemn him to death, and
will deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him,
and scourge him, and put him to death; and on the third day he will rise
again" (Mark 10:33-34).
From the Last Supper, Christ went
with His Apostles to the Garden of Olives to pray. There He was
overwhelmed with sorrow and agony, so that He sweated blood.
Our Lord looked forward to His
agony, saying to His Apostles, "That the, world may know that I love the
Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me. Arise, let us go from
here" (John 14:31) . In the Garden, Jesus felt so sad at the sins of men and
at what would befall Him that He said, "My soul is sad even unto death" (Matt.
26:38). To His Father, He cried out in pain, "Father, if thou art willing,
remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). In
agony, "his sweat became as drops of blood, running down upon the ground"
Jesus Christ was betrayed by
Judas, seized by soldiers, led before the high priest, and condemned to death.
The Sanhedrin, the council of the Jews, headed by Caiphas the high priest,
condemned Jesus to death for the crime of blasphemy, because He claimed to
be Christ the Son of God.
"Then the high priest, standing up,
said to him, 'Dost thou make no answer to the things that these men prefer
against thee?' But Jesus kept silence. And the high priest said to him, 'I
adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ,
the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'Thou hast said it.' ... Then the high
priest tore his garment, saying, 'He has blasphemed; what further need have we
of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?'
And they answered and said, 'He is liable to death'" (Matt. 26:62-66)
Jesus Christ was led to Pontius
Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, to have His sentence confirmed. At
the time the Jews were forbidden by their Roman masters from putting anyone to
death without the confirmation of the Governor. Pilate questioned Christ time
and again, but had to say to His accusers: "I find no guilt in Him."
The Jewish Priests and Pharisees
hated and persecuted Jesus because they expected the Messias to be an earthly
king. They were so wicked that in spite of the proofs of Christ's divinity,
they would not believe a poor man could be the Messias. They hated Jesus; He
had rebuked them for their sins.
But Pilate wished to please the
Jews, and had Jesus scourged, Jesus was bound to a pillar, His clothes torn
off; strong men with whips, cords, and straps with iron spikes scourged Him,
and the whole body of Our Lord was one great wound.
"And the soldiers, plaiting a crown
of thorns, put it upon his head, and arrayed him in a purple cloak. And they
kept coming to him and saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and striking him.
Pilate therefore again went outside and said to them, 'Behold, I bring him out
to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in him.' Jesus therefore came
forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them,
'Behold the man!'"
At last, fearing that if he did not
permit Jesus to be put to death the Jews would accuse him before Caesar,
Pilate gave in to the insistence of the Jews and delivered Him to them to be
Christ was made to carry His cross
through the streets of Jerusalem to Mount Calvary. He was nailed to the cross
about noon, dying three hours afterwards, crucified between two thieves.
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|During Holy Week the Church lives again the passion and death of
Christ. On the first day, Palm Sunday, the solemn entry of Jesus into
Jerusalem is celebrated by the blessing of palms (1), followed by a solemn
procession. At the Mass of this day, as on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday,
the story of the Passion (3) from each Evangelist is read. On Thursday,
Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week the Tenebrae are celebrated: the fifteen
candles are put out one by one, to symbolize the flight of the disciples
(2), and the death of Our Lord. On Holy Thursday morning a pontifical Mass
is celebrated, in cathedrals only; at this the holy oils (4) are blessed.
Commemorating the Last Supper at which the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood
were instituted, Holy Thursday Mass takes place in the evening, with the
washing of feet (5) to commemorate Christ's washing of the Apostles' feet.
At the Good Friday service, emphasis is given to the veneration of the cross
(6) . Holy Saturday services are held at night, beginning with the blessing
of the new fire (7); from this the Paschal candle is lighted (9), a reminder
of Christ, Light of the world. The five grains of incense imbedded in the
candle remind us of His wounds. Four Lessons (10) are read; the baptismal
water is blessed and taken to the font (8). The Mass commemorates, Our
Lord's glorious Resurrection (11).
When did Christ die?
--Christ died on Good Friday.
During the three hours that Christ
suffered on the cross, He spoke seven times. We call these the seven words:
"Father, forgive them, for they do
not know what they are doing."
"Amen, I say to thee, this day thou
shalt be with me in paradise."
"Woman, behold thy son.... Behold
"My God, my God, why hast thou
"It is consummated."
"Father, into thy hands I commend
Where did Christ die?
--Christ died on Golgotha, a place outside the city of Jerusalem.
Christ was crucified on a hill
called Calvary, outside the city of Jerusalem.
St. Augustine says that on the
cross Our Lord bent His head to kiss us, extended His arms to embrace us, and
opened His heart to love us. How thankful we should be to Christ for His love!
"He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross"
What took place at the death
of Christ? --At the death of Christ the sun was darkened, the earth
quaked, the veil of the Temple was rent, the rocks split, and many of the dead
arose and appeared in Jerusalem.
The tearing of the veil of the
Temple at the death of Christ marked the end of the Jewish religion as
the true religion. This Jewish religion had been a figure of the True Church,
and when the Church was established, was no longer needed: types and figures
had to give way to reality.
The veil of the Temple concealed
the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Temple.
We must not, however, make the
mistake of thinking that Christianity ended the moral laws-laws regarding good
and evil that were taught by the Jewish religion. Christ came not to destroy,
but to perfect, the Old Law.
The authority of the Temple and its
officers was now placed in the Church established by Christ, in the hands of
His Apostles. The ceremonial laws of the Jews relating to worship were
The Church commemorates the passion
and death of Christ on Good Friday. The solemn afternoon service
consists of four parts, the veneration of the cross being the chief feature.
All may receive Communion.
After the Holy Thursday ceremonies
the altar was stripped; lights were put out, and bells silenced.
After His death, Our Lord's body
was taken down from the cross and laid in the grave which belonged to
Joseph of Arimathea. Then His disciples rolled up a great stone to close the
The chief priests and the Pharisees
went in a body to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we have remembered how that deceiver
said, while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Give
orders, therefore, that the sepulchre be guarded until the third day, or else
his disciples may come and steal him away, and say to the people, 'He has
risen from the dead'; and the last imposture will be worse than the first."
Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go, guard it as well as you know how.'
So they went and made the sepulchre secure, scaling the stone, and setting the
guard (Matt. 27:63-66)
What do we learn from the
sufferings and death of Christ? --From the sufferings and death of
Christ we learn God's love for man and the evil of sin, for which God, who is
all-just, demands such great satisfaction.
It was not necessary for
Jesus to suffer so intensely in order to redeem all men. As His merits are
infinite, He could have wiped away the sins of a thousand worlds by shedding
one drop of His blood. But He chose to suffer agonies because He loves
"Greater love than this no one has,
that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). "I am the good
shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep ... I am the good
shepherd; and I know mine and mine know me. ... and I lay down my life for my
sheep" (John 10:11-15).
From the Passion of Christ we learn
the evil that sin is, and the hatred that God bears it. We learn the
necessity of satisfying for the malice and wickedness that is sin. Sin must be
a horrible thing, to make Jesus Christ the God-man suffer so much.
By Christ's obedience He atoned for
Adam's disobedience, for He was obedient unto death. "He was wounded for our
iniquities; he was bruised for our sins" (Is. 53:5).
The sufferings of Christ, in
addition, serve as an example for us, to strengthen us under trials.
Christ gave us an example of
patience and strength. If we receive trials, we should accept them with
resignation, in imitation of Our Lord, Who suffered so willingly for our sake.
We can never have as much suffering as He did.
Churches are built in the
form of a cross because within the sacrifice of the cross is reenacted. Within
them we remember easily the events that took place that day long ago, when
Jesus Christ, Son of God, for love of us suffered and died on the Cross.
Church spires lead us to "seek
those things that are above" (Col. 3:1); they are surmounted by a cross, the
symbol of our salvation; their bells call us to prayer, communion with God.
The church interior is divided into three parts: the porch, where in former
times those preparing for baptism and the penitents knelt; the nave, which is
the central and main portion, for those attending the Holy Sacrifice; and the
choir or sanctuary, where in former times the singers stayed, now reserved for
the clergy, and separated from the nave by the communion rail.
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Fifth Article of the Apostles' Creed
|"Now late in the night of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards
the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary come to see the
sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the
Lord come down from heaven, and drawing near rolled back the stone, and sat
upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow. And
for fear of him the guards were terrified, and became like dead men. But the
angel spoke and said to the women, Do not be afraid; for I know that you
seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen even as he
said. Come, see the place where the Lord was laid' " (Matt. 28:1-7).
What do we mean when we say
in the Apostles' Creed that Christ descended into hell? --When we say
that Christ descended into hell, we mean that, after He died, the soul of
Christ descended into a place or state of rest, called limbo, where the souls
of the just were waiting for Him.
Christ did not go to the hell of
the damned, but to the "hell" of the just. In Holy Scripture, it was
called "Abraham's bosom". St. Peter called it "a prison". We call it limbo.
Among the souls in limbo were Adam,
Eve, Abel, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; Joseph, David, Isaias, Daniel, Job,
Tobias, St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist. They went to heaven at Our
Lord's entrance upon His Ascension.
Christ went to limbo to announce to
the souls waiting there the joyful news that He had reopened heaven to
"He was brought to life in the
spirit, in which also he went and preached to those spirits that were in
prison" (1 Pet. 3:19). The souls in limbo could not go to heaven, which had
been closed by Adam's sin. It was only reopened to man by the death of
Our Lord, by the Redemption. The souls in limbo did not suffer pain,
but they longed for heaven. After the release of these souls from Limbo, and
their entrance into heaven, this Limbo for the just souls ceased to exist.
While His soul was in limbo,
Christ's body was in the holy sepulchre. When man dies, his soul is
separated from the body. When Jesus died, His body and soul were
separated, but His divinity remained united to both body and soul.
Christ's body did not corrupt in
the tomb. It was in the holy sepulchre from Friday evening when He was buried,
to Sunday morning, when He arose from the grave. This is why we say Christ
rose on the third day, although He was in the grave for only three incomplete
When did Christ rise from the
dead? --Christ rose from the dead, glorious and immortal, on Easter
Sunday, the third day after His death.
Christ had often foretold
He said of His own body; "Destroy
this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). Before
entering Jerusalem He said to His Apostles that He would be put to death and
"rise again on the third day" (Matt. 20:19). On the night of the Last Supper
He said: "But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee" (Matt.
Even His enemies knew that
He had predicted His resurrection. This is why they obtained Pilate's
permission to seal the sepulchre and set guards to watch it.
They said to Pilate: "Sir, we have
remembered how that deceiver said, while he was yet alive. 'After three
days I will rise again'" (Matt. 27:63).
Today the entire Christendom
celebrates Easter Sunday in memory of the Resurrection. It is the Feast
of feasts, commemorating the completion of our redemption by Christ.
Easter is celebrated on the first
Sunday following the first full moon of spring; the feast therefore is
moveable, and can fall between March 22 and April 25, The Paschal season lasts
till Trinity Sunday; till then the joyous alleluia resounds.
Why did Christ remain on
earth forty days after His Resurrection? --Christ remained on earth
forty days after His Resurrection to prove that He had truly risen from the
dead, and to complete the instruction of the Apostles.
Christ's resurrection is an
undoubted fact on which rests the Christian faith.
St. Paul says: "If Christ has
not risen,"vain then is our preaching, vain too is your faith" (1 Cor.
15:14). And according to St. John, an eyewitness: "Many other signs also Jesus
worked in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But
these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
God" (John 20:30-31)
In the first place, Christ
really died. His death was witnessed by many, both friends and enemies. It
was proved by the soldier who plunged his spear into His side. It was
communicated officially to Pilate. His bones were not broken, because He was
found already dead. His Mother and disciples would never have buried Him had
they suspected the least chance of life.
Some unbelievers urge that Christ
was dead only in appearance and after an interval recovered from His swoon and
left the grave. The loss of blood following the scourging alone would have
been enough to cause death, not to mention the wounds He received on
In the second place, Christ
really came to life. On the first Easter morning He appeared to Mary
Magdalen and the other women who sought Him at the sepulchre. Then He appeared
to Peter. In the evening He walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
At night He appeared to the assembled Apostles.
Nor were these witnesses easily
deceived. The Apostles did not at first believe the women who told them the
Lord had risen. They would not even believe their own senses, thinking
the risen Saviour was a ghost. Christ had to call for something to eat, to
prove that He was not a ghost. St. Thomas refused to believe the other ten
Apostles, who had seen Christ first. He only believed when Our Lord appeared
to him and bade him touch His wounds.
The Jews bribed the guards
to say that while they were asleep, the disciples had stolen the body of
Such an act was made impossible by
Christ's enemies themselves. They had sealed and guarded the tomb. "So
they went and made the sepulchre secure, sealing the stone, and setting the
guard" (Matt. 27:66). Even supposing the guards to have fallen asleep, the
great stone which covered the sepulchre could not have been moved without
waking some at least of the guards. Finally, it is a remarkable circumstance
that the guards were not punished for this breach of duty.
Christ really arose from the
dead. For forty days He appeared to many. He conversed, walked, and even ate
with them. He spent much time instructing the Apostles.
One of His most important
appearances was to five hundred disciples on a mountain in Galilee,
when He gave the Apostles the command to go forth into the world and teach.
The Evangelists have recorded nine apparitions: but it is evident from their
writings (for example, Acts 1:3) that there were other and unrecorded
occasions when Christ appeared. Countless of Christ's followers laid down
their lives in testimony of the truth of the resurrection. "During forty
days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
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Sixth Article of the Apostles' Creed
|On Mount Olivet, a hill outside Jerusalem, forty days after His
Resurrection, Our Lord spoke to the disciples, telling them how the Holy
Ghost would descend upon them. "And when He had said this, he was lifted up
before their eyes, and a cloud took him out of their sight, And while they
were gazing up to heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white
garments, and said to them, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to
heaven? This Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the
some way as you have seen him going up to heaven' " (Acts 1:9-11).
Why did Christ rise from the
dead? --Christ rose from the dead to show that He is true God, and to
teach us that we, too, shall rise from the dead.
The Resurrection is the most
important of Christ's miracles. He Himself chose it as the most conclusive
proof of His divine mission; the Apostles appealed to it to confirm their
teachings. The fact of the Resurrection, by itself alone, proves Christ God.
Christ said repeatedly that He is
the Son of God; He said He would rise again from the grave. He did rise,
unaided, by His own almighty power; therefore He is as He said, the Son of
God. If He were an impostor, God would not have permitted Him to rise again.
"But take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Christ bore on His body the marks
of the five wounds. The qualities of His risen body were:
Agility. It could go with
the quickness of thought to all places.
Subtility or spirituality.
It was free from hunger, thirst, fatigue, and other needs. It could
penetrate material substances.
Clarity or brightness. It
shone with splendor.
Impassibility. It was
immune to pain, disease, and death.
We are fortunate in having today
for veneration a number of relics of the Passion.
The tablet with the inscription "I.N.R.I."
is in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome. One nail is said to have been
thrown by St. Helena into the Adriatic to calm a storm; another is in the iron
crown of the Lombards. Veronica's towel is in Rome. Part of the pillar of the
scourging is at Rome, part in Jerusalem. The winding sheets are in Turin, and
in Cadonin, France. Of the crown of thorns, part is in Paris, part in
Toulouse. All these remind us of the time when "they entreated Him to let them
touch but the tassel of His cloak" (Matt. 14:36).
Will all men rise from the
dead? --All men will rise from the dead, but only those who have been
faithful to Christ will share in His glory.
Like Christ, we, too, shall rise
from the dead on the Last Day, and our bodies will be reunited with our
"He who raised up Jesus will raise
us up also with Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:14). "As Christ has arisen from the dead
through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life" (Rom.
Those who have been faithful to
Christ will be rewarded with the glory of heaven; those that have been
unfaithful will be punished in the depths of hell.
"If you have risen with Christ,
Seek the things that are above, ... not the things that are on earth." The
rewards are given only to the faithful.
When did Christ ascend into
heaven? --Christ ascended, body and soul, into heaven on Ascension
day, forty days after His Resurrection.
The Ascension took place from the
Mount of Olives. Christ's Apostles and disciples were present. It was full
He gave His followers His last
instructions. Then He raised His hands and blessed them. He told them to
preach the Gospel to all nations, and promised to be with them to the end of
While all looked on, He was
raised up, by His own power, and a cloud received Him out of their
"Now he led them out towards
Bethany, and... was carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50-51).
The disciples returned to
Jerusalem with great joy. Their Master had returned to heaven in glory, and
His arrival there had opened to His followers the heavenly gates.
He had earned for men infinite
grace, so that they were now able to attain the friendship of God Himself.
Christ the King had gone home to prepare a place for men in heaven (John
14:16; 2 Cor. 1:7). We celebrate the feast of the Ascension forty days after
Easter, on Ascension Thursday.
What do we mean when we say
that Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty? --When
we say that Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, we mean
that Our Lord as God is equal to the Father, and that as man He shares above
all the saints in the glory of His Father, and exercises for all eternity the
supreme authority of a King over all creatures.
Christ as God is equal to
the Father in all things. But even as man Christ is only next to God. Of
Himself, Christ has dominion over all creation, his authority resting on the
union of His divine and human natures in the Person of the Son of God.
He is above all the angels
and saints. To Sit at the right hand of anybody is a mark of honor from that
person. "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool"
Christ ascended into heaven in
To enter into the glory He
To send down the Holy Ghost
on His Church.
To be our intercessor with
To prepare a place for us
What do we mean when we say
that Christ will come from thence to judge the living and the dead?
--When we say that Christ will come from thence to judge the living and the
dead, we mean that on the last day Our Lord will come to pronounce a sentence
of eternal reward or of eternal punishment on every one who has ever lived in
this world. (Seventh Article of the Apostles' Creed: see Chapter 81 on
Jesus Christ will be our Supreme
Judge because He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Apoc. 17:14).
"For the Son of Man is to come with
his angels in the glory of his Father and then he will render to everyone
according to his conduct" (Matt. 16:27).
Christ's teaching has changed the
face of the earth. One poor young man, teaching for three years in the hills
and valleys of Galilee, and dying a shameful death, has brought light, love,
peace, and hope into men's lives, even the lowliest.
Before Christ the world was the
abode of sin and vice, idolatry, polygamy, divorce, and slavery. However, the
world today, although reformed by Christianity, is far from perfect. This is
because many refuse to obey the teachings of Christ. It is our duty to make
Christ better known and loved, so that all may "seek first the
kingdom of God."
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The Holy Ghost
Eighth Article of the Apostles' Creed
|"And when the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close, they were
all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as
of a violent wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were
sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as of fire, which settled
upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began
to speak in foreign tongues, even as the Holy Spirit prompted them to speak"
Who is the Holy Ghost?
--The Holy Ghost is God and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Christ often spoke of the Holy
One of the most solemn occasions
was when He Charged the 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" (Matt. 28:19).
On certain occasions, the Holy
Ghost appeared in visible form. When Christ was baptized by John the
Baptist, the Holy Ghost appeared in the form of a dove. On Pentecost, the Holy
Ghost descended with a mighty rushing wind, and rested over the Apostles in
the form of tongues of fire.
These signs are symbolic of the
action of the Holy Ghost. The form of a dove symbolizes the gentleness
with which the Holy Spirit works in our souls. The rush of wind represents the
strengthening of the will. The fire represents zeal, fervor, and
the illumination of the mind.
The Holy Ghost proceeds from the
Father and the Son.
This does not mean that the Holy
Ghost began to exist later in time than the Father and the Son. He proceeded
from them from all eternity; He is to them as warmth is to fire, existing and
proceeding at the same time. There can be no fire without warmth; if there
were an eternal fire, there would be an eternal warmth. So since there are the
eternal Father and Son, there is the eternal Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the
eternal, mutual love that the Father and Son bear each other; but instead of
being mere feeling, He is a Person, a Being, God.
The Holy Ghost is equal to the
Father and the Son, because He is God.
True God as the Father and the Son
are, the Holy Ghost is eternal, all-knowing, almighty. The Third Person is
called Holy Spirit, from the Latin word spiritus, a breath. He
was breathed forth by the Father and the Son. In English we also call Him
Holy Ghost. Other names used to refer to the Holy Ghost are: Advocate,
Paraclete, Consoler, Comforter, Substantial Love, Spirit of Truth, etc.
What does the Holy Ghost do
for the salvation of mankind? --The Holy Ghost dwells in the Church as
the source of its life, and sanctifies souls through the gift of grace.
Although all Divine works depend on
all Three Persons, we attribute the work of sanctification to God the Holy
Ghost, because He is the oneness of love of the Father and the Son, and the
sanctification of man by grace reveals that boundless love.
"Do you not know that you are the
temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16).
After Baptism, we have the Holy
Ghost in our hearts and He remains with us as long as we have no mortal sin
on our souls. This is the gift of "sanctifying grace".
Then we say that the Spirit of God
dwells in us. We should therefore treat our body with great reverence, for it
is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is given in a very special
manner in the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.
The Holy Ghost is the source
of the life of the Church. He consoles, guides, and imparts strength to it, as
"The Church was filled with the
consolation of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31). "Many things yet I have to say to
you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come,
he will teach you all the truth" (John 16:12-13).
When was the dwelling of the
Holy Ghost first visibly manifested in the Church? --The dwelling of
the Holy Ghost in the Church was first visibly manifested on Pentecost Sunday,
when He came down upon the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire.
After the Ascension, the Apostles
together with the blessed Virgin and disciples, men and women, numbering about
120 persons, gathered in the Cenacle, the upper room in Jerusalem where the
Last Supper had been taken. There they spent the time in prayer, awaiting the
fulfillment of Our Lord's promise: "Wait here in the city, until you are
clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
Jesus had promised to send
the Holy Ghost to the Apostles. He said at the Last Supper: "It is expedient
for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7) . On Pentecost, ten days
after the Ascension, the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles and disciples.
On Pentecost three thousand members
were baptized after the preaching of St. Peter. Many believed, because the
Apostles had the "gift of tongues' that is, they spoke in one language, but
those of different races who listened heard what was said in their own
We celebrate the descent of the
Holy Ghost today as Pentecost Sunday, ten days after Ascension
Thursday, fifty days after Easter. Pentecost means fifty.
The nine days in the Cenacle
while the Apostles and disciples waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit were
spent in prayer, the first novena in the Church. "All these with one
mind continued steadfastly in prayer with the women and Mary, the mother of
Jesus" (Acts 1:14). In imitation of that first novena, it is our custom today
to make novenas especially in preparation for great feasts. We also make
novenas of petition or thanksgiving.
How long will the Holy Ghost
dwell in the Church? --The Holy Ghost will dwell in the Church until
the end of time.
"I will ask the Father and he will
give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth"
The Holy Ghost watches over the
Church, protecting it from destruction. From the beginning the Church
spread very rapidly. At the death of the Apostles, in spite of persecutions,
it was known in all parts of the then civilized world. Thence it has spread to
the ends of the earth.
St. Paul could say: "Yes, indeed,
their voice has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends
of the world" (Rom. 10:18).
The Holy Ghost gave testimony
of Christ, and strengthened the Apostles to give testimony of Christ.
Our Lord said, "But when the
Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth
who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me. And you also
bear witness" (John 15:26,27). By His descent, the Holy Ghost proved that all
Jesus Christ had said and done was true, that He was indeed the Son of God.
After the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles gave testimony of Christ by
going all over the world, (Acts 1:8), preaching and suffering for Christ,
meeting death joyfully (Acts 5:41; Rom. 8:18) , saying, "I can do all things
in him who strengthens me."
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|A soul in the state of grace is very beautiful in the sight of God.
Then we are friends and children of God and heirs of heaven; then we are
like the very angels. We must always try to avoid sin. But when the soul has
lost the grace of God by mortal sin, nothing on earth can be uglier in God's
sight. If we are so careful about our personal appearance before mortals,
how much more should we be careful about the appearance of our immortal
soul, that God may be pleased with us.
What is grace?
--Grace is a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us through the merits of
Jesus Christ for our salvation.
Grace is a favor, a free gift,
granted to us though we have no claim to it. God grants us graces because He
is good, not because we deserve them. God grants,us graces for the sake
of His Son, Who died on the cross to earn for us these graces; we men can
never merit these graces.
"All have sinned and have need of
the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the
redemption which is in Christ" (Rom. 3:23-24).
The Holy Ghost
dispenses the graces of God merited by Our Lord Jesus Christ; He bestows and
perfects what is already earned, and acts as the channel of grace.
In a similar manner the sun does
not make the plants, but develops what is already planted; without the sun
plants would die and be useless to man.
The supernatural is that
which is beyond natural Powers. It is of two kinds:
When the fact is beyond natural
powers in the manner of occurence: as when a blind man instantly can see;
When the fact fundamentally and
entirely surpasses all powers of the natural order: as when God imparts a
part of His life to man through the gift of sanctifying grace.
The assistance of the Holy Ghost is
necessary. Without the help of the graces that He dispenses, with
merely natural powers, we cannot do the least work to merit salvation. Without
God, we are nothing.
In order to reach heaven, we need
God's grace; so we say with the Apostle: "Not that we are sufficient of
ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from
God" (2 Cor. 3:5) ; "By the grace of God I am what I am. . . . I have laboured
more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1 Cor.
There are two kinds of grace:
sanctifying grace and actual grace.
What is sanctifying grace?
--Sanctifying grace is that grace which confers on our souls a new life, that
is, a sharing in the life of God Himself.
By sanctifying grace, our souls are
made holy and pleasing to God. It is an abiding or permanent
grace, which we gain by baptism, and lose only by mortal sin.
By Adam's sin all mankind lost the
friendship of God; that is, we are born in original sin, without
sanctifying grace. Our Lord's death won back sanctifying grace for us; it is
granted freely at Baptism.
A soul to whom God grants
sanctifying grace receives not merely a gift from God, but God Himself.
The Holy Ghost lives in him and becomes united with him, so that he receives a
new life, a new nature.
St. Paul refers to this acquisition
of sanctifying grace as the putting off of the old man and the putting on of
the new. It is as if an old and worn man were suddenly to become a handsome
young man full of the vigor of life. The beauty of a soul in the state of
sanctifying grace is too great for human eyes to bear. As a child said, when
asked how his soul would look immediately after his confirmation, if it could
be photographed, "Why, it would look like God!"
What are the chief effects of
sanctifying grace? --The chief effects of sanctifying grace are:
First, it makes us holy and
pleasing to God.-When we are in possession of sanctifying grace, we are
free from mortal sin; the two cannot dwell together. The fire of the Holy
Ghost sears away all that God abhors, so that we acquire God's friendship.
However, although free from mortal
sin, we do not: with sanctifying grace, become free from the remains of sin.
So even saints feel the human inclination to sin, against which the struggle
is lifelong, and from which we should gain merit. This human frailty is
imbedded in our flesh, and is present in our souls as a result of original
Sanctifying grace, however,
although it does not cure us of the weakness of the flesh, strengthens our
will, so that for us the war against sin becomes easier. The charity
accompanying sanctifying grace makes us more prone to good works, more
attracted to God, with minds illumined as to the folly of sin.
Second, it makes us adopted
children of God. - With sanctifying grace, the Holy Ghost enters our
soul; we are led by His Spirit, and are therefore His children: "For whoever
are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).
"Now you have not received a spirit
of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of
adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit
himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God" (Rom. 8:15-16).
Third, it makes us temples
of the Holy Ghost.-Sanctifying grace brings the Holy Ghost to dwell in us as
in a temple. St. Paul says, "For you are the temple of the Living God"
(2 Cor. 6: 16).
"Do you not know that you are the
temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys
the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God and
this temple you are" (1 Cor. 3: 16,17)
Fourth, it gives us the
right to heaven.When we are in sanctifying grace, we are inspired to do
good works. The Holy Ghost does not sleep within us, but expands our heart
with His grace, and urges our will to do good. And as we are adopted children
of God, such actions become meritorious for heaven.
If we are children of God, we are
at the same time heirs, and therefore have a right to His Kingdom. "We are the
sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and
joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17)
Why is sanctifying grace
necessary for salvation? --Sanctifying grace is necessary for
salvation because it is the supernatural life, which alone enables us to
attain the supernatural happiness of heaven.
The presence of God in the soul
gives it life. When the Holy Ghost is dwelling in the soul, it is enabled to
know and love God, to do supernatural works. Speaking of the "gift of God",
Our Lord said it "shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto
life everlasting" (John 4:14). Without sanctifying grace, the soul is without
God; and without God, the soul becomes the devil's.
One cannot gain any merit for
heaven as long as he is not in sanctifying grace, what is termed "in the
state of grace". For without sanctifying grace one is an enemy of God, and
cannot enter His kingdom.
Mortal sin makes the soul
displeasing to God, and thus deprives it of sanctifying grace.
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|The case of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most wonderful instances of
cooperation with God's grace. Saul of Tarsus was one of the most active
persecutors of the early Christians. On the way to Damascus to arrest
Christians, Soul was struck down by a brilliant light, and heard a voice
say: "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?" Saul asked, "Who art thou,
Lord?" And Jesus answered, "I am Jesus, whom thou art persecuting. Saul
immediately grasped at grace, and asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do?"
From then on he turned his back on his former life, and belonged completely
to Christ, till as the incomparable Apostle Paul he was martyred in Rome.
What is actual grace?
--Actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our mind and
strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil.
By actual grace the Holy Ghost
shows us the emptiness in themselves of earthly things. He makes us see our
own sins, and the true goal of life. By it we can perform a virtuous act or
reject a temptation.
Actual grace is transient;
that is, it is given to us only when we need it, to perform a good act, or to
overcome a temptation.
An example of the wonderful action
of the Holy Ghost in enlightening the mind and strengthening the will is the
First Pentecost. Before the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles were
ignorant and afraid; after His descent, His grace made them wise and fearless
men, going forth to preach Christ everywhere, ready to die for their faith.
God gives us always sufficient
grace to be saved. A true Christian should view his whole life in the
light of grace. All God's gifts granted for man's salvation are graces.
A good family, a good
education,-these are graces. But even sickness and hardships are God's graces,
and may be the steps by which to ascend to heaven. And God grants graces to
protect us against temptation, never suffering us to be tempted beyond our
strength. If we do our part, avoid the occasions of sin, and cooperate with
His graces, we shall win.
Is actual grace necessary for
all who have attained the use of reason? --Actual grace is necessary
for all who have attained the use of reason, because without it we cannot long
resist the power of temptation, nor perform other actions which merit a reward
We all need actual grace.
Sinners need it to rise from sin. The just need it to persevere in good.
Without grace, we fall into sin.
Herod was offered actual grace when
he heard of the birth of the Messias from the three wise men; but Herod
rejected the grace, and added to his sins.
Grace is given to all men,
although not in equal amounts. Some receive more, some less. Some ordinary
graces are granted to all men; certain extraordinary graces are granted to
God is free to bestow His
gifts as He likes. The Blessed Virgin received more than other mortals.
Christians receive more than pagans. Those in the state of grace are likely to
receive more than those in the state of mortal sin. In a way, our graces
depend also on our dispositions. If we are faithful in corresponding
with what we get, we receive more abundantly. Often our carelessness and
indifference turn away God's graces from us. We reject Him who only wishes to
make us saints, whose "delight is to be with the children of men" (Prov.
What are the principal ways
of obtaining grace? --The principal ways of obtaining grace are prayer
and the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.
The sacraments of Baptism and
Penance give grace to those not possessing it; the other sacraments increase
grace in those already in the state of grace.
Actual grace is obtained by good
works. It is especially obtained by the use of means offered by the
Church, such as hearing Mass, sermons, etc., and receiving the sacraments,
particularly the Holy Eucharist, which contains God, the Source of Grace.
Although we cannot merit grace by
our good works, still our good works can beg God for us, to give us grace.
Good works are necessary, for God will not save us without our cooperation.
Actual grace is made to act
through various means: through sermons, reading of good books, illness and
death, advice of superiors and friends, good example, etc.
The first converts at Pentecost
were moved by the preaching of the Apostles. St. Ignatius of Loyola was moved
by the reading of the lives of the saints; St. Francis of Assisi, during an
illness; St. Francis Borgia, upon seeing the corpse of Queen Isabella. Often
God sends us sufferings as a means by which the Holy Ghost may speak to us.
Can we resist the grace of
God? --Unfortunately, we can resist the grace of God, for our will is
free, and God does not force us to accept His grace.
Grace does not force us. It
leaves us free to choose between good and evil. The Holy Ghost guides and
enlightens, but we can still close our eyes to His grace. If we cooperate, we
gain other graces.
As Christ said, "For to him who has
shall be given, and he shall have abundance" (Matt. 13:12). He who persists in
rejecting the gift of God's grace and refuses to be converted will die in his
sin and will be forever excluded from the sight of God. "From him who does not
have, even that which he seems to have shall be taken away. But as for the
unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there
will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:29-30). Would it not
be an insult to a king if he keeps offering gifts to one of his people, and
these gifts are despised?
We should be on the lookout for the
graces of God, ready to accept them as soon as they are offered. The
action of the Holy Ghost on the individual soul is not continuous in
particular graces; we must be ready when He comes with special gifts.
Some receive only one summons to
the banquet. In the desert, the Israelites who rose late found the manna
melted away. There are times of special grace for the Christian, such as Lent,
a retreat, etc.
How can we make our most
ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward? --We can make our most
ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward by doing them for the love of God,
and by keeping ourselves in the state of grace.
God grants us the right to a
heavenly reward for the most ordinary good actions in the supernatural order,
provided we are in the state of grace. God does not ask us to do extraordinary
things. If we do the most ordinary tasks of the day, like cooking, studying,
doing small chores, carpentry work, sewing, and such, in a spirit of love and
obedience to Him, our acts will deserve merit before God's eyes.
God does not expect all of us to be
great scientists saving thousands of lives each day, great discoverers, great
lawyers, great statesmen. Does God need our help? All He wants is our love;
and this we can give in the most ordinary daily actions. "Whether you eat or
drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God."
By mortal sin one loses the
merit he has gained from his good actions. It is necessary that he regain
that state of grace before he can regain that merit.
To regain God's friendship, we must
be sorry for our sins, make a good confession, and resolve never to displease
Him again. Then He will give us back the gift of His grace and love, and the
merit of all our good works.
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|Faith is the foundation of all virtue, for by it God makes Himself
known to men. As St. Paul says, "Now faith is the substance of things to be
hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen. . . . And without faith
it is impossible to please God." (Heb. 11 :1,6). It is this supernatural
faith that the Chanaanite woman proved, when she persevered in begging Jesus
to cure her daughter. Having tested her, He said, "O woman, great is thy
faith. Let it be done to thee as thou wilt" (Matt. 15:28).
What are the chief
supernatural powers that are bestowed on our souls with sanctifying grace?
--The chief supernatural powers that are bestowed on our souls with
sanctifying grace are the three theological virtues and the seven gifts of the
Good qualities or inclinations,
whether natural or supernatural, are generally referred to as "virtues".
Virtue is a habit that inclines us to whatever is good.
A single good act does not
constitute virtue. For instance, one does not have the virtue of faith if one
believes in Christ only once a week.
Supernatural virtues enter the soul
with sanctifying grace, imparted by the Holy Ghost in the Sacraments of
Baptism and Penance. With sanctifying grace the soul acquires the supernatural
light of faith and hope, and burns with the fire of charity.
These virtues render us capable of
being good and doing good for the love and service of God, to act for instead
of against Him.
We are not to suppose however that
sanctifying grace makes us perfect in the practice of virtue. It gives us the
power and the inclination to be good and do good, but to have
perfection we must frequently exercise our virtues. We are given the power,
but if we do not use it, it remains dormant; similarly, we are given legs to
use for walking, but if we refuse to walk, the power is dormant. Virtue is a
habit acquired by repeated good acts.
Natural virtue enables us to
perform good natural acts; it deals directly with things human.
Supernatural virtue enables us to perform good acts from a supernatural
motive, for the glory of God.
If we are temperate in food and
drink because we wish to preserve our health, we have a natural virtue; we act
according to reason.
Natural virtues compared to
supernatural ones are like a photograph compared to the living original. It is
only supernatural virtues that will profit us unto life everlasting, since it
is only those whose object and life is God.
What are the three
theological virtues? --The three theological virtues are faith, hope,
These virtues are called
theological, from the Greek term theos (meaning God) , because their
object is God.
An appropriate symbol for the
theological virtues is a living tree. Faith is the root, hope the trunk, and
charity the fruit. The root and trunk are valueless if they do not find
completion in the fruit. The common symbols depicting these three
virtues are: the cross for faith, the anchor for hope, and the burning heart
He who possesses these three
virtues has all other virtues in some degree. Without them, he cannot
possess any other supernatural virtue nor reach heaven.
We should make acts of these
virtues every day. We can say very briefly: "O my God, I believe in Thee, I
hope in Thee, I love Thee. To Thee be honor, praise, and glory forever."
What is faith?
--Faith is the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths God has
revealed, on the word of God revealing them, Who can neither deceive nor be
"Faith is the substance of things
to be hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen" (Heb. 11:1).
"Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
Faith is belief in a truth
on the word of another, though that truth be not fully understood.
In a trial, the judge believes the
testimony of a witness known to be an honest man. When a fact is so obvious as
"it is dark at midnight," no belief is needed; that is known and fully
Divine faith is belief in a truth
or mystery known only because God revealed it. It is grace that
helps us to attain faith and to persevere in it, to take God's word for
whatever He has revealed.
Faith is supernatural
because we cannot by ourselves acquire it. It is a gift of God. It is,
however, increased by prayer and continual exercise; the apostles prayed to
the Lord, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5)
Without faith, it is impossible
to be saved.
We must not cease praying for
increase of faith, for it is necessary for salvation. "He that believeth not
shall be condemned" (Matt. 16:16). "Without faith, it is impossible to please
God" (Heb. 11:6).
Our faith must be firm and
complete; that is, both certain and all-encompassing.
If we are doubtful on any matters
of faith, considering opposite viewpoints as possibly true, then we deny God's
authority. If we accept some truths, and deny others, then that is denying God
What is hope? --Hope
is the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, Who is all-powerful and
faithful to His promises, will in His mercy give us eternal happiness and the
means to obtain it.
God promised to give man
eternal life, and the means to obtain it. In this promise is our hope.
"He that putteth his trust in me
shall inherit the land, and shall possess my holy mount" (Is. 57:13).
Hope is necessary for
salvation. Our hope must be firmly founded in God, Who Promised to give us the
means for salvation.
Such firm hope, however, would not
exclude reasonable fear of the loss of our soul. Very often we fall far short
of the proper use of the means of salvation granted us.
What is charity?
--Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own
sake, and our neighbor as ourselves, for the love of God.
Charity is the queen of virtues. It
unites God and man perfectly in love. It also unites man and man, for
the love of God.
To love God above all things, we
must be willing to renounce all created things rather than offend Him by sin.
We should often speak to God in acts of love, opening our hearts to Him.
In heaven faith and hope will
cease; for we cannot need faith for what we already know; nor can we desire
what we already possess. But for all eternity we shall have charity: we can
love God forever.
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Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Ghost
|In the picture the Holy Ghost is represented by a dove. It was in
that form that the Holy Ghost showed Himself visibly when St. John baptized
Jesus. The dove symbolizes gentleness and peace. The Holy Ghost dispenses
the graces of God. However, the Holy Ghost produces nothing beyond what
Jesus Christ merited. The merits of Our Lord are infinite, for He is God.
The Holy Ghost merely perfects, the works of Christ. In a somewhat similar
way, the sun shining on a field does not sow new seed; it merely develops
what has been sown, making it bloom and bear fruit.
Which are the seven gifts of
the Holy Ghost? --The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are: wisdom,
understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
The gifts are infused in our souls
with sanctitying grace. With God the Holy Ghost come sanctifying grace, and
inseparably, His gifts.
Wisdom is that gift by which
we recognize the emptiness of earthly things. By it we come to regard God and
spiritual things as of the highest good. Without the gift of wisdom we are
indifferent to spiritual matters, avoiding all mortification.
The best example of the effects of
the gifts of the Holy Ghost are the Apostles, who after receiving the Holy
Ghost became penetrated with His graces.
Understanding is that gift
by which we are enabled to recognize the true Catholic teaching, and to detect
false doctrines. Before the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, they
did not understand the divine mysteries Christ revealed to them, often
interpreting His words materially.
Saint Clement Hofbauer began his
studies late in life, and had just enough instruction in theology to be
ordained. But he was often consulted by high officials of the Church on
matters of doctrine, because he had the gift of understanding to an
The gift of counsel helps us
to discover the will of God under difficult circumstances.
Before they received the Holy
Ghost, the Apostles were inconstant in their thoughts, desires, and actions,
at one time full of high zeal, at other times despairing and weak. But Christ
promised them the gift of counsel, saying: "Do not be anxious how or wherewith
you shall defend yourselves; or what you shall say, for the Holy Spirit will
teach you" (Luke 12:11-12).
Fortitude is the gift by
which we are strengthened under trials, to do God's will.
Before the descent of the Holy
Ghost, the Apostles were of good will, but they were weak and fearful. For
instance, when Jesus was taken prisoner, they all fled. St. John Nepomucene
chose to be tortured, and finally cast into the river, rather than break the
seal of the confessional.
The gift of knowledge
enables us to grasp the teaching of the Church, to know God and Jesus Christ
Whom He sent.
Before the advent of the Holy
Ghost, the Apostles were ignorant men who did not care for intellectual
pursuits; neither were they expert in holiness or the things of God. The
saintly Cure d'Ars had made but little study, yet his sermons were so
remarkable that even Bishops were eager to listen.
Piety is that gift by which
we love God as our Father, ever striving to do His will.
Before the coming of the Holy
Ghost, the Apostles loved Jesus, but more for their own sakes rather than His,
more for the reward He promised than for love of Him. But after Pentecost,
what a change! They were ready to suffer death just because they loved Jesus
and wished to declare Him everywhere.
The fear of the Lord makes
us dread sin as the greatest of all evils, and enables us to quell fear of man
and human respect.
Eleazer, the old Jewish scribe,
chose death rather than offend God by eating, or even pretending to eat,
forbidden meats (2 Mach. 6).
Besides these seven gifts, the Holy
Ghost also grants certain extraordinary gifts, which are given only on rare
occasions and to selected persons. Such extraordinary graces are granted
principally not for the benefit of the recipient, but of others. They were
common during the early days of the Church, and helped in its rapid spread.
Among them are the gift of tongues, of miracles, of visions, and of prophecy.
The Apostles received the gift of tongues on Pentecost, so that although they
spoke to a crowd of different nationalities and languages, everybody
understood what was said.
The Apostles also possessed the
gift of miracles, curing the sick, driving out evil spirits, raising the dead
to life. Many saints have been blessed with the gift of miracles. The prophets
before the coming of Christ foretold future events. A number of the saints
have been granted the gift of visions and ecstasies, though this is rare; good
examples are St. Francis of Assisi, who received the stigmata of Our Lord's
wounds, and St. Catherine of Siena.
How do the gifts of the Holy
Ghost help us?The gifts of the Holy Ghost help us by making us more
alert to discern and more ready to do the will of God.
If we look with discerning eyes, we
can see how the gifts of the Holy Ghost have greatly helped the world
As the psalmist sang: "Thou shalt
send forth Thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the
face of the earth" (Ps. 103:30). "And hope does not disappoint, because the
charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5).
The operations of the Holy
Ghost were easily discernible among the early Christians.
"And they continued, steadfastly in
the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread
and in the prayers. And ... many wonders also and signs were done by means of
the apostles" (Acts 2:42-43).
The difference between the virtues
and the gifts of the Holy Ghost consists in this: the virtues enable us to do
what our reason directs; the gifts make us follow the inspirations
of the Holy Ghost.
Which are some of the effects
in us of the gifts of the Holy Ghost? --Some of the effects in us of
the gifts of the Holy Ghost are the fruits of the Holy Ghost and the
Which are the twelve fruits
of the Holy Ghost? --The twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost are: charity,
joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith,
modesty, continency,and chastity.
These twelve fruits of the Holy
Ghost are good habits performed under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. They
make us happy and contented, and help us to be pleasing to both God and man.
With the fruits of the Holy Ghost
it becomes easier for us to persevere in the union with God by the practice of
virtue; our heart inclines with charity towards God and our neighbor, and
finds it almost natural to be detached from the world.
With the gift of sanctifying grace
and its accompanying theological virtues, gifts of the Holy Ghost, and their
effects, the Christian soul may be said to possess sanctity, to be in the
state of Christian perfection.
Sanctity is the fervent surrender
of one's self to God and the practice of virtue. It does not require
extraordinary works. The Blessed Mother of God the most holy of mortals, never
performed any extraordinary works to excite worldly admiration. "Love is
the fulfilling of the law."
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|The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity furnish a strong
basis for all other virtues. The cardinal virtues of prudence, justice,
fortitude, temperance, are the foundation of all moral virtues. The
theological virtues define our relations with God; the moral virtues define
our relations with ourselves and our fellowmen. If we have these virtues, we
are on the way to perfection.
Are there any other virtues besides the theological virtues of faith,
hope, and charity? --Besides the theological virtues of faith, hope,
and charity, there are other virtues, called moral virtues.
- These virtues are called moral virtues because they dispose us to lead
moral, or good lives, by aiding us to treat persons and things in
the right way, that is, according to the will of God. Moral virtues are
opposed to the capital sins.
For example, humility is opposed to pride; liberality is
opposed to avarice; chastity is opposed to lust; meekness and
patience are opposed to anger; temperance is opposed to gluttony;
brotherly love is opposed to envy: and zeal and diligence
in what is good are opposed to sloth.
- Moral virtues are an outgrowth and completion of the theological
virtues. The theological virtues perfect our interior being; the moral virtues
perfect our exterior. If we sincerely strive after these virtues, we
are on the road to perfection.
The theological virtues affect our relations with God; the moral virtues
affect our relations with our neighbor and our own selves. For example, faith
makes us believe in the existence of God. Temperance makes us regulate our
Which are the chief moral virtues? --The chief moral virtues
are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; these are called cardinal
All other moral virtues spring from the cardinal virtues. These are called
cardinal from cardo, the Latin word for hinge, because
all our moral actions turn on them as a door turns upon its hinges. All other
moral virtues depend on them.
How do prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to
lead good lives? --Prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance
dispose us to lead good lives, as indicated below:
- Prudence disposes us in all circumstances to form right judgments
about what we must do or not do.-It teaches us when and how to act in matters
relating to our eternal salvation. Prudence perfects the intelligence, which
is the power of forming judgments; for this virtue, knowledge and experience
Prudence shows us how to leave earthly things in order to earn riches for
eternity. It is the eye of the soul, for it tells us what is good and what is
evil. It is like a compass that directs our course in life. It is opposed to
worldly wisdom. "Be prudent therefore and watchful in prayers" (1 Pet. 4:7).
Prudence is a virtue of the understanding.
- Justice disposes us to give everyone what belongs to him.-It
teaches us to give what is due to God and to man. It makes us willing to live
according to the commandments. Justice perfects the will and safeguards the
rights of man: his right to life, freedom, honor, good name, sanctity of the
home, and external possessions.
The just man is an upright man. He gives to every one his due: he gives God
worship; the authorities, obedience; his subordinates, rewards and
punishments; and his equals, brotherly love. "Render to all men whatever is
their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; taxes to whom taxes are due; fear
to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due" (Rom. 13:7).
- Fortitude disposes us to do what is good in spite of any
difficulty.-It gives us strength to do good and avoid evil in spite of all
obstacles and afflictions.
We possess fortitude when we are not hindered by ridicule, threats, or
persecution from doing what is right; when we are ready, if necessary, to
suffer death. The greatest fortitude is shown by bearing great suffering
rather than undertaking great works. No saint was ever a coward. The martyrs
- Temperance disposes us to control our desires and to use rightly
the things which please our senses.-It regulates our judgment and passions, so
that we may make use of temporal things only in so far as they are necessary
for our eternal salvation. We have temperance when we eat and drink only what
is necessary to sustain life, preserve health, and fulfill our duties.
We should strive to be like St. Francis of Sales, who said: "I desire very
little, and that little I desire but little." However, temperance does not
consist in refusing or denying ourselves what is necessary, thus unfitting
ourselves for good works.
Which are some of the other moral virtues? --Filial piety
and patriotism, which dispose us to honor, love, and respect our
parents and our country. It is, however, no virtue but a sin if we are so
prejudiced in favor of our parents that we find no good in others; or if we
are so "patriotic" that we see no good in other nations.
The division and mutual antagonisms of nations and peoples in which certain
ones profess to find themselves as "superior" can certainly not please God;
from them come war and revenge. God is Father of all nations and peoples,
- Obedience, which disposes us to do the will of our superiors.
Obedience consists not only in doing what is commanded by our superior,
but in being willing to do what is commanded. One who grumbles and
murmurs while doing what his mother asks him to do is not obedient.
Obedience is a virtue only when one subjects his will to that of another
for God's sake, not for material or natural motives. Christ is the model of
obedience, for He obeyed completely and lovingly, even to the death of the
Cross. "An obedient man shall speak of victory" (Prov. 21:28).
- Veracity, which disposes us to tell the truth.
We should always be truthful, as children of God, Who is Truth itself.
Veracity, however, does not require us to reveal secrets, or to reply to
questions about which the questioner has no right to ask. In cases such as
these, we should either remain silent, or return an evasive answer.
"Wherefore, put away lying, and speak truth each one with his neighbor,
because we are members of one another" (Eph. 4:25).
- Patience, which disposes us to bear up under trials and
In sickness and ill fortune, in the difficulties of our occupations, in our
weaknesses, let us have serenity of mind, for the love of God: "And bear fruit
in patience" (Luke 8:15). "Be patient in tribulation, persevering in prayer"
Besides these, there are many other moral virtues. Religion
is the highest moral virtue, since it disposes us to offer to God the worship
that is due Him.
Religion is classed under the virtue of justice.
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Humility, Liberality, Chastity
|At a very early age St. Agnes had such a high regard for the virtue
of chastity that she vowed her virginity to God. The Roman authorities, who
were persecuting the infant Church, tried to make this child offer incense
to the idols, but she refused. Seeing her firmness, the persecutors tried to
win her by flattery. She was only thirteen years old, beautiful and wealthy;
they offered to marry her to the son of a high official in Rome. But she
answered that she was consecrated to her Heavenly Bridegroom. She suffered
torture and meekly laid her head on the execution block.
What is humility? --Humility is that moral virtue which
disposes us to appreciate and acknowledge our true position with respect to
God and our fellowmen.
Jesus Christ often praised and recommended humility. "Unless you turn, and
become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven"
(Matt. 18:3). He always answered the prayers of the humble, as of the
centurion (Matt. 8:11). "If any man wishes to be first, he shall be last of
all, and servant of all" (Mark 9:34)
- The humble man acknowledges God as the source of all the excellent
things he may possess. He recognizes his limitations, his own nothingness, and
the uselessness of all earthly things without God.
Compared to God, what are we? All things pass away; only God is eternal.
These simple truths will help us keep humble; without God we are nothing. Let
us practice the behest of Our Lord. "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble
of heart" (Matt. 11:29).
- The humble man knows that earthly things are of value only if they lead
us to God. His detachment from all things worldly frees him from all human
In order to become humble, let us think often of the majesty and grandeur
of God. Let us contemplate His works, beside which ours would be nothing.
Above all, let us remember that without God we would not even exist. Do we
feel proud of our wealth? Tomorrow a fire, a business depression, may wipe it
off completely. Are we proud of our appearance? An accident, some sickness,
would make it as if it had never been. Are we proud of our intelligence?
Amnesia would take it all away.
- The humble man has his best, model in the Son of God Himself, Jesus
Christ, Who humbled Himself out of love for men.
"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. 11:29). The Son
of God humbled Himself when He came down to earth as man. He came as a poor
man, in the eyes of the world the son of a carpenter. His companions were
simple fishermen. He associated with the humble, with sinners even. At the
Last Supper He washed the feet of His apostles. He was put to death on the
cross, the manner of death then most despised.
- Our Lord continually urged us to humility; as when He said, "He who is
greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matt. 23:11).
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Christ exalted humility; as
also He did when, taking a little child, He said, "Whoever, therefore, humbles
himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven"
(Matt. 18:4). And again He said, after preaching to His disciples, "When you
have done everything that was commanded you, say: We are unprofitable
servants'" (Luke 17: 10)
- Humility is opposed both to pride and to excessive and affected
To be humble, a man does not need to belittle his abilities. St. Thomas
Aquinas says: That a person should recognize and appreciate his own good
qualities is not sin." (See Chapter 25 on Pride, Covetousness, Lust)
What is liberality? --Liberality is that moral virtue,
related to the cardinal virtue of justice, which finds expression in
generosity towards our fellowmen, disposing us to use material goods rightly.
- Ordinarily the term is taken with reference to material goods; but
in a broader sense it also is with respect to spiritual and intellectual
Liberality consists in giving, for the love of God, generous help to those
in need. Our Lord said, in urging us to do works of mercy, that what is given
to the poor is given to Him. Liberality does not depend on the amount given,
but in the spirit. A poor man can be very liberal; whereas a rich man who
gives millions, but does so only in order to get praised does not have the
virtue of generosity.
- Liberality is opposed to covetousness.
With liberality we become willing for the love of God to help out those in
material need. This virtue does not depend on the amount or material value of
the gift, but in the goodness of the heart with which it is given. (See
Chapter 25 on Pride, Covetousness, Lust)
What is chastity? --Chastity is that moral virtue which
disposes us to be pure in soul and body.
Those who keep themselves pure in soul and body are like angels on earth.
It was the chaste Apostle John to whom Christ gave the privilege of leaning on
His breast at the Last Supper; it was to him that He entrusted His Virgin
- Chastity, opposed to lust, disposes us to preserve the mind and
body from everything that is impure. Chastity is purity. It is termed the
angelic virtue, because it makes men resemble the angels in heaven.
Chastity gives health to the soul and light to the understanding; it aids
wisdom and develops strength of character. Judith, a weak woman, had the
courage to go into the enemy camp, and returned with the head of Holofernes;
of her Holy Scripture says, "Thou hast done manfully and thy heart hath been
strengthened, because thou hast loved chastity" (Judith 15:11). Thousands of
martyrs died in defense of this virtue of holy chastity.
- For the unmarried, chastity forbids indulgence of the sexual
appetite; for the married, it regulates the use of that appetite in accordance
with the dictates of right reason. It is wrong to suppose that chastity is not
a virtue for the married. God requires chastity from everyone, in all
states of life. A chaste marriage is the basis of the Christian family.
Not all saints are virgins. God requires chastity to be practiced by all,
in accordance with the state of life that each has embraced. It may be either
absolute (for the unmarried), or relative (for the married).
- The mere knowledge of facts does not destroy our chastity. It is wilful
consent and yielding to impurity that sullies chastity of mind and body.
Jesus Christ, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and other saints surely knew the facts
of sex; but such knowledge did not spoil their spotless chastity.
- Let us be careful of the company we keep, and avoid all occasions
of sin to preserve virtue of chastity. Let us form the habit of temperance
in all things, so as to strengthen our self-control. We should often have
recourse to prayer and the sacraments, receiving these frequently. "Walk in
the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5: 16).
(See Chapter 25 on Pride, Covetousness, Lust)
Let us have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and ask her
daily to preserve us in chastity. The following prayer has in many cases been
found efficacious in imploring the Blessed Virgin to preserve one's chastity:
"My Queen, my Mother! I give myself entirely to thee; and to show my
devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my
heart, my whole being without reserve. Wherefore, good Mother, as I am thine
own, keep me, guard me as thy property and possession."
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Meekness, Abstinence, Zeal,
|As an example of true zeal we have the Apostle of the Indies, the
Patron of Catholic Missions, St. Francis Xavier. Born of a noble family of
Navarre, a descendant of kings, he was brought up for a career of earthly
power and glory. But he met St. Ignatius, and decided to become a soldier
for Christ. Inflamed with zeal, wishing only to reap rich harvests for God,
he went through India, Malaya, and Japan planting the seed of the Faith,
converting innumerable heathen to Christ. In Japan so fruitful was his
apostolate that a generation after him the Christian population still
totalled 400,000 souls. He is Protector of the Society for the Propagation
of the Faith.
What is meekness? --Meekness is that moral virtue which
disposes us to control anger when offended, and resentment when rebuked.
Meekness however must be distinguished from pusillanimity, which is
weakness of spirit, and cowardliness.
- Meekness is patience between man and man. It is related to the
cardinal virtue of temperance, and is opposed to the sin of anger. The
patient man keeps calm in the midst of the vicissitudes of life; he preserves
his cheerfulness for the love of God.
The motive is important. If we are calm and patient only because we hope to
be admired or because we thereby wish to avoid temporal trouble, by
indifference, then we do not practice virtue. Virtue is the result of love for
God, doing things for His sake, because it is His law or desire. "By your
patience you will win your souls" (Luke 21:19).
- We must endure with serenity all trials, not merely a part of them,
in order to be truly patient.
For instance, some are patient with sickness, but keep lamenting their
being a burden to others on its account. Some are patient with others, but
have no patience with themselves: for example, they feel irritated if they
fall back into old sins. Such persons are not truly patient and meek; they
show traces of pride, believing themselves too good to relapse into old sins.
"Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts
- The patient and meek man shows no anger when wrong is done him. He is a
peacemaker at heart. However, although we should forgive and forget wrongs for
the sake of peace, we must not give in to sin just to avoid opposing others;
this would be sinful. Let us keep the peace with all when there is no good
reason to break it; this should be our policy.
Our Lord is the best example of meekness and patience. Did He use His
almighty power to punish those who did Him evil? For hours He hung meekly on
the cross, until He died. Every day God is patient with sinners, giving them
time to change their ways.
- The meek man is master of his own self; he has self-control, and will find
it easy to control others. He has peace of mind and will attain heaven, the
home of the meek of heart. (See Chapter 26 on Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth)
Let us gaze at Jesus Crucified; He is the supreme example of meekness, the
Lamb of God: "And I was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim" (Jer.
11:19). Indeed, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth"
(Matt. 5:4) -the land of the hearts of their fellowmen. As St. Francis de
Sales practically said, "One catches more flies with an ounce of honey than
with tons of vinegar."
What is abstinence? --Abstinence is that moral virtue,
related to the cardinal virtue of temperance, which keeps within bounds use of
and pleasure in foods or drink.
This general sense is to be understood as different from the particularized
sense of "abstinence" during certain days, such as Fridays of Lent.
- A temperate man eats only what he needs, does not fully satisfy his
appetite, and is not dainty about the kind of food he eats. The virtue of
abstinence is opposed to the sin of gluttony.
One who is moderate in eating will be moderate also in many other things,
and will escape numerous evils and sins. He always remembers the words of Our
Lord: "Not in bread alone doth man live."
- Temperance is a boon to both soul and body. It improves the health and
strengthens the mind. It increases holiness, and aids towards the attainment
of eternal life with God.
A temperate man is like a person who travels light. He can move quickly and
reach his destination, heaven, more easily. He is not like those who miss
every train on account of the numerous bundles to be counted and carried and
taken care of during a journey. (See Chapter 26 on Anger, Gluttony, Envy,
What virtues are opposed to sloth? --The virtues of diligence
and zeal are opposed to sloth.
- From the days of Adam work has been laid as an obligation on men.
God said to Adam: "In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, until thou
return to the earth out of which thou wast taken" (Gen. 3:19)
All men must work, whether mentally or bodily. The Apostle said: If any man
will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). Our Lord worked all His
life, and chose working people for His Mother and foster-father. Diligence in
labor is a shield against temptation, for thieves do not break into a house
full of busy people.
- In opposition to spiritual sloth, we have zeal. It consists in fervor for
our salvation and for that of others, out of love of God. It manifests itself
in the propagation of the faith, the sanctification of souls, and making God
better known. (See Chapter 26 on Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth)
The zealous man talks to God as often as he can in prayer; he does not
forget his religious duties. He loses no opportunity in doing good works, and
cheerfully makes sacrifices for the love of God. All his works and sufferings
he offers to God, for his own salvation as well as for that of others. He
works hard, remembering that "The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent
assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force" (Matt. 11: 12).
What is brotherly love? --Brotherly love is charity towards
our fellowmen, our brothers in Christ. (See Chapter 26 on Anger, Gluttony,
Our Lord said: "This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I
have loved you" (John 15:12). And St. John exhorts: "Beloved, let us love one
another, for love is from God. ... He who does not love does not know God; for
God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
Love and envy cannot live in the same heart. Our Lord says: "By this shall
all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another"
(John 13:35) ; and He commands: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate
you, and pray for those who persecute you" (Mat. 5:44)
If God commands us to love even our enemies, how much more should we love
those who have done us no harm, and avoid envying them! Let us remember that
the mark of the Christian is love for his fellow-men; all that we do to
others, whether for good or ill, we really do to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, when we feel the temptation to envy, let us banish it at once by
praying for the person, and try our best to do all the good we can to him. In
this way we follow Christ our Master.
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|And opening his mouth he taught them, saying, "Blessed are the poor
in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for
they shall possess the earth. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be
comforted. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they
shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who
suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
(Matt. 5:1-10). These are the beatitudes; they are thus called, because they
bring us happiness on earth as well as in heaven.
Which are the eight beatitudes? --The eight beatitudes are:
- "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
- The poor in spirit are those who, however great their wealth,
dignity, learning, etc., acknowledge that in God's sight they are poor, and
realize that their riches come from God. They are detached in heart and mind
from worldly possessions, for love of God. Even in this life they are at
peace, a foretaste of heaven.
Thus a rich man may in fact be poor in spirit, if he is not attached to
his wealth, but spends it freely for good causes, and is willing to be
parted from it at God's will. On the other hand a poor man is not truly poor
in spirit, if he is not resigned to his poverty, but envies the rich, if he
is poor against his will, or prides himself on some quality of his.
- In general, the poor in this world's goods are also poor in
spirit. They are saved from temptations into which the wealthy fall. This is
one reason for seeking poverty voluntarily, according to Christ's counsel.
Our Lord often emphasized the difficulty of salvation when one is rich:
"But woe to you rich! for you are now having your comfort" (Luke 6:24). "If
thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, ... and
come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21). "With difficulty will a rich man enter into
the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:23)
- We are, however, expected to be industrious. Pauperism which is
the result of laziness is not a virtue. Beggary which can be avoided is not
beneficial either to the individual or to society in general. Each one is
obliged to provide for himself and for those dependent on him.
- "Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth."
- The meek are those who bear patiently all the contradictions of life,
looking upon them as happening through God's Will or by His permission.
The meek shall have peace of heart and peace of life, loved and respected
by all, and at death will "possess the earth" of the living, heaven.
- Those are also meek who, though of a naturally fiery disposition, master
their anger, impatience, or desires for revenge.
The meek man does not get angry or curse or seek revenge. He forgives his
enemies, and even wins them by gentle words. He imitates Christ, Who said:
"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. 11: 29).
- "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Here the
reference is to spiritual sorrow, grief for sin, one's own sins or the sins of
others. It includes a longing amidst the sorrows of life for the joys and
peace of heaven.
Mourning for sin is not sadness, for it is not incompatible with spiritual
joy. Those who are most penitent feel most gladness upon their release from
sin. But to sinners who do not mourn, these words of Our Lord should bring
salutary fear: "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep" (Luke
- "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be
satisfied." This refers to those who ardently desire the things of God,
truth and perfect virtue, as well as to those who try to become better, more
humble and pure, more closely united with God.
Spiritual hunger and thirst is the craving for growth in holiness, a
desire to be more pleasing to God, to make daily progress in doing His will.
Even in this life they shall taste the joy of divine consolations; in heaven
they shall enjoy the full abundance of heavenly bliss.
- "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The
merciful are those who practice the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual,
who help others not from human or natural motives simply, but from
supernatural ones, from faith, from love of God.
To such people, Christ at the day of judgment will say: "Come, blessed of
my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you
gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in ..." (Matt. 25:34-35).
- "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Only those
who are not in habitual sin are clean of heart, and possess virtue. They will
be rewarded with the vision of God in heaven; and even on earth by the great
light given them.
There are several degrees of purity of heart: to the first degree
belong those who are free from mortal sin; to the second belong those who are
free from deliberate venial sin and all affection for sin; to the third degree
belong those who are free from the least ill-regulated affection; to the
fourth belong those who are free from the almost imperceptible stains that
delay a soul's entrance into God's home; and to the last degree belong those
Christians of such purity of life and thought, of such perfection of zeal and
intention, that they habitually live for God alone, that they are perfectly
united with Him, so that when they close their eyes in death they will fly
straight into the Heart of God.
- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of
God." Men who love peace and preserve it in themselves and among others
are beloved by God.
We should also try to reconcile those who are not on good terms with each
other. This is a superior degree of the second beatitude.
- "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven." Those are blessed who suffer for Christ,
religion, or some Christian virtue. They will receive an eternal reward.
Those who faithfully observe the entire law of God and defend the cause of
His Church, procure His glory and save souls. In this world those who are
active in preserving the rights of the Church are often ridiculed and
persecuted; they will be especially blessed.
Our Lord preached the Eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. In this
sermon He taught something new in the world. Where people had always striven
for riches, honors, and pleasures, Christ praised the poor, the humble, the
If we practice faithfully the doctrine of the eight beatitudes, we shall
find the true path of perfection and be happy besides on earth. The
Beatitudes contain in substance the law of God and all evangelical perfection.
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Foundation of the Church
Ninth Article of the Apostles' Creed
|From among His disciples Our Lord chose twelve Apostles, and gave
them special training. He sent them forth to teach His doctrines, saying,
"As the Father has sent me, I also send you." The Apostles were the
foundation of the True Church. Christ gave them all power and authority,
saying, "He who hears you hears me: he who rejects you rejects me."
Did Jesus Christ found a Church? --Yes; all history,
religious and non-religious, including the Bible, clearly proves that Jesus
Christ founded a Church.
- After teaching publicly what He required all to believe and
practice, thereby announcing the main doctrines of His Church, Christ gathered
a number of disciples. From them He chose twelve, to whom He gave
special instruction and training.
The term "a kingdom", by which Our Lord used to refer to His Church,
implies organized authority. And He said to the special men He had chosen,
"You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16). He did not teach
the disciples for themselves alone, but to be the foundation of His Church.
God did not come to save only a few disciples, but all men.
- Christ said to the men He had chosen: "As the Father has sent me, I also
send you" (John 20:21), bidding them go and preach the doctrines He had
taught. He sent them to all nations, promising salvation to those that should
believe, and threatening condemnation to those refusing to believe.
"He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not
believe shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). God is just; He would not have
threatened condemnation to unbelievers unless He had furnished the means
whereby they could believe. His Church is this means; all men must join
- Not only did the men chosen by Christ have authority; He gave them
extraoidinary powers, particularly the twelve special men, the Apostles.
"Then having summoned his twelve disciples, he gave them power over unclean
spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every kind of disease and infirmity"
- They had power to sanctify, when Christ bade them:
"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" (Matt.
- They had power to forgive sin, when Christ said to them:
"Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them" (John 20:23).
- They had power to rule when Christ said:
"He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who
rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). And: "Whatever you bind on
earth shall be bound also in heaven" (Matt. 18:18).
- They had power to offer sacrifice, when at the Last Supper Christ, after
instituting the Eucharist, bade them:
"Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:24-25).
- After training the disciples and Apostles to form the organization of His
Church, Christ chose Simon Peter, and made him the Chief. Simon, whose name
Christ changed to Peter, was the Head of the Church.
On Simon Christ promised to build His Church, saying: "Thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). After the Resurrection
He confirmed Peter's authority over the Church, saying to him: "Feed my lambs;
feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
- Finally, He promised to remain for all time with the Church He
If the death of Our Lord were to do good only to a few persons then living
in Judea, its merits would have been very limited. But it could do good to
future generations only if there were an organization with authority to carry
on His teachings and preserve them from all change. This is His Church.
Why did Jesus Christ found the Church? --Jesus Christ founded
the Church to bring all men to eternal salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ established the Church in order to lead men to heaven
- Continuing His teaching and example; and
- Applying the fruits of His Sacrifice on the cross to all men
until the end of the world.
Our Lord gave to the Church a three-fold office: the office of teacher,
the office of priest or sanctifier, and the office of pastor or ruler. By
these offices Christ intended His Church to accomplish the purpose for which
He founded it.
- After Pentecost Sunday the Apostles began to carry out their
mission of making disciples of all nations. Through them and their successors
this mission continues and will continue to the end of the world.
On the first Pentecost about three thousand were received into the Church
after St. Peter's sermon. They were the first members converted and baptized
since the Ascension of Our Lord.
Was the Church founded by Christ a visible organization?
--The Church founded by Christ was a visible organization, with certain
- No one can deny that Jesus Christ gathered disciples, and out of them
chose twelve Apostles, to whom He gave special instruction and orders. He
formed them as the foundation of His organization; was this not
Speaking of a stubborn man, He said: "If he refuse to hear even the Church,
let him be to thee as the heathen" (Matt. 18:17). And He promised his
disciples: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also
in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven"
(Matt. 18:18). Surely something must be visible to bind and loose, to be heard
and obeyed. And Christ referred to this visible organization as a city set on
a mountain, that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14).
- From the very beginning the Apostles exercised their authority and powers;
these were signs of a very visible organization. They did not advise; they
directed, as superiors, and decided, as judges.
Thus St. Paul excommunicated the sinful Corinthian; and he commanded the
Hebrews: "Obey your superiors, and be subject to them" (Heb. 13: 17).
- The Apostles and Fathers condemned schism. This fact implies a
visible organization; for how can there be schism against an invisible body?
St. Paul urged the Corinthians: "By the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ ...
that there be no dissensions among you" (1 Cor. 1:10). And St. Cyprian in the
third century wrote: "Whoever is separated from the Church is separated from
the promises of Christ ... One cannot have God as a Father who has not the
Church as his mother."
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The Apostles: First Bishops
of the Church
To whom did Christ give the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule
the members of His Church? --Christ gave the power to teach, to
sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church to the Apostles, the first
bishops of the Church.
- St. Peter was the first Head. After a miraculous escape from
prison in Jerusalem, he founded his See in Antioch; here the followers of
Christ were first called Christians. Peter made frequent missionary
journeys through Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Asia Minor, and probably even
Greece. He finally fixed his See at Rome.
St. Peter presided at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem in the year
50 A. D. At the same time that St. Paul was beheaded, St. Peter was crucified
head downwards, on Vatican Hill, Rome, 67 A. D.
- St. John, the Beloved Disciple, lived at Ephesus and
governed the Church in Asia Minor.
In the time of Trajan he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, but was
miraculously preserved. Later he was banished to Patmos, where he had the
revelations which we call the Apocalypse. He died at the age of about 100
years, the last of the Apostles, and the only one who did not die a martyr's
death. He left his Gospel and Epistles.
- St. James the Greater, St. John's brother, labored in Judea,
and according to tradition, travelled as far as Spain.
He was the first of the Apostles to be martyred being beheaded in Jerusalem
in the year 44, by Herod Agrippa.
- St. Matthew preached among the Ethiopians, Persians, and
Parthians, and was martyred in Parthia. He wrote the first of the four
St. James the Less was Bishop of Jerusalem. He was cast down
from the pinnacle of the Temple in 63 A. D. He left one Epistle.
St. Andrew, St. Peter's brother, preached along the lower
Danube, and was crucified in Greece.
St. Thomas preached in Persia, Medea, and went as far as
India. He was martyred in India, pierced with a lance at the command of the
St. Philip preached in Phrygia and Scythia, and was crucified
St. Bartholomew preached in India, Arabia,.and Assyria. He
was flayed and crucified in Armenia.
St. Simon preached in North Africa, and was martyred in
St. Jude preached in Syria, and was martyred in Persia. He
wrote the "Catholic Epistle".
St. Matthias, chosen to take the place of Judas, preached in
Ethiopia, and was martyred in Sebastopolis.
- St. Paul was converted miraculously (Acts 9) in the year 34.
He of all the Apostles labored the most abundantly. He wrote many Epistles.
He is called the Apostle of the Gentiles, because he carried the Gospel to
the pagan world. He travelled extensively and successively to Seleucia,
Cyprus, Asia Minor, Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Thessalonica, Athens,
Corinth, Miletus, and finally Rome. From Rome he went to Spain and the East,
then returned to Rome, where he was martyred in 67 A. D.
Did Christ intend that this power should be exercised by the Apostles
alone? --No, Christ intended that this power should be exercised also
by their successors, the bishops of the Church.
- The Apostles first preached in Judea on the very first Christian
Pentecost. Then they dispersed throughout the different countries of
the then known world. Everywhere they preached, baptized, and ruled the
Christian communities. They were the first bishops of the Church.
"As the Father has sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
- The Apostles chose men to assist them, imparting to them greater or
less powers. Before leaving a place, they chose a successor with full
powers (Acts 14:22).
Those who received only a small part of the powers of the Apostles were
called deacons. Those given greater power were the priests.
Those appointed successors to rule in the place of the Apostles were the
- Christ had given the Apostles full powers to choose successors,
when He gave them the powers His Father had given Him (John 20:21)
It was His wish that the Apostles should have successors to continue the
Church, which He said would last till the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).
Without successors to the Apostles, the Church would have no rulers, and being
unorganized would never have lasted.
Apostolicity of Catholic Doctrines
(Adapted from Cardinal Gibbons, "Faith of Our Fathers")
|1. Our Saviour gave pre-eminience to Peter over the other
Apostles: "I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.
16:19). "Strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). "Feed my lambs; feed my
sheep" (John 21:15-17).
||1. The Catholic Church gives the primacy of honor and jurisdiction to
Peter and to his successors.
||1. Other Christian communions deny Peter's supremacy over the other
|2. The Apostolic Church claimed to be infallible in her
teachings. "When you heard and received from us the word of God, you
welcomed it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the word of God" (1
||2. The Catholic Church alone, of all the Christian communions, claims to
exercise the prerogative of infallibility in her teaching. Her ministers
always speak from the pulpit as having authority, and the faithful receive
with implicit confidence what the Church teaches, without once questioning
||2. Protestant churches repudiate the claim of infallibility, denying
that such a gift is possessed by any teachers of religion. The ministers
advance opinions as embodying their private interpretation of the Bible.
Their hearers are expected to draw their own conclusions from the Bible.
|3. Our Saviour enjoined and prescribed rules for fasting: "When
thou dost fast, anoint thy head and wash thy face, so that thou mayest not
be seen by men to fast" (Matt. 6:17). The Apostles fasted before engaging in
sacred functions: "They ministered to the Lord, and fasted." "When they had
appointed presbyters for them in each church, with prayer and fasting, they
commended them to the Lord" (Acts 14:22).
||3. The Church prescribes fasting to the faithful at stated seasons,
particularly during Lent.
A Catholic Priest is always fasting when he officiates at the altar. He
breaks his fast only after he says Mass. When Bishops ordain Priests they
are always fasting, as well as the candidates for ordination.
|3. Protestants have no law prescribing fasts, though some may fast from
private devotion. They even try to ridicule fasting. Neither candidates for
ordination, nor the ministers who ordain them are ever required to fast on
|4. St. Peter and St. John confimed the newly baptized in Samaria.
"They laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts
||4. Every Catholic Bishop, as a successor of the Apostles, likewise
imposes hands on baptized persons in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which
they receive the Holy Ghost.
||4. No denomination performs the ceremony of imposing hands except
Episcopalians, and even they do not recognize Confirmation as a Sacrament.
|5. Our Saviour and His Apostles taught that the Eucharist is the
Body and Blood of Christ: "Take and eat; this is my body ... All of you
drink of this, for this is my blood" (Matt. 26:28). "The cup of blessing
that we bless, is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ? And the bread
that we break is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?" (1 Cor.
||5. The Catholic Church teaches, with our Lord and His Apostles, that the
Eucharist is truly and indeed the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the
appearances of bread and wine.
||5. The Protestant churches; condemn the doctrine of the Real Presence as
idolatrous, and say that, in partaking of the communion, we receive only a
memorial of Christ.
|6. The Apostles were empowered by our Saviour to forgive sins:
"Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them" (John 20:23). "God,"
says St. Paul, "hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor.
||6. The Bishops and Priests of the Catholic Church, as the inheritors of
Apostolic prerogatives, profess to exercise the ministry of reconciliation
and to forgive sins in the name of Christ.
||6. Protestants affirm on the contrary, that God delegates to no man the
power of pardoning sin.
|7. Regarding the sick, St. James gave this instruction: "Is any
one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James
||7. One of the most ordinary duties of a Catholic Priest is to anoint the
sick in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. If a man is sick among us he is
careful to call in the Priest of the Church that he may anoint him with oil
in the name of the Lord.
||7. No such sacrament as that of anointing the sick is practiced by any
Protestant denomination, not withstanding the Apostle's injunction.
|8. Of marriage our Saviour said: "Whoever puts away his wife and
marries another, commits adultery against her; and if the wife puts away her
husband, and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11,12). And
again St. Paul said: "To those who are married, not I, but the Lord commands
that a wife is not to depart from her husband, and if she departs, that she
is to remain unmarried ... And let not a husband put away his wife" (1 Cor.
||8. Literally following the Apostle's injunction, the Catholic Church
forbids the husband and wife to separate from one another; or, if they
separate, neither of them can marry again during the life of the other.
||8. The Protestant churches, as is well known, have so far relaxed this
law of the Gospel as to allow divorced persons to remarry, during the
lifetime of those they have divorced.
|9. Our Lord recommended not only by word but by His example, to souls
aiming at perfection, the state of perpetual chastity. St. Paul also
exhorted the Corinthians by counsel and his own example to the same angelic
virtue: "He who gives his virgin in marriage does well, and he who does not
give her does better" (1 Cor. 7:38).
||9. Like the Apostle and his Master, the Catholic clergy bind themselves
to a life of perpetual chastity. The members of our religious communities
for men and women voluntarily consecrate their chastity to God.
||9. All the ministers of other denominations are permitted to marry. And
far from inculcating the Apostolic counsel of celibacy to any of their
flock, they more than insinuate that the virtue of perpetual chastity,
though recommended by St. Paul, is impracticable.
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|When Our Lord said to Peter, "And I will give thee the keys of the
kingdom of heaven," He clearly meant: "I will give you supreme authority
over My Church. You shall be My representative." The true test of loyalty to
Christ is not only to believe in Him and worship Him, but to honor and obey
the representatives He has chosen. Our Lord chose St. Peter as His Vicar. It
is rebellion against Christ to say to Him: "I will worship You, but I will
not recognize Your representative." This is what Christians do, who deny the
authority of the successor of Peter.
Did Christ give special power in His Church to any one of the
Apostles? --Christ gave special power in His Church to Peter, by
making him the head of the Apostles and the chief teacher and ruler of the
- When Simon, led by his brother Andrew, first met Christ, Our Lord
said to him: "Thou art Simon, the son of John; thou shalt be called Cephas"
Christ spoke in Aramaic, and the original Cephas, or "Kepha" means stone or
rock, which we interpret Peter. Our Lord must have some special
purpose for having Simon's name changed, particularly as the word Kepha was
never used as a proper name then.
- When, at Caesarea Philippi, Peter made the memorable confession of faith
in the name of the Apostles: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,"
Christ promised to make Peter the head of His Church (Matt. 16:17-20).
In reply Our Lord said: "Blessed. art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and
blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to
thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates
of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the
kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
- Our Lord changed Simon's name to Peter, which means Rock.
He said that He would make Peter the Rock on which His Church should be
founded. As the foundation of a building holds up, supports, and preserves
the building, so Peter was to hold the same office for Christ's Church.
- Our Lord. promised to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. In
ancient as well as modern times, keys are a symbol of authority. He who
lawfully carries the key to a building has the right himself of entering and
of admitting or excluding others.
Our Lord said to all the Apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins
you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain,
they are retained" (John 20:23). But to Peter alone did Our Lord
address these words: "I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven."
- Christ, after the Resurrection, fulfilled His promise, and appointed
Peter head of the Church (John 21:15-17)
On the Lake of Gennesareth, "Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of
John, dost thou love me more than these do?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, thou
knowest that I love thee." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a
second time, "Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?" He said to him, "Yes,
Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
A third time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?" Peter
was grieved because he said to him for the third time, "Dost thou love me?"
And he said to him, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love
thee," He said to him, "Feed my sheep."
By this Christ entrusted to Peter the whole flock, thus making him the head
shepherd. The "lambs" (the weak and tender portion of the flock) are the
faithful, and the "sheep" (those that nourish the lambs) are the pastors,
bishops and priests.
The sheep of Christ are those who submit to Him, the Good Shepherd (John
10: 14). Never did Christ say to any other Apostle: Feed My whole flock. As
the shepherd is responsible for the flock, he is given authority comparable to
- Christ also conferred on Peter special marks of distinction not
conferred on the other Apostles. He gave him a new name. He chose him as a
companion on the most solemn occasions. After the Resurrection, He appeared to
Peter first, before showing Himself to the other Apostles.
The Lord said: "Simon ... I have prayed for thee that thy faith may not
fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren"
As with every well-regulated society, the Church needed a visible head;
Christ appointed St. Peter visible head of the Church. The city has its mayor,
the state its governor, the nation its President. At the head of every
government is a president or king. Even in the family, the father is the head.
Every corporation has a head.
The Church is a visible society; that is, it Is composed of human
beings. It needs a head as well as any other organization. Christ is always
its invisible, Head, but it needs a visible head to take His place among men.
Did Peter actually exercise his primacy? --Yes, Peter
actually exercised his primacy, and the other Apostles and the disciples
recognized him as the head of the Church.
- Peter's name always stands first in the lists of Apostles;
Iscariot's is always last.
St. Matthew even calls Peter the "first Apostle." But he was neither first
in age nor in election, for Our Lord had called Andrew; his elder brother,
before him. He must therefore have been first in honor and authority.
- It was Peter that proposed the election of another to take the
place of Judas.
In obedience to Peter's advice, the Apostles put forward two among the
disciples to choose from; and after praying, they chose Matthias (Acts
- It was Peter that preached the first sermon on the day of
The Holy Ghost had descended on the Apostles; they spoke so that each
person present (and there were many nationalities in the crowd) heard his own
language being spoken. The people were amazed; and Peter spoke (Acts 2:14-36).
- It was Peter that admitted the first converts from Judaism (Acts
2:38-41), as well as from paganism (Acts 10:5).
"And he (Peter) ordered them (the Gentiles) baptized in the name of Jesus
Christ" (Acts 10:48). This was a thing unheard of, that the Jews, "of the
Faith", should consort with "heathen"; but Peter broke all bonds.
- Peter worked the first miracle.
He gave a man lame from birth the power to walk (Acts 3:6-8).
- Peter meted out the first punishment.
Ananias (and later his wife Sapphira) had lied and cheated; and having been
rebuked by Peter, fell down dead (Acts 5: 1-6).
- Peter cast out the heretic Simon Magus.
This heretic had wanted to purchase the power of the Apostles of bringing
down the Holy Ghost on those on whom they laid hands (Acts 8:19-20).
- Peter made the first visitation of the churches (Acts 31-32).
- In the first Council at Jerusalem, there was much disputing, but when
Peter spoke, all submitted (Acts 15:7-12).
"After a long debate, Peter got up and said, ... 'But we believe that we
are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus' ... Then the whole meeting
quieted down" (Acts 15:7, 11-12).
- After his conversion, St. Paul presented himself to Peter (Gal. 1: 18) .
- Of the early churches established by the Apostles, the Church of Rome was
the highest in rank. It was the See of Peter.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
the True Church
|The True Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Church
that possesses all the shining marks which Our Lord gave is the Church of
God, the True Church. Any church that lacks even one of these marks is an
imitation, a false church, and not the one founded by Our Lord. The True
Church must possess all these marks. It is the Church which Christ commanded
all to hear and obey.
Did Christ establish many Churches? --Christ established only
one Church, to continue till the end of time.
- As God is one, He established one Church, which He commanded all
men to obey and to follow in the way of salvation.
God is essentially one. He is Truth itself. How can He say to one group of
men that there are three Persons in one God, and to another that there is only
one Person? How can He say to one body that the Holy Eucharist is Himself, and
to another that it is mere bread? God cannot contradict Himself. "He
who hears you hears me" (Luke 10:16). "There shall be one fold and one
shepherd" (John 10:16).
- Christ never referred to His Churches, but to His Church. Christ
chose only one Head for His Church. Peter could not have been the Head
of conflicting churches.
Christ said: "And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt.
16:18). Christ did not say: "Upon this rock I will build My Churches," it was
clearly not His intention to establish various conflicting churches.
- Christ, even in His prayers, spoke of unity among His followers.
There would evidently be no unity if He had founded many churches.
Immediately before His passion, He prayed: "Yet not for these only do I
pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all
may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may he
one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21).
Is there any way by which we can distinguish the Church that Christ
founded from all other churches? --We can distinguish the Church
founded by Christ from all other churches by the marks or signs that Our Lord
gave to it.
A mark is a sign by which something may be distinguished from all
others of the same kind. By its marks we can recognize the True Church as the
one founded by Jesus Christ, distinguishing it from all other churches,
- It is important that we know which is the Church established by Christ, in
order that we may obey it, as God commands. Then shall we also be
certain what to believe and do in order to be saved; the Church, that True
Church, will be our guide to heaven.
We must distinguish the True Church from false churches, because today
there are many imitations of the Church founded by Christ.
- The True Church must be that which Christ personally founded, and
the Apostles propagated. It must have existed continuously since the time of
Christ. It must teach in their entirety all the doctrines commanded by
the Divine Founder while He was still on earth; and all its members must
profess those fundamental doctrines. It must be a visible organization,
discernible and discoverable, evidently existing, with clear marks or signs
distinguishing it as the True Church.
It was through a common bond of faith that the faithful throughout the
world were, to be united in one body, the Church, their heritage from the Son
of God. Our Lord therefore before His Ascension made the necessary provision
so that all men might from thenceforth recognize the Church which He
established, and which He commanded all to join.
What are the chief marks of the True Church? --The chief
marks of the True Church are four: It is one, holy, catholic or universal, and
- Christ intended His Church to be One; therefore the True
Church must be One. Its members must be united in doctrine, in worship,
and in government. Christ said:
"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark
3:24). "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd" (John 10:16).
- Christ intended His Church to be Holy; therefore the True Church must be
Holy. It must teach a holy doctrine in faith and morals, because
its Founder is holy. It must provide the means for its members to lead a holy
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but
inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do men
gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree
bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. ... Therefore, by their
fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:15-17,20).
Christ promised His Church the gift of miracles, a sign of holiness: "Amen,
amen, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he also shall
do, and greater than these he shall do" (John 14:12). He said: "You therefore
are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is Perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
- Christ intended His Church to be universal, that is, catholic; and
therefore the True Church must be Universal, or Catholic. It
must be for all peoples of every nation and for all times and teach the same
faith everywhere. Christ commanded His disciples:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). "Go into
the whole world. and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). "You
shall be witnesses for me ... even to the very ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
- Christ intended His Church to be propagated by His Apostles; and therefore
the True Church must be Apostolic. It must be the Church
propagated by the Apostles. Its rulers must derive their office and authority
by lawful succession from the Apostles. It must hold intact the doctrine
and traditions of the Apostles, to whom Christ gave authority to teach.
It was Christ Himself, and no one else, Who chose His Apostles and
disciples, and commanded them to teach His doctrines to all the world. St.
Paul says: "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a Gospel to you
other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" (Gal.
1:8). St. Paul himself refers to the Church as "built upon the foundation of
the Apostles" (Eph. 2:20).
Which Church possesses the marks of the Church established by Christ,
and therefore must be the True Church? --The Catholic Church possesses
the marks of the Church established by Christ; the Catholic Church is the True
The Catholic Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic in the way Our
Lord Jesus Christ wanted His Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Principal Christian Religious Bodies in the
PLACE OF ORIGIN
Eastern Orthodox (19 bodies)
Lutheran (21 bodies)
Mennonite (15 bodies)
Presbyterian (10 bodies)
Bapist (24 bodies)
Friends or Ouakers (4 bodies)
Reformed Churches (4 bodies)
Baptist, German (4 bodies)
Methodist (22 bodies)
United Brethren (2 bodies)
Churches of Christ
Latter-Day Saints (7 bodies)
Adventist (5 bodies)
Assemblies of God
Church of the Nazarene
Schism from Catholic Church
Grebel, Mantz, Blaurock
John and Charles Wesley
Otterbein and Boehm
Thos. and Alex. Campbell
Mary Baker Eddy
Union at General Assembly
Union at General Assembly
|There are over 200 different Protestant bodies existing in the United
States alone. In the above list a few of the best-known are enumerated, in
comparison with the Catholic Church. This comparative list indicates this
fact: none of these denominations can ever become the True Church founded by
Christ, Son of God. It is well known that many heretics, at the hour of
death, return to the Catholic Church. But what Catholic at that hour has
ever denied his religion to seek admission into a sect? As the heretic
Melancthon wrote to his Catholic mother: "The Protestant is the best faith
to live in, but the Catholic Faith is the best one to die in."
The One True
What is the Church? --The Church is the congregation of all
baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the
same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops
in communion with him.
- Even considering it only as a visible society, the Church is a perfect
All members are subject to the same religious authority, possess identical
religious doctrines, live a common religious life, and use the same means of
grace, the sacraments.
- The Church is divided into the "teaching Church" and the
"hearing Church"; for each Christ laid down powers and duties.
The priests, with their bishops and the Pope, compose the "teaching
Church"; the faithful, who believe and obey, and are admitted into membership
through the Sacrament of Baptism, compose the "hearing Church".
How is the Church enabled to lead men to salvation? --The
Church is enabled to lead men to salvation by the indwelling of the Holy
Ghost, who gives it life.
- God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Ghost to dwell in the Church.
The indwelling of the Holy Ghost enables the Church to teach, to
sanctify, and to rule the faithful in the name of Christ.
The Holy Ghost came down upon the Apostles to enlighten, strengthen, and
sanctify them, so that they could preach the Gospel and spread the Church all
over the world. On the Feast of Pentecost, in remembrance of God the Holy
Ghost, we celebrate a mystery which is forever renewed in the Church and in
our souls: the mystery of the indwelling of God, the reign of the law of love
which succeeded the law of bondage and fear (Rom. 8: 15).
- The Holy Ghost guides the rulers of the Church, especially the
Pope, and helps them in their duties.
Before the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles had been timid and
afraid. After His coming they went forth to teach, whatever hardships carne;
they remembered and understood all the teaching of Christ.
- The Holy Ghost preserves the Church from all error in its teaching;
in times of danger, He raises up able defenders of its doctrines.
St. Athanasius defended the Church in the time of the Arian heretics; Pope
Gregory VII during a period of great disorder; St. Dominic, during the time of
the Albigenses; and St. Ignatius of Loyola, after the Protestant outbreak.
- The Holy Ghost raises up Saints in the Church throughout all
The members of the Church strive to imitate its Divine Founder, and in all
countries and all times it has produced saints, canonized and uncanonized,
martyrs, confessors, hidden souls that burn with the love of God and their
Are not all religions the same? --No for truth and error are
not the same; faith and unbelief are not the same.
- God is not divided. He revealed only one religion. We either
believe that religion, or do not believe it. There is no middle way. "He
who is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30)
Anything that is not the whole truth is not truth. Christ said: "I
am the way, and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but through
me" (John 14:6).
No one will assert that glass is as good as diamonds, nor that brass is as
good as gold. No one claims that an imitation is just as good as the authentic
thing. More unreasonable then would it be to claim that a religion established
by a man is as good as that founded by the Incarnate God.
- From the very beginning of mankind there has been one true religion.
From Adam to the coming of Christ this religion was preserved by the
patriarchs, prophets, and others chosen by God to keep the knowledge of the
promised Redeemer intact.
Before the coming of Christ, this true religion was not universal, but
limited to one people, the Jews, the,"chosen people." All other nations had
degenerated and worshipped idols, false gods. In spite of the imperfections of
the old religion preserved among the Jews; it was always the true religion,
the one true religion. It forshadowed the coming of the perfect religion, that
established by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who then abrogated the Jewish
Faith, the Old Law, in favor of the New Faith, the New Law.
- It is absurd to suppose that God does not care whether men denounce
His Son as an impostor and blasphemer, or worship Him as God.
Why should Christ, and after Him the Apostles, and after them a long line
of believers, have suffered so much and resisted persecution so firmly, if it
were of no importance what a man believed? The Apostle said, "There is no
other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12)
How can we prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic
Church? --We can prove that the only true Church of Christ is the
Catholic Church, because:
- Only the Catholic Church possesses the marks of the Church
established by Christ; that is, Unity, holiness, catholicity, and
apostolicity. (See Chapter 73 on The Gates of Hell)
As a matter of fact, only the Catholic Church claims to have all these four
marks of the True Church, the marks so evidently set by Christ.
- The history of the Catholic Church gives evidence of miraculous
strength, permanence, and unchangeableness, so showing the world that it is
under the special protection of God. The Catholic Church has proved itself
indestructible for almost two thousand years, against every variety and
number of formidable enemies. The Church suffered from persecution and outside
attacks, and from schism and heresy within its own ranks, yet still lives.
In spite of corruption and persecution, in spite of the combined forces of
error and evil, the Catholic Church has continued to live and to carry out its
purpose, as its Founder promised. The indestructibility of the Church, as has
been proved by history, is alone enough to mark it as divine. God alone could
have preserved it so long. The Church is the only institution which has proved
itself an exception to the law of decay and death. It has
watched the birth and decay of every government on earth for almost 2000
years. After every attack against it, it rises, the Bride of Christ, ever
fresh and fair.
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The Catholic Church: Unity and
|The Catholic Church is One, because it has one Divine Founder, God
Himself, Who cannot be divided. All its members hear and obey the voice of
their Shepherd. The Catholic Church is Holy, because it imitates its Holy
Founder, the Incarnate Son of God. Its members strive for holiness, aided by
divine sacraments instituted by Christ Himself.
Why is the Catholic Church one? --The Catholic Church is one
because all its members, according to the will of Christ, profess the same
faith, have the same sacrifice and sacraments, and are united under one and
the same visible head, the Pope.
- They have unity in doctrine, worship, and government. They have
"One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." There has never been any other society,
religion, or government whose members are so closely united.
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark
3:24). "Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they
may be one even as we are" (John 17: 11).
- There are about 425 million Catholics united in doctrine. This
unity is evident and admitted by all. All Catholics every where believe each
and every article of faith proclaimed by the Church. Wherever a Catholic goes
throughout the world, he will find his home in the Catholic Church. There he
will find his brethren in Christ all believing as he does. If he deliberately
denies even one article of faith of the Church, he ceases to belong to it.
International Eucharistic Congresses, held in different countries, in
different parts of the world, every other year, are a good proof of the unity
of the Church. In such Congresses the faithful from all nations-African,
American, -Australian, Chinese, English, Filipino, French, German, Indian,
Irish, Japanese, Russian, Spaniard,-one and all bow down in adoration of Our
Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Eucharist.
- All Catholics today hold the same faith that Catholics in the past
The same Gospel of peace that Jesus Christ preached in Judea, the same that
St. Peter preached in Antioch and Rome, the same that St. Paul wrote to the
Corinthians and the Ephesians, the same that apostles of all nations have been
preaching for the last 1900 years, is preached today and taught in the
Catholic Church throughout the world, from January to December-"Jesus Christ
yesterday, and today, and the same forever" (Heb. 13:8).
- The Catholic Church is one in worship. All members make use of the
same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and receive the same sacraments. Although
rites vary, the essentials of worship laid down by Christ form the foundation
of all. Certain ceremonies have been appointed by the Church, to show more
clearly in outward form the spiritual significance of whatever act is being
done, and to increase the devotion of those who are present or take part in
tht religious acts.
The ritual varies in various places, certain ancient rituals from the early
days of the Church being preserved. But in general the Roman ritual, the one
followed by the diocese of Rome, is the one followed. The change of ritual
does not change the substance of the religious act, which is preserved
in its entirety.
- All Catholics are united in government.
Everywhere the faithful obey their pastors, the pastors obey the bishops,
and the bishops obey the Pope. The Catholic Church is truly "one fold and one
Shepherd", its unity standing out unequalled in all history.
Why is the Catholic Church holy? --The Catholic Church is
holy because it was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all-holy, and because it
teaches, according to the will of Christ, holy doctrines, and provides the
means of leading a holy life, thereby giving holy members to every age.
St. Peter called the Christians of his time "a chosen race, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Pet. 2:9).
- The Founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, is holy. The
Church exhorts its children to imitate its Divine Founder.
No founder of any other church is as holy as Jesus Christ, Son of God. And
among the children of the Church we may mention as examples of holiness the
- The Catholic Church teaches the highest and holiest doctrine ever
presented to any people, a standard of perfection. The same precepts
delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, the same warnings uttered by the prophets
in Judea, the same sublime lessons taught by Our Lord: these the Church
teaches from year to year.
The Church teaches its children to know, love, and serve God, and thus to
become saints. It urges on them the truth: "What does it profit a man, if he
gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26). It
exhorts them to imitate Christ.
- The Catholic Church provides powerful means for holiness, in prayer
and the Sacraments. By the Sacraments a Catholic receives abundant graces. One
who is faithful in the reception of the Sacraments will never fail to live a
righteous life and die a happy death.
Every Catholic is obliged to my his morning and night prayers, and to
resort to prayer in every necessity and temptation, as well as to prayer of
thanksgiving. He is required under pain of sin to hear Mass on Sundays and
holydays of obligation.
- The Catholic Church produces holy members in its saints and
martyrs. In every age and country the Church is the Mother of saints,
martyrs, confessors, and holy men and women who live in Christ. We do not,
however, maintain that all Catholics are holy. Unfortunately, some do not live
up to the teachings of the Church; that will be their condemnation.
We must remember that even among the Apostles there was one Judas. Our Lord
Himself taught in the parable of the wheat and the cockle that the good and
the bad will grow up side by side in His Church.
- The Catholic Church still has the gift of miracles. Christ promised His
Church the gift of miracles, a sign of holiness. "He who believes in me, the
works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these he shall do" (John
Each holy soul proposed for canonization must have worked two miracles
before beatification, and two more before canonization. We constantly read of
miracles at Lourdes and other shrines. The cures at Lourdes are declared
genuine by a board of physicians, many of whom are non-Catholic.
- The Catholic Church carries on numberless works of holiness. It is
the great Mother of Mercy and Charity to the helpless.
It instructs children in school, cares for the poor, the sick, the lepers,
the deaf, blind, dumb, the old, the orphaned and abandoned. It engages in all
kinds of missionary and charitable activity.
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The Catholic Church:
Catholicity and Apostolicity
|The apostolicity of the Church receives additional proof from the
fact that today it still administers the very same seven sacraments
administered by the Apostles. Non-Catholic churches have abandoned most of
the sacraments, but the Catholic Church preserves and administers them all.
Among the sacraments thus preserved are (1) Confirmation, and (2) Extreme
Unction. St. Peter and St. John administered the first (Acts 8:14-17). St.
James wrote about the second (Jas. 5:14,15).
Why is the Church catholic or universal? --The Catholic
Church is catholic or universal because, destined to last for all time, it
never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all nations all the
truths revealed by God.
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall
be witnesses for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the
very ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
- The very name of the Church is Catholic, that is, universal.
Even its critics admit that it is catholic. It has existed in all ages since
the time of Christ, and teaches all peoples of every nation the same
It was St. Ignatius (50-107 A.D.) appointed Bishop of Antioch by Saint
Peter, who first used the Greek word Katholicos, meaning "universal,"
when referring to the Church founded by Christ; this he did in order to
distinguish the True Church, already being preached throughout the world, from
heretical churches that had arisen.
In the fourth century certain sectarians protested against the True Church,
yet still called themselves Christians. And so Catholics began to call
themselves "Catholic." In that same century St. Augustine said: "All heretics
wish to call themselves Catholics; yet if you ask any of them to direct
you to a Catholic church, he will not direct you to his own!"
Wherever we go, whether in Europe, America, Africa, Asia, or
Australia, we shall find the Catholic Church established. Everywhere it
teaches the same doctrines taught in the United States; everywhere it
is ruled by the same Head recognized in the United States: the Pope.
When we say the Church is Catholic or universal, we understand that
wherever it exists it must have the mark of unity. Otherwise it would not be
the same body, but many separate bodies. Some heretical churches have branches
in different countries, but they are really different bodies, because they
change doctrines under different conditions.
- The Church everywhere teaches all the doctrines that Christ
commanded His Apostles to teach.
In the Catholic Church is fulfilled the prophecy of Malachy: "From the
rising of the sun to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and
in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean
oblation; for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts"
- The True Church must be so organized that it can admit all men
into its communion. This the Catholic Church does. Christ founded the Church
for all men, not only for a selected few, He died for all men, and wishes the
fruits of His death to do good to all men. At present only the Catholic Church
is to be found all over the world, ministering to all races and peoples, to
all classes of the population, poor or rich, wise or ignorant, saint or
sinner. The Catholic Church is the only Church for Everyman.
Most denominations are national; all are localized. For example: in Germany
the Kaiser used to be the head of the Lutheran Church; in Russia the Czar used
to be head of the Russian Church. The Queen of England is head of the Anglican
- Why is the Catholic Church apostolic? --The Catholic Church
is apostolic because it was founded by Christ on the Apostles, and, according
to His divine will, has always been governed by their lawful successors.
Apostolicity is easily proved by the facts of history. If a church
cannot trace back its history lawfully in an unbroken line step by step to the
Apostles, it is not the True Church.
- Pope Pius XII, our present Pope, is the direct successor of St.
He is the lawful successor of the Pope who preceded him; and thus each Pope
lawfully succeeded the one before him, until we reach St. Peter, the first
Pope, chosen by Christ Himself.
- All the sees founded by the Apostles perished or were interrupted,
except the See of Peter alone. Where Peter is, there is the True Church
founded by Our Lord.
Those denominations that broke away from the Church thus lost their
connection with the Apostles. They were all begun by individuals who could
never have had any authority from either Christ or the Apostles. Most of them
came some 1500 years too late.
- Non-Catholic denominations claim that they did not begin new churches, but
merely "reformed" the old one. In answer we ask, Did the True Church
exist at the time of the founding of these new churches, or not?
If it did not, then Christ's promise to be with His Church always had
failed; His Church had died, and no human reform could possibly have
resurrected it. If it did exist, then those who invented new doctrines
were not reforming it, but founding new churches.
- In the same way, the Church derives all its holy orders, doctrines, and
mission from the Apostles. It is "built upon the foundation of the
Apostles," of which Christ is the corner-stone (Eph. 2:20). It holds intact
the doctrine and traditions of the Apostles, to whom Christ gave
authority to teach.
St. Paul says: "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema!"
(Gal. 1:8). A church which at any time denies an apostolic doctrine, discards
the sacrament of Holy Orders, or breaks away from obedience to the Pope,
ceases to be apostolic. It becomes a dead branch broken off from the parent
vine which is Christ Himself: "I am the vine: you are the branches" (John
Catholics Do Not Believe:
|That the Pope is God and can do no wrong;
That anybody or anything may be
worshipped or adored besides the True God;
That the Blessed Virgin is equal to God;
That images may be worshipped;
That indulgences give permission to
That a Mass can be bought;
That forgiveness of sin can be bought;
That sin can be forgiven without true sorrow;
|That scapulars, medals, crucifixes, and
other sacramentals can give graces without
proper dispositions on the part of the user;
That non-Catholics will all be damned;
That all Catholics will go to heaven;
That the Bible is the only rule of faith;
That anybody may interpret the Bible;
That Our Lord Jesus Christ established many Churches;
That outward piety is profitable without charity of the spirit;
That all religions are the same.
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|In spite of all kinds of persecutions, the Church, under the guidance
of the Holy Ghost, has continued to spread all over the world. It has obeyed
strictly the command of Our Lord to the Apostles: "Go and make disciples of
all nations." Everywhere men have listened to its voice, believing the
warning of Christ, "He that believeth not shall be condemned."
Give a short summary of the history of the Church for the almost two
thousand years of its existence --The following is a brief summary:
- The first 400 years. The Apostles dispersed to different countries
in order to carry out Christ's command to teach. The Apostles baptized,
preached, and ruled in various countries to which they were sent. They
appointed bishops and priests to rule and minister to the faithful.
In spite of sufferings and persecutions they persevered, until finally they
sealed their faith by martyrdom. Peter and Paul were especially interested in
the conversion of the Roman Empire, the mightiest and also most wicked empire
of ancient days.
The morals of the Romans were extremely debased; the evil was spreading
from the Imperial City of Rome throughout the vast empire. In Rome alone some
30,000 different "gods" and "goddesses" were worshipped, many of them for
their very immorality. So close was the union of the pagan religion and the
empire that to attack the religion was to be considered a traitor to Rome. For
this reason the full force of the empire was set against the new religion of
the Christians. But the Fisherman did not falter: Peter battled with all his
might. He and Paul were both martyred; but others rose to continue the battle
for Christ, which lasted for nearly 300 years.
Persecution followed upon persecution, numbering ten unsurpassed in
ferocity. The severest were those under Nero (64-68) and Diocletian (303-305).
The latter condemned to death some two million Christians. But the more they
were persecuted, the faster they increased. Tertullian says: "The blood of
martyrs is the seed of Christianity."
At last, in 313 A.D., the banners of Christianity were flung out in
victory; peace was granted by the Edict of Milan. Later, Constantine the Great
made Christianity the State religion (324 A. D.) He was led to this step when
he conquered in battle after seeing in the heavens a luminous cross with the
words In hoc signo vinces (In this sign thou shalt conquer). His
saintly mother, St. Helena, had also a great influence on his conversion.
- The second 400 years. Before sixty years had passed after the Edict
of Milan, hordes of barbarian Huns, Goths, Vandals, and Visigoths, numbering
millions, started moving from the north into the civilized European countries.
City after city surrendered until Rome itself was taken, and the darkness of
barbarism covered the continent. But the missionaries and teachers of the
Church mingled with the barbarians, returned with them to their countries, and
brought light once more out of darkness.
St. Patrick was sent to Ireland, and converted that nation to Christianity.
St. Augustine in England and St. Boniface in Germany changed those nations
into followers of the cross of Christ. The idol worshipping Franks followed
their king Clovis into the Christian fold. At the end of four centuries, the
cruel and savage barbarians of Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England, and
Ireland were Christians, civilized, progressive, settled in peaceful cities,
building churches, carrying on trade.
- The third 400 years. In the seventh century Mohammed had begun to
propagate his doctrines among the Arabian tribes. His was a conversion by the
sword: a great part of Asia, North Africa, Spain, and the islands of the
Mediterranean were overrun and conquered to Mohammed's Allah. At last
Mohammedanism broke into France.
In a memorable nine-day battle in 732 A. D., the French Christians under
Charles Martel defeated the Mohammedans at Tours, and thus stopped their
incursions into France. But in the next century the Mohammedans entered and
sacked Rome itself, even St. Peter's. However, the Church carried on and
finally repelled the invader.
The fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the Mohammedans in the eleventh
century gave impetus to the Crusades, during which Christian armies went to
free the Holy Places from the infidels. There were seven Crusades in all, from
1095 A.D., to 1254 A.D. Among the outstanding leaders we may mention: Godfrey
de Bouillon, Frederick Barbarossa, Richard the Lionhearted, and St. Louis of
- The fourth 400 years. The Christian rulers of Europe, upon becoming
more powerful, began to look with envy on the Pope's authority, and to
encroach upon it. Although the Crusades had had good effects, too much
interest in material preparations caused a relaxation in spiritual life;
heresy often attacked the Church. Berengarius denied the Real Presence;
followed the Greek schism, the Albigensian heresy, and the heresies of Wycliff
and Huss, who denied the authority of the Church. Finally, in the sixteenth
century, the general laxness and spirit of revolt culminated in open defiance
against Church authority, and the Protestant Revolt swept Europe.
An Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, in 1517 made an open attack on the
doctrine of Indulgences. When he was effectively refuted by Doctor John Eck in
a public argument, Luther became enraged, and more active in propagating his
errors. Because his doctrines appealed to human vanity and weakness, he
attracted many followers. The princes. who envied the papal authority, threw
in their lot with Luther. The Bible was declared the only rule of faith, so,
that no one would any longer be dependent on Church authority, but could
interpret the word of God as he pleased for himself. The vicious were readily
won over by the doctrine that man cannot prevent sin on account of natural
corruption and the absence of free will.
Revolt spread from Germany to other countries. In Switzerland John Calvin
followed in Luther's footsteps, and began Calvinism. In Scotland John Knox was
the propagator of Protestantism. In England, Henry VIII's desire to change
wives was the immediate cause for the establishment of the Anglimn Church.
Denmark, Holland, Norway, and Sweden were all swept into heresy by their
But out of the pains of the Protestant revolt, the Church came forth
stronger and purified. In the meantime, newly discovered countries were
converted. The Portuguese and Spaniards were the pioneers in this missionary
enterprise. The discoveries of new lands, to which Catholic missionaries went,
resulted in the gain of more millions for the Church than had been lost in
- The last 400 years. Many in Europe returned to the Church; more
were gained in the Americas. Protestantism has continued to attack the Church;
the paganism bred from the spirit of laxity and revolt is another enemy. Open
warfare goes on in Russia and satellite countries. Still the Church continues
to grow, the greatest single religious body in history.
In 1954 missionaries of Mother Church can be found in the most remote
portions of the globe, working patiently to bring souls to Christ. They go
where no other foreigners would go. At present there are about 30,000 priests,
12,000 lay brothers, and 60,000 Sisters working in the foreign missions. The
missions are supervised and supported by the Societies for the Propagation of
the Faith and the Holy Childhood (see Chapter 191 on Propagation of the Faith)
At present the Church has a membership of about 425,000,000 in all parts of
the world. They are under the direction of some 420,000 priests, 2,200
Prelates, and one Head, the Pope. They form the greatest body having a single
religious faith. The different Protestant denominations number about two
hundred million all together. The schismatic Eastern Christians total about
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Catholic Eastern Church; Rites
|The essential acts of the Liturgy are three: the prayers of the
priesthood in the Divine Office (represented by the first angel), the Mass
(represented by the second angel), and the sacraments (represented by the
third angel). The term "rite" is sometimes used to refer to the liturgy
according to some definite custom and language. "Rite" may also designate in
a narrow sense some particular liturgical ceremony; in this way we have the
"rite of Baptism", etc.
What is the Catholic Eastern Church? --It is that part of the
Church in the East which, although using liturgies and rites differing from
those of the Latin (or Western) Church centered at Rome, subscribe to the same
doctrines, and recognize the same Sovereign Pontiff, thus belonging to the
same Universal and True Church.
The Catholic Eastern Church includes the following: Byzantines, Syrians,
Copts, Ethiopians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Malabarese, and Maronites.
- At the beginning of the fourth century there was one Church, one in
doctrine as well as in obedience to the Sovereign Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome.
Even then, however, there was no uniformity in observances, ceremonies, rites.
Our Lord had sent the Apostles to different parts, and their followers had
stuck to the doctrines, but had varied the observances and rites, in
accordance with the particular inclinations of the people in the region. The
languages used were naturally extremely varied; the Mass was the same
Sacrifice instituted by Our Lord (in Aramaic), but it must have been said in
quite a variety of languages.
- Then political dissension within the Roman Empire led to its division into
East and West. Religious organization, following political developments,
led to the separation of first the Greek, then the Russian Orthodox Church.
(See Chapter 71 on Schism and Heresy)
These schismatical churches denied the authority of the Pope, who lived in
the West as Bishop of Rome. Otherwise they continued to practice the True
Religion just as Christ and the Apostles had taught. They administered the
sacraments, celebrated Mass, and followed other observances.
- Within the Catholic Eastern Church, only the Maronite Church has never
been in schism. With the passing of the centuries, those in schism divided and
subdivided. Then, chiefly since the 16th and, 17th centuries, most of them
returned to the unity of the True Church.
The Catholic Eastern Church continues to use different rites and
observances, some of which even antedated those of Rome, as having been there,
long before the schisms. Thus today the groups in the Eastern Church have
their own discipline and customs, the most notable of which is that with them
Mass (called "Holy Liturgy") is said in the language peculiar to the church in
which it is being said: whether Slavonic, Rumanian, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian,
Greek, Coptic, Ethiopic, or Georgian.
Other differences of practice are: administration of the Holy Eucharist to
the faithful in both forms of bread and wine, the use of leavened bread for
Holy Mass, Baptism by immersion, bowing from the waist with a sweep of the arm
instead of a genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament.
- Groups in the Eastern Church are chiefly those under the jurisdiction of
the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and
Constantinople. In the fifth century there were five patriarchates: these four
composing the Eastern Church, and the Patriarchate of Rome alone in the West.
In those days there were clear-cut geographical divisions of patriarchates;
an Eastern Catholic was born within the limits of his patriarchate. Today one
belongs to his rite wherever he goes, and his children inherit his rite. In
the United States there are two dioceses of Eastern Catholics: one of
Philadelphia (Ukranian Greek) to which some 316,800 Catholics belong; and
another of Pittsburgh (composed of Russians, Hungars, and Croats) , to which
some 315,200 Catholics belong. If Canada is included, almost a million among
us are of the Eastern Church.
- The Catholic Eastern Church is a living proof of the universality of the
Catholic Church. The matter (including the doctrines, faith and morals)
is unchanging; but the manner (including rubrics and rites, custom and
practice, the externals) may change. The Church organization is malleable; but
the fundamentals and essentials, the doctrines, are unchanging anywhere.
Thus Catholics under the Patriarchate of Rome in the United States have
only six holydays of obligation; the Ukranian Catholic here has to observe
twenty holydays of obligation. His Christmas, though also December 25th, falls
on our January 7th, because he uses a different calendar. In the Eastern
Churches, the married clergy can be found as often as the celibate, because
married men can be ordained and retain their wives. If the wife of a married
priest dies, he cannot remarry; a bachelor who is ordained cannot marry later.
Bishops are required to be either widowers or single.
Unity of religion does not mean uniformity of rite. Even in the Latin
Church under the Patriarch of Rome, there are variations, all dating no later
than the fourteenth century. As Pope Benedict XIV said: "Eastern Christians
should be Catholics; they do not need to become Latins." Externals may vary;
but the core is one.
What is liturgy, and what is rite? --Liturgy comprises a
public act intended for the worship of God; rite is the manner of observing
At present, however, the two terms are used indiscriminately and
interchangeably. Strictly speaking, "liturgy" now refers to the rite of Holy
- The Roman Rite is for all practical purposes the universal rite
used in the Western Church. In it Latin is used.
During the period of persecutions, and on account of the difficulty of
communication, variety in practices was the natural and common thing. When the
Church became better organized, practices became more uniform. In the Latin
Church rites practically became uniform in 1570 with the publication of the
Roman Missal; even today a few variations remain.
- The Byzantine Rite, after the Roman, is the most widely-used in the
Church, being found in Russia, Greece, the Balkans, and south Italy. Greek is
the language principally employed, but Georgian, Slavonic, and Roumanian are
The Orthodox Eastern Church belongs to this rite. Originally, it was of
Constantinople; it is based on the rite of St. James of Jerusalem, and was
reformed by St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. Modified for use in Russia,
this Rite is termed Ruthenian.
- Other Asian Rites are: the Antiochean, Chaldean, and
Armenian; in their entirety or modified, they are employed in the East.
The Antiochean Rite is the source of many derived rites; it traces
its origin to St. James of Jerusalem. The Syrians, Chaldeans, Malabarese, and
Maronites use derivations. The Chaldean Rite is used by the Chaldeans
and Malabarese. Syriac is the principal language used in both these rites. The
Armenian Rite is in use among Armenians, found in the Levant, Italy,
and Austria. The Armenian tongue is used. It is the Greek Liturgy of St.
- In African Catholic churches, the principal rite used is the Alexandrian.
This is called the "Liturgy of St. Mark"; but the original has been greatly
modified. The Coptic and Ethiopian Churches use it.
The Catholic Copts are under the Patriarch of Alexandria, living in
Cairo. Old Coptic and Arabic are the languages used in their liturgy: The
Ethiopian Church uses a version of the Liturgy of St. Mark; it is as a
whole the same as that of the Copts.
The ceremonies of these Rites may indeed seem strange to us of the Latin
Rite. But the bishops and priests are real bishops and priests, though vested
differently; the Mass and Sacraments are genuine, though performed with an
unknown ritual. The Church in the East is the same Church in the West, the
same founded by Jesus Christ, the One True Catholic Church.
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The Bishop of
|It is Christ's will that we should reverence His ministers as
Himself. This is why Catholics pay the greatest reverence to Christ's Vicar,
the Pope, their universal Father. On this account the title "His Holiness"
is given him. Out of respect for his office, the Holy Father is given
privileges not granted to other bishops. As a temporal sovereign he has a
Court and guards. He has a standard and sea. He has ambassadors. On solemn
occasions he is carried in the papal chair called sedia gestatoria.
Did Christ intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler
of the entire Church should be exercised by Peter alone? --Christ did
not intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire
Church should be exercised by Peter alone, but intended that this power should
be passed down to his successor, the Pope, Bishop of Rome, who is the Vicar of
Christ on earth, and the visible Head of the Church.
- St. Peter lived for a short time at Antioch; then he went to Rome and
there fixed his official residence permanently. It was there, and as
Bishop of Rome, that he died as a martyr some twenty years later.
The Church was not to die with Peter. Therefore his official rank and
dignity and powers were to be handed on to his successors from generation to
generation. In the same way, successors to a civil office acquire all the
powers attached to the office.
- Thus the Bishop of Rome, the lawful successor of St. Peter, is what
Peter was, Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Church. Christ is the
true and invisible Head of the Church. But its visible head is the Bishop of
Rome, our Holy Father the Pope, because he is the successor of St. Peter.
No one but the Bishop of Rome has ever claimed supreme authority
over the whole Church. Therefore, either he is St. Peter's successor, or St.
Peter has no successor, and the promise of Christ had failed.
- The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over all Christendom has been
disputed because of the perversity of men and the power of evil. It has
been denied by unruly sons. The very fact that it was disputed shows
that it existed.
In the same way even the authority of God Himself has been questioned; His
very existence has been denied. From the beginning, too, parental authority
has been defied. The authority of lawful rulers has ever been attacked. The
denials, defiance, and attacks have not destroyed the existence of such
authority. Does God die because men deny His existence? "The fool said
in his heart, There is no God" (Ps. 52).
Has the Bishop of Rome always been looked upon as the head of the
Church? --Yes, the Bishop of Rome has from Apostolic times been looked
upon as the universal head of the Church.
- From earliest times the titles "high priest" and "bishop of bishops" have
been given to the Bishop of Rome. Appeals were made to him, and
disputes were settled by him.
The third successor of St. Peter was Pope St. Clement. A dispute in the
Church at Corinth was referred to him for decision. He wrote letters of
remonstrance and admonition to the Corinthians, and they submitted to his
correction. At that time, very near Corinth the Apostle John was still living.
Why did the Corinthians, instead of appealing to faraway Rome and Clement, not
refer their trouble, to the Apostle John, Bishop of Ephesus? Evidently because
Rome's authority was universal, while that of Ephesus was local.
There were numerous cases of appeal throughout the long history of
the Church; all were referred to Rome.
In the fifth century when Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in the East, was
deposed, he appealed to Pope Leo, and the Pope ordered him reinstated. The
Pope was everywhere recognized as head of the Church not only in the West, but
in the East, up to the great schism of the ninth century.
- With one voice the Fathers of the Church pay homage to the Bishop
of Rome as their superior.
All of them recognized the Pope as Supreme Head. St. Ambrose said in the
fourth century: "Where Peter is, there is the Church."
- General councils were not held without the presence of the Bishop
of Rome or his representative. No council was accepted as universal or general
unless its acts received the approval of the Bishop of Rome.
At the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451, the Pope's letter was read to
the assemblage of bishops, and they cried with one voice: "Peter has spoken by
Leo; let him be anathema who believes otherwise!" As late as the year 1439, in
the council of Florence, the Greeks who wished to return to the Church
acknowledged the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
- Every nation converted from paganism has received the faith from
missionaries specially sent by the Pope, or by bishops acknowledging the Pope
as their Head.
St. Patrick was sent by Pope Celestine to Ireland. St. Palladius was sent
by the same Pope to Scotland. St. Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to
England. St. Remigius went to France under the protection of the See of Rome.
St. Boniface was sent by Pope Gregory II to Germany and Bavaria. And so on.
The Holy See confers various titles, orders, decorations, and other
honors on certain persons, usually lay people, who in some special manner
have distinguished themselves in furthering the well-being of humanity and of
the Church. They, are listed here in the order of importance.
The Supreme Order of Christ was started by Pope John XXII in 1319.
Today it is the supreme pontifical Order of knighthood, conferred only on very
The Order of the Golden Spur follows the Order of Christ as a
pontifical decoration. It has one class of 100 knights, and is awarded only to
those who have furthered the cause of the Church by outstanding deeds. It is
bestowed also to non-Catholics.
The Order of Pius IX has three classes, Knights of the Grand Cross,
Commanders, and Knights. It is awarded also to non-Catholics.
The Order of St. Gregory the Great was founded by Pope Gregory XVI
in 1831. It has two divisions, civil and military, each of which is divided
into three classes: Knights of the Grand Cross, Commanders, and Knights.
The Order of St. Sylvester, instituted in 1841, like the Order of
St. Gregory, has three classes of knights.
The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of the oldest of
pontifical honors; it is today highly prized in Europe. It has been bestowed
on kings and nobles, on heads of republics, on persons outstanding in arts,
letters, and sciences, on those who in special manner have served the Church.
Unlike other orders, this is bestowed besides on clerics and women.
The medal "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" was instituted by Leo XIII,
that great "Pope of the Workingman" in 1888. It is awarded in recognition of
special services to the Church and the Pope. The "Benemerenti" medal
was instituted in 1832 by Gregory XVI, of two classes, civil and military, in
recognition of outstanding daring or courage.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Powers of the
|1. Basilica of St. Peter; 2. Plaza of St. Peter; 3. The Vatican
(10,246 rooms); 4. Bronze door; 5. Courtyard of Damascus; 6. Vatican
Library; 7. Vatican Museum; 8. Courtyard of Belvedere; 9. Courtyard of
Pines; 10. Door leading to Libraries; 11. Sistine Chapel; 12. Vatican
Gardens; 13. Observatory; 14. Campo Santo; 15. Quarters of the Swiss Guards.
In 1929 Pope Pius XI and King Victor Emmanuel III signed a formal agreement,
by which the Pope regained temporal sovereignty over the City of the
Vatican. That is the smallest independent state in all Christendom. But in
it the Roman Pontiff is supreme, free from all human dictation. Catholics
from all over the world at any time, in war or at peace, can have free
access to their universal Father, because of this independence.
What are the chief powers of the Pope? --The Pope has supreme
and complete power and jurisdiction to decide questions of faith and morals
and to arrange the discipline of the universal Church.
- The power of the Pope extends over every single church, every
single bishop and pastor, every one of the faithful.
He may appoint and depose bishops, call councils, make and unmake laws,
send missionaries, confer distinctions, privileges, and dispensations, and
reserve sins to his own tribunal.
- The Pope is the supreme judge; to him belongs the last appeal in
The Pope is the "teacher of all Christians", the "chief shepherd of the
shepherds and their flocks". "Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up
his voice and spoke out to them ..." (Acts 2:14). The word "Pope" is derived
from the Latin term papa, which means "Father".
- The Pope is independent of every temporal sovereign and of every
spiritual power. He is responsible only to God.
What is the temporal power of the Pope? --The temporal power
of the Pope is his power to rule an independent state as sovereign, free and
independent from other earthly sovereigns.
The vastness of the Church and the greatness of its responsibilities
towards its millions of members require that it should be able to communicate
with them unhampered by any national government, free of foreign interference.
- When Constantine the Great was converted at the beginning of the fourth
century, he gave large grants of money and lands to the Church.
Emperors who succeeded him added to the grants.
In the year 327 Constantine moved the seat of his Empire to Constantinople.
Rome was abandoned to itself, and became the prey of successive hordes of
barbarians. The Roman people came to look up to the Popes as their only
governors and protectors. In fact it was Pope Leo the Great who saved Rome
from Attila the "Scourge of God", and from Genseric the Vandal. Thus abandoned
by the emperors, little by little the people of central Italy became bound
more strongly to the Popes.
- In 754 the Lombards invaded Italy and threatened Rome. The Pope appealed
urgently to the Emperor in Constantinople, but he was indifferent, neglectful,
and did nothing.
In this emergency, the Pope crossed the Alps and appealed to Pepin, the
Frankish king, to protect the people in Italy from the Lombards. Upon
defeating the Lombards, King Pepin granted the conquered provinces to the
Pope. In 774 Charlemagne, the successor of Pepin, confirmed the grant, and
donated additional provinces to the Pope. These possessions, called the
States of the Church, the Popes held till 1859.
- In 1859 all the States of the Church, except Rome, were seized by the
armies of Victor Emmanuel II, leader of the movement for the unification of
In 1870 Rome itself was taken, and made capital of Italy, and the Pope
became virtually a prisoner in his own palace.
- In 1929 the Lateran Treaty signed between the Holy See and the
crown of Italy recognized the Pope's temporal power and his sovereignty over
the City of the Vatican, by a formal concordat between the Pope and the crown
The City of the Vatican is the smallest sovereign state in the world. At
the time of the signing of the Lateran Treaty, it had a population of 532,
only 250 of whom were resident. It is almost entirely enclosed by high walls,
and comprises 110 acres.
What exclusive privileges does the Bishop of Rome enjoy, to signify
his supremacy as Head of the Church? --The Bishop of Rome enjoys the
following exclusive privileges:
- He has precedence of jurisdiction and honor over all other bishops.
The Bishop of Rome's jurisdiction extends over all Christendom. He is first
in both authority and honor.
- He enjoys the exclusive titles of: Pope, Sovereign Pontiff, Roman
Pontiff, Holy Father, His Holiness, Vicar of Christ, Father of Christendom.
But he calls himself the "Servant of the Servants of God."
Because of the words of Our Lord to Peter: "Blessed art thou," we address
the Pope Beatissime Pater (Most Holy Father). The office is called the
See of Peter, Holy See, or Apostolic See, or the Chair of Peter. The Pope is
called from his see, the Pope of Rome, and the Catholic Church under him is
often called the Roman Catholic Church.
- He assumes a new name upon his election, as St. Peter was given a
new name by Our Lord. From the tenth century, it has been the custom to choose
the name from those of previous Popes, St. Peter's being excepted out of
He wears the tiara, a triple crown, the symbol of his preeminence in
the threefold office of Teacher, Priest, and Pastor. He wears a cassock of
white silk, uses white silk shoes, and a crosier mounted by a cross. He issues
medals, confers knighthood. He sends ambassadors. He has a gold-and-white
The College of Cardinals is the Senate of the Pope. As principal advisers
and helpers, the cardinals assist the Holy Father in the government of the
Church. After the Supreme Pontiff, the cardinals have the highest dignity in
our Holy Mother Church.
Consistories are assemblies of cardinals presided over by the Pope. There
are three kinds: (1) secret, with only the Pope and cardinals present; (2)
public, attended by other prelates and lay spectators; (3) semipublic,
attended by bishops and patriarchs. At the secret consistory, the Pope
delivers an allocution on religious and moral conditions throughout the world;
sometimes seeks the opinion of the cardinals on the creation of new cardinals,
gives the cardinal's ring, appoints bishops, archbishops and patriarchs, makes
ecclesiastical transfers, divides or unites dioceses, and asks for a vote on a
proposed canonization. At the public consistory, the Pope bestows the red hat,
hears the causes of beatifications and canonizations. At the semi-public
consistory the propriety of a proposed canonization is decided.
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The Roman Curia
What is the Roman Curia?
--It is the organization of various bodies to which the Pope has delegated the
exercise of his jurisdiction.
Almost all the heads of the bodies
in the Roman Curia are cardinals.
The Roman Curia is the papal court;
it is the core of the government of the Church. The Holy Father possesses
complete and absolute power over the government of the Church; but it is not
possible for him to exercise his authority personally and directly over every
detail in the worldwide Church. A great deal of the jurisdiction has therefore
been delegated to the Roman Curia, which at present consists of:
namely: Of the Holy Office, of the Consistory, for the Oriental Church, of the
Sacraments, of the Council, of Religious, for the Propagation of the Faith, of
Sacred Rites, of Ceremonies, of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, of
Seminaries and Universities, and of the Basilica of St. Peter.
namely: Sacred Penitentiary, Sacred Roman Rota, and Apostolic Signature.
Five Offices, namely:
Apostolic Chancery, Apostolic Datary, Apostolic Camera, Secretarfate of State,
and Secretariate of Briefs to Princes and Latin Letters.
What in general are the
duties of the twelve Congregations of the Roman Curia? --Their duties
are summarized below:
The Congregation of the Holy
Office guards Catholic doctrine in faith and morals, protects sacramental
dogma, acts on heresy and heretics, decides matters related to the
condemnation of books, the doctrine of indulgences, new prayers and devotions.
Unlike all other Congregations, it
has judicial, as well as administrative powers. The importance of this sacred
congregation is shown by the fact that the Holy Father Himself is its Prefect,
acting with a Cardinal-Secretary. This, the Consistorial Congregation, and
that for the Oriental Church are the only administrative Departments thus
personally headed by the Pope himself. All other congregations have
cardinal-prefects, and the tribunals and offices have cardinal or other
prelates at their head.
The Consistorial Congregation
prepares subjects of discussion at the papal consistories, where the College
of Cardinals with the Pope deliberate on important matters. It judges the
competency of all the Congregations with the exception of that of the Holy
It is this Congregation through
which the Pope nominates bishops and other high officials, after inquiring
into their qualifications; it forms new dioceses, provinces, etc. that are not
under the Propagation of the Faith or of the Congregation for the Oriental
Church, and looks after their preservation.
The Congregation for the
Oriental Church takes care of all matters related to the Eastern Church.
(See Chapter 55 on The Catholic Eastern Church: Rites)
The Congregation of the
Sacraments looks after the external regulations of the seven sacraments,
ordains decrees and grants dispensations; it has charge of matters related to
the validity of Orders or Matrimony.
The Congregation of the Council
has supervision over secular clergy and laymen, including parish priests,
religious associations (even those under religious) , taxes, etc.; it has
charge of episcopal conferences. It deals with matters related to the
observence of the laws of the Church.
The Congregation of Religious
has authority over matters related to all religious, including lay members of
Third Orders; it takes up their government, discipline, and privileges, and
supervises their property and studies.
The Congregation for the
Propagation of the Faith has charge of all matters related to the
missions; missionary societies and seminaries are under its jurisdiction.
The Congregation of Sacred Rites
acts upon matters pertaining to rites and ceremonies; it considers the
beatification and canonization of departed holy souls; it bestows insignia and
marks of honor.
The Congregation of Ceremonies
has control of ceremonies in the papal chapel and court, and of functions
performed by cardinals outside of the papal chapel; it judges matters of
precedence of cardinals and legates.
The Congregation of
Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs has charge of matters related to
civil laws and governments; its prefect is the Cardinal Secretary of State.
Whenever a settlement is necessary in conjunction with civil authority, this
Congregation has charge of the formation and division of dioceses, the
appointment of bishops and other prelates, etc.
The Congregation of Seminaries
and Universities supervises seminaries and universities, even those under
religious orders, inquiring not only into government, but also into curricula;
it establishes standards and confers academic degrees.
The Congregation of the Basilica
of St. Peter looks after the upkeep of that Basilica.
What is the jurisdiction of
each of the three Tribunals of the Curia? --The Jurisdiction of each
of the three Tribunals of the Curia may be summarized thus:
The Sacred Penitentiary
judges all cases involving conscience, whether sacramental or not, and all
cases concerning the granting and use of indulgences, outside of the rights of
the Holy Office on the subject of dogmatic doctrine.
The Sacred Roman Rota has
charge of matters involving judicial procedure, outside of the rights of the
Holy Office and the Congregation of Sacred Rites.
The Apostolic Signature is
the supreme court of the Roman Curia. It has charge of all appeals, and
settles all cases regarding jurisdiction of inferior tribunals.
Summarize briefly the duties
of the five Offices of the Roman Curia. --This is a brief summary:
The Apostolic Chancery sends
out Apostolic Letters and Bulls on matters of major importance.
The Apostolic Datary takes
care of the appointment of candidates to benefices, and their due taxation.
The Apostolic Camera has
charge over all temporal goods and rights of the Holy See, especially when the
See is vacant. It corresponds to the Treasury of the Church. Its head, the
camerlengo assumes the regency upon the death of a Pope, and makes
arrangements for the election.
The Secretariate of State
prepares matters for the consideration of the Congregation of Extraordinary
Ecclesiastical Affairs. The Cardinal-Secretary of State may be said to be the
Prime Minister of the Pope.
The Secretariate of Briefs
to Princes and Latin Letters transcribes into Latin all acts of the Pope that
he endorses to it.
The Papal Elections
When the Dean of the College of Cardinals publicly announces the death of
the Pope, all the cardinals throughout the world are convoked to a solemn
conclave, for the election of a new Supreme Pontiff. The conclave is held
within fifteen to eighteen days after the death of the Holy Father.
If all the cardinals are present on the fifteenth day after the death of
the Pope, then the conclave begins. If not all the cardinals are present, the
conclave is postponed until the eighteenth day. Then the cardinals, after
celebrating Holy Mass, gather in the Sistine Chapel, for the elections. And
until they have made a choice, they remain in seclusion within a part of the
Vatican, reserved for them.
Any male Catholic of whatever country or race, even a layman, may be
elected Pope. Should a layman be chosen, he would have to be ordained priest
and consecrated bishop, before he may assume the duties of his office. To be
validly the Supreme Pontiff, the elected one is required to accept the office.
The Pope is elected for life; however, if he wishes, he may resign, and a new
Pope would then be elected.
The voting by the cardinals is done on specially-printed ballots. A
two-thirds majority plus one is required to elect. Two ballots are taken every
morning and evening until a selection is made. As long as no choice is made,
the ballots are burned with damp straw; the heavy black smoke coming out from
the chimney is a sign to the public usually assembled in the plaza outside
that no decision has been reached. But when a candidate receives a two-thirds
majority plus one, then he is elected, and the ballots are burned without the
damp straw. Light smoke issuing from the chimney notifies the eager public
that they have a new Holy Father.
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|The Church is a closely organized and united society, including the
hierarchy and the faithful. All members render loving obedience to the
infallible Vicar of Christ. The Pope does not rule as a proud monarch, but
as a Father, the representative of God; as a good Shepherd, solicitous for
each member of the great flock. The unquestioning obedience of the faithful
is responsible for the wonderful unity among the members of the Church
throughout the world. There are about four hundred twenty-five million
Catholics, all submitting to the hierarchy, at the head of which is the
What is the hierarchy? --The hierarchy is the organization in
successive grades of the ruling powers of the Church.
- The hierarchy is the "teaching Church," the ruling body composed of
the priests with their bishops and the Pope above all. It is an army of
leaders having care and control of the holy and sacred things of the Church.
Under this army of the "teaching Church" is the "hearing Church--the
faithful, the laity.
- The members of the hierarchy differ in two ways: in the power of orders,
and in the power of jurisdiction.
The power of orders is given by the sacrament of ordination, It is the
power to sanctify, a permanent spiritual power that no earthly
authority can take away. The power of jurisdiction is given by a superior, to
enable a subject to exercise his spiritual authority lawfully. This power may
be limited and revoked by legitimate authority.
How do the members of the hierarchy differ in their power of orders?
--The members of the hierarchy are divided into three classes with different
power of orders: deacons, priests, and bishops.
This order of rank and power has been in force in the Church from the
time of the Apostles. These three classes were foreshadowed in the high
priest, priests, and Levites of the Old Law. They also had counterparts in Our
Lord, the Apostles. and the disciples. Our Lord gave full powers to the twelve
Apostles, but only limited power to the disciples.
- Deacons can baptize, preach, and give Holy Communion.
The Apostles ordained the first deacons. The deacons were appointed by the
Apostles to distribute alms and were consecrated by the laying on of hands
accompanied by prayers (Acts 6:6).
- Priests have higher orders than deacons. They can offer the holy
sacrifice of the Mass, and forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance. They can
administer all sacraments except those of Confirmation and Holy Orders. With
special faculties they may even administer Confirmation, in the Catholic
Eastern Rites priests administer Confirmation immediately after Baptism.
Priests were prefigured in the seventy-two diciples of Our Lord. The word
"priest" is derived from the Greek presbyter, which means "the elder" a
term used by the first converted Jews.
- Bishops have full power of orders; they are the successors
of the Apostles. A bishop administers all the sacraments; he alone administers
Holy Orders. He consecrates holy oils, churches, chalices, etc.
Archbishops, primates, patriarchs, and even the Pope himself have no fuller
power of orders than a bishop of a missionary diocese.
How do the members of the hierarchy differ in the power of
jurisdiction? --The members of the hierarchy are divided into many
ranks according to the power of jurisdiction, the chief ranks being those of
Pope, bishops, and parish priests.
These differences of rank and power are necessary for the proper government
of the Church just as there are differences of rank and power in the civil
government. Without them the Church would be a society without organization.
- In organization the Church is like a vast army; the Pope,
its visible head, is commander-in-chief of this army. He has jurisdiction and
supreme and sovereign power and authority over the entire Church. He is
formally addressed "Your Holiness."
This is how one can easily find the True Church: "Where Peter is, there is
the Church." To show the variety and extent of the interests of the Church, in
1953 at the Vatican there are diplomatic representatives from forty-four
- The Cardinals are the Pope's advisers and assistants; they
are his ministers. He appoints them, and the number is not to exceed seventy.
Together they form the Apostolic or Sacred College; it is this body
that, in solemn conclave, chooses a new Pope when the See falls vacant.
The cardinals form the various congregations or committees in the Papal
court, such as the Congregations of the Religious, of Rites, of the
Sacraments, etc. In the past many cardinals only had the orders of deacon. The
cardinals are distinguished by a red hat and mantle, as a sign that they will
be loyal to the Pope at the cost of their blood. A cardinal is addressed "Your
- Nuncios, internuncios, legates, and apostolic
delegates are representatives or ambassadors of the Pope to different
countries, courts, or occasions.
Minor representatives of the Holy See, sent for some special purposes to
different places, are termed Apostolic Visitors. In the United States
we have an Apostolic Delegate. Besides the ordinary powers he has as Apostolic
Delegate, the Holy See has delegated to him extraordinary powers.
- A patriarch is a bishop, successor of the Apostles, who holds the highest
rank after the Pope, in jurisdiction. Patriarchs are
independent of any ecclesiastical authority save that of the Pope, who is
not only Patriarch of Rome, but Sovereign Pontiff, successor of Peter.
A patriarch ordains all the bishops of his patriarchate, summons synods,
legislates on fasting and abstinence, reception of the sacraments, liturgy and
ritual, and other observances. At present there are only five major or Greater
Patriarchs; those of Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria.
The title "Patriarch" is however given as an honorary title to archbishops of
- Archbishops, bishops, and vicars-apostolic
possess varying jurisdictions. They rule over archdioceses, dioceses,
An archbishop and bishop are entitled "Most Reverend," and formally
addressed "Your Excellency." The term Primate is now only an
honorary title; formerly a Primate exercised jurisdiction over whole countries
or several provinces.
Ordinarily an abbot is the superior of an abbey of
Benedictines, Cistercians, or other monks. He is elected for life, and has
complete authority in the abbey in accordance with the rules of his order.
Today the title "abbot" is also granted as a sign of honor; the benefice is
some extinct foundation.
- A monsignor is one who for some special merit has been
raised above the ranks of the ordinary clergy, and thus joins the prelates;
the title is honorary.
The term Monsignor is often used in addressing different degrees of
prelates. But of the Monsignori proper there are several ranks: protonotaries
apostolic, domestic prelates, etc. These are addressed "Right Reverend"; lower
ranks, "Very Reverend."
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What jurisdiction has a bishop? --A bishop rules over that
part of the Church, an organized territory called a bishopric, diocese, or
see, assigned to him by the Pope.
The word "bishop" is a translation from the Greek episcopos, which
means "overseer," a term first applied during apostolic times. To Titus St.
Paul wrote, "For this reason I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set
right anything that is defective and shouldst appoint presbyters in every
city" (Tit. 1:5).
- The bishops are the major-generals in the vast army of the Church.
They command the different divisions of that army, subject to the authority of
the commanderin-chief, the Bishop of Rome. Under their jurisdiction are the
parish priests in charge of parishes.
As the Pope is the successor of St. Peter, so the other bishops are the
direct successors of the other Apostles. Bishops are called "princes of the
Church." To them Our Lord spoke: "He who hears you hears Me." They and their
vicars general are termed ordinaries because they have ordinary, or
immediate, jurisdiction over the diocese
- A bishop administers the temporal possessions of his diocese, and
gives an account of their administration to the Pope. He provides for the
education and training of candidates for the priesthood, and the religious
education of his whole flock. He gives faculties to hear confessions, censors
books on religious subjects, and has many other powers for the proper
administration of his diocese. A bishop is supreme in his diocese, but he is
subject in all things to the Pope, who appoints him.
The Pope grants their jurisdiction to bishops; before a bishop can exercise
his office, he has to be recognized and confirmed by the Pope. He is obliged
to go to Rome at stated intervals, to report on the state of his diocese. A
bishop has the right to be called to a General Council, which is an assembly
of the bishops of the world, presided over by the Pope. But, "If anyone is
eager for the office of bishop, he desires a good work" (1 Tim. 3:1)
- A bishop is shepherd of his flock. He appoints and supervises
parish priests to help him. In governing his diocese, he is assisted by a
number of "canons", or by diocesan consultors. A coadjutor or
auxiliary bishop is commissioned to assist the bishop of a diocese.
Usually a coadjutor bishop is one with the right of succession.
The Pope addresses a bishop Brother, because as bishops they have
the same rank. Bishops wear a mitre, and carry a crosier as a
sign of their office of pastor. They wear a pectoral cross. They have a
ring, as a symbol of their union with their diocese. The faithful kiss
this ring in token of obedience and respect.
- A Vicar Apostolic is a bishop who rules over a territory that is
not yet fully organized, called a Vicariate Apostolic.
When the territory is first organized, it is usually placed under the care
of a priest, and not a bishop. This priest is called a Prefect Apostolic
and his territory is an Apostolic Prefecture.
- A titular Bishop or Archbishop is one who bears the title of
a diocese, but has no jurisdiction over it. Nuncios, apostolic delegates,
coadjutor and auxiliary bishops, and vicars apostolic are generally titular.
Titular bishops and archbishops have no actual sees; they are given the
titles of certain sees that previously existed, but that have since
disappeared in the reorganization of jurisdictions, or because of the inroads
of Mohammedanism, heresy, or paganism. The names of the sees are kept intact,
and awarded to those whom the Holy See wishes to raise to the rank of bishops,
and given special work.
- An Archbishop or Metropolitan is a bishop who has certain
powers of jurisdiction granted by the Pope over neighboring dioceses composing
Archbishops wear a pallium, a white strip of wool, on the shoulders,
as a symbol of gentleness. They act as first judges of appeal from a decision
of their suffragan bishops.
Who assist the bishops in the care of souls? --The priests,
especially parish priests, assist the bishops in the care of souls.
- Parish priests are captains in the great army that is the Church.
They command the soldiers of the Church, all baptized persons residing in the
particular districts, called parishes, assigned to them by the bishops.
The parish priest carries out the purpose of Christ in founding the Church.
He teaches the people their religion, their duties towards God and each other.
He governs the people, leading them in Catholic work. He sanctifies them by
administering the sacraments.
- Parish priests receive their orders and jurisdiction from the
bishop. They are his spiritual children, and are bound to carry out his
commands. In the parish the parish priest represents the bishop, and no one
may, without his consent or the bishop's, exercise spiritual functions there,
such as marrying, baptizing, preaching, burying, giving extreme unction, etc.
A vicar forane (called also urban and rural dean) is a
parish priest having supervisory power in the name of the bishop over
neighboring parishes. A vicar-general is the chief among the officers
of a diocese. Parish priests of large districts have priests helping them,
called curates or assistants.
- The duties of parish priests are many, varied, and of great
responsibility. Like all priests, they are pledged to lifelong celibacy. Daily
they must recite the Breviary, the priests' book, which cannot be read under
less than an hour's time.
On account of these heavy responsibilities all Catholics have the
obligation to pray for their priests, and to help them as much as possible,
especially that they may continue in the love of God, and be enlightened by
the Holy Ghost.
A parish priest and his curates have to visit the sick of the parish any
time of the day or night, whenever there is a call. He has to give the last
sacraments to the dying, however contagious or repellent the disease of such
persons might be. He has to hear confessions hour after hour; he has to fast
as long as the Masses he is scheduled to say have not been said. He must
renounce the world with all its worldly amusements for the love of God. As
shepherd of his flock, he is responsible to God for the souls of those
committed to his charge; and on the day of judgment, he has to render a strict
account of his stewardship over them.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
The National Catholic Welfare
What is the National Catholic Welfare Conference? --The
National Catholic Welfare Conference is an organization of the cardinals,
archbishops and bishops of the United States, centered at Washington, with the
purpose of unifying, coordinating, and organizing the Catholics of the country
in works of social welfare, education, and similar activities, by means
particularly of the press and of existing lay organizations.
- The NCWC represents the united influence of the hierarchy on
national, social, and civic policies; it provides a remarkable leadership for
the promotion of social justice, education, a Catholic press, and coordinated
lay action. In a certain sense, the NCWC is the nerve center of
the Church in America.
The NCWC particularly aims at the participation of the laity
in the work of the Church, building up and strengthening the Kingdom of
Christ; for surely the laity forms part of the Mystical Body of Christ.
- The NCWC is national storehouse, clearing-house, and powerhouse; to
fulfill its purpose it uses chiefly the press, the radio, conferences, and
forums. The NCWC does not aim to create new organizations; its purpose is to
help, strengthen, and unify those already existing.
The NCWC collects information and puts it out in printed form; it gives
advice and field service connected with the work of the various divisions.
The illustration (above) shows the organization, departments, and functions
of the NCWC. Over all is an Administrative Board of ten archbishops and
bishops; the Board is elected at the annual meeting of the cardinals,
archbishops and bishops of the country. U.S. cardinals are members ex
An annual report is made to the Holy See. No official action of the
Conference as a whole can be taken without authorization from the
Administrative Board. At the annual general meeting of the bishops, the
administrative bishops give detailed reports, and obtain authorization for
- The Episcopal Chairman of the Executive Department is the General
Secretary. He not only directs the multiple activities of the different
divisions in his department, but also supervises and coordinates the work of
the other units of the NCWC. He is the executive officer of the Conference.
Through the General Secretary the departmental reports and all information
about the work of the headquarters staff are regularly sent to the
administrative board members.
Have episcopal committees been formed in addition to the eight
Departments? --Yes, certain episcopal committees have been formed, to
deal with special problems.
- The American Board of Catholic Missions has jurisdiction over the
collection of funds for both home and foreign missions.
- The Committee on Propagation of the Faith promotes the work of the
- The Committee on the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine organizes
the work of that Confraternity in the spread of knowledge and practice of the
- The Committee on Seminaries is concerned in the spiritual and
intellectual training given in seminaries.
- The Committee on Motion Pictures promotes the production of good
moral pictures and discourages the production of objectionable pictures. It
directs the National Legion of Decency.
- The Committee on the National Organization for Decent Literature
works against indecent periodical literature,
- The Welfare, Emergency, and Relief Committee, in which membership
is identical with the Administrative Board, coordinates the raising and
distribution of funds to meet relief needs.
- The War Relief Services attends to relief abroad, and administers a
program of assistance to war victims.
- The National Catholic Resettlement Council finds homes and
employment for displaced persons in the United States.
- The National Catholic Community Service is the official Catholic
agency to serve the spiritual, welfare, and recreational needs of men and
women in the armed forces, war production workers, and families.
- The Catholic Committee for Refugees provides material and spiritual
aid to exiles from their countries.
Other Bishops Committees are: to Promote the Pope's Peace Plan, for the
North American College in Rome, to Complete the Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception, for Catholic Migrants, for Polish Relief, for the
Spanish-speaking, for the Mexican Seminary.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
|"I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, even as
the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my
sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must
bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one
shepherd" (John 10:14-16). All those not baptized are sheep of Christ that
have not yet heard His voice. They must also be brought into the Church.
Protestants are sheep that have left the fold of Christ. They must return
to the Church, if they would hear the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd,
Who lovingly calls them to His True Church.
Who are the laity of the Church? --The. laity of the Church
are all its members who do not belong to the clerical or to the religious
- All members of the Church, whether clerical, religious, or lay,
are termed "the faithful." After Baptism we join the ranks.
The laity must remember that they are part of the Church. They
must understand that when anyone speaks of the "Church" they are included,
as we include the heart and mind of a man with his soul when we speak of
him. The Church is you and I.
- The clerical state includes all priests and aspirants to the
priesthood who have received tonsure. Students of seminaries are aspirants
to the priesthood.
"Tonsure" is the rite by which a layman is initiated into the clerical
state. The bishop, or any delegated prelate, cuts the candidate's hair in
some prescribed form, and invests him with a surplice.
- The religious state includes those who are members of religious
orders or congregations, bound by either temporary or perpetual vows of
poverty, chastity, obedience.
Aspirants, postulants, and novices are preparing to embrace the religious
Do Catholic Sinners continue to belong to the Church?
- Unless one cuts himself off by heresy, apostasy, or excommunication, a
Catholic sinner continues to be a member of the Church. Those in mortal sin
are called "dead members", for their soul dead in sin.
Indeed the Church is the Church of Saints; but the greatest part of its
activities has to be for sinners. Perhaps we may say, without fear of
contradiction, that most of the members of the Church are sinners. We all
fall away from the ideal, at some time or other; then the Church calls, to
bring us back.
- Until we attain heavenly bliss, there will always be the darkness of
sin, the pain of evil. Christ Himself spoke of bad fish with the good,
of cockle among the wheat.
Of the sheep in the fold, one wanders out. But Our Lord longs for the
wanderer, let us help bring him back.
- God gave Catholics the grace of their holy religion. But He also gave
them their free will. And they are free to choose: whether to act in
full accordance with His commands and counsels, or whether to practice only
a part, or whether to violate those commands.
There is a wide gap between belief and practice; it is that gap that
divides Catholics into practical and nominal Catholics.
Must the faithful think and act alike? --No.
- The faithful must believe in all the doctrines entrusted by
Christ to His Church, and act in accordance with those doctrines; but
these pertain to the field of faith and morals, not to other matters.
Therefore there is no question about "thinking and acting alike," among the
425,000,000 Catholics in the world.
Each Catholic is an individual. He must believe that Jesus Christ is God;
but with one of his Catholic friends he may differ concerning the best
political party to join. He must not deny his Church, but he may argue with
the parish priest about who should be one's favorite Saints.
- The Church is for no particular class, whether millionaires, or
laborers, scientists or children; the Church is classless, and for all
classes, for all men. These cannot all act and think in one uniform
The different classes among Catholics arise from causes apart from the
Church, such as racial, cultural, and social causes. But anywhere and
everywhere one can be a good Catholic.
- Good Catholics believe alike in this: that they are members of a
divinely-established Church, the well-being of which it is their duty to
further, by striving to attain the perfection indicated by Christ.
The Church presents us with the ideal, and provides the
means to reach that ideal, inviting and urging us, feeding and shepherding
the flock. But the Church does not guarantee salvation for all the
faithful; because among its doctrines the freedom of the will is as
fundamental as the divine authority of the Church.
How can the laity help the Church in the care of souls?
--The laity can help the Church in the care of souls by leading lives that
will reflect credit on the Church, and by cooperating with their bishops and
priests, especially through Catholic Action.
"Even so, let your light shine before men, in order that they may see
your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
- A good Catholic makes serious efforts to save his soul. He keeps
the commandments of God and the Church. He receives the sacraments. He does
all things prescribed by Christ through the Church.
Therefore, he must know his religion. He must not be ignorant of
Christian doctrine, for by it he learns how to save his soul. By it he
learns what to believe, and what to do.
- A good Catholic obeys his ecclesiastical superiors in spiritual
matters, and gives them due respect. He sees in his lawful superiors
Christ's representatives on earth.
He is loyal to the Church in word and deed. He does not criticise it, or
make derogatory remark about it. Even if his priests may have faults, he
tries his best not to bring them and the Church into contempt. If the faults
are public and grievous, he may bring the matter to the attention of lawful
authority, but always with great prudence.
- According to his means, he contributes towards the support of the
This is a serious obligation which too many Catholics neglect. The Church
needs support as much as the civil government. It cannot subsist on air.
Religion makes no progress where Catholics are so indifferent as to begrudge
their material support.
- A good Catholic has before him a wide scope of activity if he
wishes to participate in the work of the Church; there are no barriers
between man and God.
Should a Catholic be moved by a spirit of reform, he need not cut himself
off from the Church by founding a new sect. He busies himself within the
Fold of the Church, taking active steps to attain the reform he desires. For
always there is need of reform in practices and current conditions,
though never in fundamental doctrine.
BACK TO MY CATHOLIC FAITH TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Catholic Action? --Catholic Action is the
participation of the organized Catholic laity in the apostolate of the
hierarchy, for the purpose of winning or of bringing back souls to Christ.
The National Catholic Welfare Conference (see Chapter 61 on The National
Catholic Welfare Conference) does not change one fundamental fact: that in
each diocese all organizations and activities are dependent on and responsible
to the bishop.
- Catholic Action is the service and apostolate of the laity,
commandeered by the episcopate. It must be dependent on and perfectly obedient
to the hierarchy; there can be no Catholic Action without an episcopal
Since it is a participation, it must depend on the whole; that is, on the
hierarchy of Pope, bishops, and priests, to whom Jesus Christ gave the mission
to save souls for Him. Catholic Action seeks to establish the reign of Christ,
to restore all things in Christ, to spread Catholic principles in every field
of life,-in other words, to Christianize the world.
- Catholic Action is religion in action, the result of a living
faith. It implies, therefore, personal sanctification, although not directly
aimed at it. From this personal sanctification arise works for the salvation
of our neighbor, works that make lay apostles of members of Catholic Action.
Catholic Action requires that Catholics should possess solid piety, a sound
knowledge of the Catholic Faith, and unquestioning obedience to the Pope and
the hierarchy. The love of God that fills the heart of a faithful Catholic
will impel him to join in the work of converting the world to Christ; it will
urge him to contribute his help in all the ways he can in the lay state. "So
let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father Who is in heaven."
- Catholic Action therefore makes of the layman a soldier of Christ,
a co-missionary of the priesthood. At present the activities are channeled
through the National Council of Men, the National Council of Women, and the
National Catholic Youth Council. These Councils are really federations,
made up of existing lay religious organizations affiliated to make one whole.
In the old days when Christianity was new in a pagan world, the laity
labored with the Apostles in making Christ known and loved. Today the need for
the laity's help is as urgent as at the beginning. Much that was truly
Christian has succumbed to modern atheism; the kingdom of Christ is now
divided. There are not enough priests; and even if there were, many places,
such as mines, offices, and factories would not be easy for a priest to enter
in, to win souls to Christ.
What activities are embraced in the work of Catholic Action?
--Catholic Action embraces in its work every form of apostolate.
Catholic Action takes into account different aspects of the life of man,
the most important of which are the home, school, social, business, and civil
life. Catholic Action gives people a complete shaping, not only religious and
moral, but social and specialized, according to their condition in life. It
helps them solve problems of life in a Christian way.
- Catholic Action is concerned with the home, because the home
makes or unmakes the individual and nation. Catholic Action is exercised there
when the members do all they can to keep the family united and happy, one in
the service of God.
Efforts should be made to make the home a joyful place to stay in, so that
the members may find their home the most interesting place to go to. Every
home should be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Only good books and
newspapers must be admitted into the Catholic home.
- Catholic Action is concerned with the school, which,
especially in these days, influences the minds and hearts of the young so
deeply. Many modern parents think they have done their duty when they send
their children to school; and so the school must be particularly active in
Catholic Action, to form those within its walls.
The pupils must not only learn their religion well, but must also put its
principles into practice. They must live so that a Christian life will become
second nature to them, and when they leave the school they will continue such
a Christian life in the adult world. Even during school days, then, the pupils
should practice true Catholic Action in their homes, with their companions, in
their school activities, etc.
- Catholic Action is concerned with the social life of the
nation; it is social action, for it strives towards the greatest good of
society. It achieves Christian order for society, by developing integrity of
morals, purity of domestic life, practice of charity.
In a word, Catholic Action leads to the peace and prosperity of society as
a means towards the attainment of its final purpose of establishing the
kingdom of Christ. How great can be the effect in social life of the good
example of Catholic young men and young women living according to the
principles of their religion! They can prove the truth that it is not
necessary to sin in order to have fun. They can give effective example in
their dress, speech, and general behaviour. How great the evil, then, of their
example when Catholic young men and young women from the best schools act
against the principles they have learned, and in social life show themselves
immodest, hardhearted, and cheap in their behavior.
In business, the proprietor must be just to all under him, pay a living
wage, and be absolutely honest in his dealings with customers and others.
- Catholic Action is concerned with the civil life; however,
it is above and beyond partisan politics. It does not engage in
Catholic Action is for a supernatural end, but it cannot be divorced from
civil society, since it is concerned with souls who are members of the civil
society. It permits what the Church permits; each member may belong to
whatever lawful political party he may choose, provided he acts according to
Christian principles. The voter must vote only for honest and capable
officials. The official, in turn, must think only of the spiritual and
material good of the body he is serving, and forget selfish ends.
- There is variety in the works of Catholic Action, and in the
means it uses to effect its ends. This variety is according to necessities of
time and place.
One place may demand the teaching of catechism; another, the support of the
parochial school; another, the defense of the Church's rights against unjust
and unlawful impositions of civil officials; another, vigilance over the press
and the moving pictures; another, the education of the working classes. In
many places, all or most of these necessities, with others, ought to be met.
This is why an organization of well-trained laity is imperative.
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Church and State
|Once the Pharisees asked Our Lord: "Is it lawful to give tribute to
Caesar or not? Our Lord asked for a coin and then inquired, 'Whose image and
inscription does it bear?'" They answered, "Caesar's." And Our Lord said.
"Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the
things that are God's." Thus we are taught to give both the State and the
Church what is due to each, in accordance with the end that each pursues.
What are the spheres of the Church and of the State? --The
spheres of the Church and of the State are defined and dictated by each one's
Both the Church and the State derive their just powers from God. All
rights and duties on earth come to us ultimately from God through the Divine
Law, either natural or positive. As Leo VIII said, "The Almighty has appointed
the charge of the human race between two powers, the ecclesiastical and the
civil, the one being set over divine, the other over human things."
- The Church is a complete and perfect spiritual society whose purpose is to
sanctify men and lead them to eternal happiness with God in heaven. In
spiritual matters, therefore, it has absolute and exclusive powers.
The sphere of the Church is the supernatural and eternal; it includes
everything relating to spiritual and moral affairs, matters affecting man's
eternal salvation: for example, the worship of God, preaching of the Gospel,
decision of what is morally right and morally wrong, government of its
members, restriction of such rights as will endanger their eternal welfare,
education of the clergy, religious education of its members, etc,
- The State is also a society, but its purpose is limited to the promotion
of man's temporal welfare. In purely temporal and political
matters, the State is supreme. The Church does not prefer one form of civil
government to another, provided it does not conflict with Catholic teaching.
The sphere of the State includes such purely temporal matters as a choice
of a form of government, the development of agriculture, industries and trade,
collection of taxes, restriction of certain civil and political rights (such
as the right of suffrage, of bearing arms, etc.) , the enforcement of law and
- Since both Church and State were established for the good of men, they
cannot be totally separated without evil consequences. Even when a complete
separation is advisable, it should never mean the antagonism of the
State against the Church.
Man and the State, even in the realm of politics and temporal matters, are
under God's law, both revealed and natural, the Law that is above all mankind,
of whatever race. Man has no right to make his own laws without regard
for the law of God. "It is the Church, not the State, that is to be man's
guide to heaven" (Leo XIII). The State is even bound to protect the
Church in the exercise of its functions; this is because the State must
protect the rights of its citizens, and of these rights the religious ones are
of utmost importance.
- Although primarily concerned with spiritual matters, the Church evidently
is entitled to certain temporal aids, in order to be able to pursue its
It must build churches and seminaries, collect revenue, conduct schools for
the proper religious training of its members, etc.
- The State, as representing the collective will of the people, cannot be
made god, as is done in communism and fascism.
Then man becomes grossly material, bound by rods of his own fashioning,
helpless and gone mad, because he cannot conquer the world.
What is the contribution of the Catholic Church to American
democracy? --In general we may say that the fundamentals of American
democracy were derived from traditional thought and philosophy; and since
these, being of Western Europe, were essentially Catholic, therefore our
democracy had its roots in the Catholic Church.
- The philosophical principles of the Declaration of Independence
show such a remarkable similarity to traditional Catholic philosophy as to
have been derived from it. Most particularly have these principles been
inherited from two outstanding Catholic theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274) and St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). These principles are
inflexible against Communism as well as Plutocracy, State Socialism as well as
Some principles so derived are: the equality of man in nature and essence,
the function of government to care for the common good, the consent of the
governed as a requirement for power of rulers, the right of people to change
- Not only did our democracy get rooted in Catholic principles; today
Catholic thought continues to nourish that democracy.
For this reason the Church insists on the sanctity of marriage, of the
family; the Church instructs her children in loyalty to the State.
- In the founding of our Republic, Catholic aid also came into the realm of
deeds. Many Catholics took part in the war for independence not only by
actual fighting, but by contributing money, services, and other resources. And
we must not forget that France, a Catholic nation, sent four fleets, besides
money and soldiers. Poland and Spain, Catholic countries, also gave aid.
Well did our First President say to Catholics: "I presume that your fellow
citizens ... will not forget the patriotic part you took in the accomplishment
of our Revolution and the establishment of our government."
What should be the attitude of the Catholic citizen towards the
State? --The Catholic citizen is bound in conscience to obey the
State, provided faith and morals are not endangered thereby.
- The State is not the master, but the servant, of the citizens. The
inherent rights of individuals, and particularly of parents, cannot be
usurped by the State.
For instance, parents, not the State, have the natural right to educate
their children. The State should merely supervise and facilitate education,
but should not enact laws contrary to the obligations of parents to give their
children a religious education.
- After the Revolution, for a considerable period, Catholic schools together
with schools of other denominations received government support. Then
gradually, laws were passed forbidding such support.
Our schools are benefiting, however, under the National School Lunch Act of
1946; Congress regularly appropriates money to implement this free school
lunch program. Our colleges may secure loans at favorable interest rates under
legislation adopted by the Housing and Home Finance Agency. Indirectly our
colleges benefit from the GI Bill of Rights, since legislation authorizing the
extension of educational benefits to veterans does not discriminate with
respect to schools; a veteran may select any approved school. In addition to
assistance to schools, our hospitals are receiving substantial construction
grants under the terms of the Hill-Burton Law.
- In questions of right and wrong, what should rule is not the majority,
but the right, even if it is upheld by the smallest of minorities.
For example, even if 90% of the population should vote for poisoning the
children with indecent literature and pictures [or the right to abortion,
freedom of speech even if that includes immorality against God's Commandments,
pornography, or neutrality in religious matters(RMO)], the corrupt majority
should not rule, but the just and enlightened Minority.
(Particular topics related to this are discussed in various Commandments of
God and the Church.)
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The pages of history are filled with the names of Catholics outstanding in
literature, science, art, progress, and learning of every description. The
following is only a partial list of those who were known alike for their
devotion to the Catholic Faith and their contributions to art and science.
Astronomy: Cassini, Clavius,
Copernicus, DeVico, Galileo, Gassendi, La Place, Piazzi, Secchi, Wallingfurt.
Biology: Bernard, Carnoy,
Detussien, Fabre, Latrelle, O'Dwyer, Schwann, Windle.
Botany: Cesalpinus, Mendel,
Charles and Louis Tulasne.
Chemistry: Agricola, Becquerel,
Chevreul, Despretz, Dumas, Hauy, Lavoisier, Paracelsus, Pasteur, Schwarz,
Valentine, Van Helmont.
Electricity: Ampere, Carre,
Casselli, Cerobotani, Coulomb, Faucault, Galvani, Glynn, Gordon, Gramme, Nollet,
Marconi, Plante, Volta.
Geology: Collona, Delauny,
Harey, Muller, Spada, Stensen.
Mathematics: Borgo, Boscovitch,
Cauchy, Charles, Ferrari, Monge, Planudes, Sestini, Vieta.
Mechanics: Boselli, Burke,
Castelli, Charpentier, Jouffrey, Mariotte, Pascal.
Music: Bellini, Elgar, Gounod,
Haydn, Mascagni, Mozart, Palestrina, Perosi, Verdi.
Columbus, De Chauliac, Fabricius, Lancist, Morgagni, Muller, Murphy, Pasteur,
Santorio, Theodoric, Vesalius.
Navigation and Exploration:
Balboa, Butler, Cabot, Columbus, De Soto, Cortes, Durer, Hennepin, Magellan,
Marco Polo, Marquette, Orellana, Ponce de Leon, Santa Cruz.
Painting and Sculpture: Fra
Angelico, Bernini, Canova, Correggio, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo,
Murillo, Raphael, Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Titian, Velasquez.
Physics: Babinet, Bacon, Biot,
Dulong, Fresnel, Fizeau, Grimaldi, Malus, Mollet, Plateau, Regnalt, Schwann,
Warfare: Barry, Castellan,
Foch, Joffre, Petain, Sobieski.
Services of the Church to the
Of what benefit is the Church to the State? --The Church is
essential for the welfare of the State, for it upholds the government, directs
its members to obey just laws, prevents crimes, incites to the practice of
civic virtues, encourages to noble endeavour, and unites different nations in
- There is no better citizen than a good Catholic. He obeys the State
because his religion teaches him that all lawful authority comes from God.
Who can be a more law-abiding citizen than one who looks upon civil
officials as superiors that God Himself bids him obey? Plutarch says
that religion is a better protection for a city than its walls.
- The Church teaches its children to make sacrifices for the common good.
Thus it trains unselfish, thrifty, and industrious members of the State. A man
with no religion seldom, makes, a good citizen. He is liable to try always to
get as much as he can even at the expense of others. A man without religion
generally ends without any morality whatever.
The prisons are in general peopled, not by practising members of the
Church, but by people who neglected religion. Only God knows the number of
those who have been turned from the paths of sin and crime on account of their
connection with the Church.
- The Church not only prevents crimes, but incites to works of charity.
It teaches the merit of works of mercy. From its teachings bud forth
orphanages, schools, hospitals, social service, etc.
- The greatest statesmen and patriots have recognized the necessity of
religion in the State. Without religion among its citizens, the State
would soon collapse. The Catholic Church teaches the best religion, the one
taught by God Himself.
Washington said: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to
political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In
vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to
subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the
duties-of men and citizens." Machiavelli wrote: "The surest sign of ruin in a
State is the neglect of religion." Napoleon himself confessed that no nation
could endure without religion.
- By a common profession of faith, a common membership in the same body, and
by the commandment of charity, the Church binds different nations in one
brotherhood, the brotherhood of men, children of one God. Such a feeling
of brotherhood would help greatly towards eliminating sectional and racial
prejudices and strife.
Is it not a historical fact that national quarrels and wars have increased
since the division of Christendom into sects? Today the term "brotherhood of
men" seems to be a mere figure of speech in which most people have no faith.
What has the Church actually accomplished for the State during the
over nineteen hundred years of its existence? --The history of all
civilized nations gives ample testimony to the valuable services of the Church
to civil government during a period of over nineteen hundred years.
- The greatest accomplishment of the Church was the Christianization of
Europe. From thence we have derived whatever we today call "civilization".
If we compare the truly Christian civilization with pagan life and culture, we
can see the greatness of the service the Church has rendered the State.
Ignorance and immorality are usually partners; for this reason the Church
eagerly promotes culture. The Church looks upon the world as coming from the
hand of God; therefore the Church is interested in science.
- The Church has always striven to provide schools for the education
of the young; it founded great universities.
From the very beginning, the missions, parishes, monasteries, and
cathedrals had schools. No less than 80 universities were built in the days
when the Pope was supreme in Christendom; of these many still exist, though
under different control. The encouragement given by the Popes advanced
education, medicine, surgery, literature, chemistry, mathematics, and other
sciences. Numerous religious orders and congregations have from earliest times
devoted themselves to education.
- The Church preserved the great works of ancient heathen
philosophers and historians, saving them from destruction for future ages.
- In the Middle Ages, before the invention of printing, monks patiently and
carefully copied and transcribed the ancient works. Their zeal for learning
built up great libraries and museums. The most profound and prolific authors
So great a patron of art and architecture is the Church that a
saying became current: "There is no art outside the Catholic Church."
Practically all the world's classic painters have been members of the Church,
and were supported in their work by the Popes. We need only mention Raphael,
da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
To this day thousands of tourists every year gaze in wonder at the great
cathedrals of the Middle Ages, which stand unsurpassed. The Popes encouraged
musicians like Palestrina. Plain chant, or Gregorian music, comes to us from
St. Ambrose and St. Gregory the Great. The noblest musical works are products
of the genius of sons of the Church, of whom we need mention only Gounod,
Haydn, Mozart, Verdi.
- Priests and monks, not to mention lay members of the Church, have
contributed some of the greatest discoveries to human knowledge.
In physical science, the deacon Gioja discovered the magnet and compass;
the Jesuit Kircher experimented with the first burning glass; the canon
Copernicus taught his famous system; the Jesuit Cavaliere worked out the
components of white light; the Jesuit Secchi made fruitful studies concerning
sunspots; the Franciscan Berthold Schwarz discovered gunpowder. Other
scientific works by priests and monks: the Dominican Spina discovered the use
of spectacles; the Benedictine Pontius invented a method of teaching
deaf-mutes; the Dominican Calandoni invented a typesetter to take the place of
the compositor; the monk Veit discovered the scale and rules of harmony in
music. Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar.
- The Church helped establish free and stable governments; it
civilized the barbarians. Through the Benedictines, Cistercians, and Trappists,
it reclaimed whole tracts of waste lands. The Church cared for the poor, the
sick, the orphaned, the old and helpless. It opened hospitals, ransomed
captives, and freed slaves. Pope Innocent III is known as "Father of
Who but the Church insited on the dignity of the soul of even the
poorest slave in an age when class distinctions were rampant? Who but the
Church rescued woman from degradation, and formed that beautiful
institution, the Christian family? The Church stood for the liberties
of the people against the encroachments of tyrants. It has ever stood for the
poor against the oppressions of the rich. It has stood for the
maintenance of authority against the violence of rebellious subjects.
The whole history of Christian civilization has the mark of the
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POPES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
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of the Church
What are the chief attributes of the Catholic Church? --The
chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and
An attribute is any quality or characteristic. Virtues as well as
faults are attributes.
What is meant by the authority of the Catholic Church? --By
the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops,
as the lawful successors of the Apostles, have power from Christ Himself to
teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.
Authority is the power one person has over another, such that he can exact
obedience justly. Thus rulers have authority over subjects; parents over their
children; teachers, over pupils, etc.
- Christ appointed the Church to teach whatever He, taught: "Go,
therefore, and make disciples of all nations. . . . teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19)
Christ taught, as in the Sermon on the Mount.
- Christ appointed the Church to sanctify the faithful, by
administering the means of grace to its members.
Christ dispensed the means of grace, as when He forgave Mary Magdalen, gave
His flesh and blood at the Last Supper, and blessed little children.
- Christ appointed the Church to govern with authority and
Christ was the pastor or ruler of men. He gave commandments, sent the
disciples on missions, instructed them, reproved the Pharisees.
Did Christ give the Church full authority? --Christ gave the
Church full authority and power, saying, "As the Father has sent me, I also
send you" (John 20:21).
As a father who goes away on a journey leaves all his power and authority
to the mother, so Christ upon leaving the earth gave to His Church full power
and authority to carry on His work. "He who hears you, hears me; and he who
rejects you, rejects me" (Luke 10:16).
The authority of the Church is not restricted to matters of doctrine
and belief, but to whatever is necessary for the good of the Church and its
Thus the Church lays down laws concerning fasting and abstinence, keeping
of Sundays and holydays, worship, and administration of the sacraments.
The members of the Church must observe whatever laws and regulations
it makes. Authority in some form is necessary for every organization; without
it members could not be directed to their common purpose.
Every society lays down rules for its members. Those who do not wish to
keep them are excluded from it. Without authority the Church could not fulfill
its divine purpose. The denominations that broke from the unity of the Church
denied its authority. Having no head to obey, they Split and resplit into
hundreds of churches.
How does the Church exercise her authority to teach, to sanctify, and
to govern the faithful? --The Church exercises her authority to teach,
to sanctify, and to govern the faithful by various means, among them being:
- Teaching by sermons and by religious classes in schools and
Today the Church teaches by preaching, by deciding controversies,
and by condemning wrong teaching. Parish churches have sermons in the Masses
of Sundays and holydays of obligation. Every Catholic school prescribes the
study of religion in every class. Every parish holds catechetical classes.
- Sanctifying by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the sacraments,
by blessings, and by special devotions held in the churches.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Our Lord Himself, is the
great act of worship of the Church, the source of grace to sanctify the
faithful. The sacraments are means of grace by which we obtain help to become
more holy children of God.
- Governing by the commandments of the Church, by other laws ordered
from time to time as need arises, and from the general control by bishops in
In her capacity as ruler, the Church makes regulations forbidding what is
dangerous or sinful, as when she prohibits the reading of dangerous books and
magazines. All members of the Church are under a strict obligation to obey her
laws and regulations; disobedience to the Church is disobedience to Him Who
authorized her rule, Jesus Christ, God.
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Infallibility of the Church
|The Church cannot teach error, because it was founded by Christ, God
Himself. He sent forth His Apostles with full powers to preach His Gospel.
He said. "As the Father has sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21). "I will
ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to dwell with you
forever. . . . But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send
in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I
have said to you" (John 14:16,26).
What is meant by the infallibility of the Catholic Church?
--By the infallibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, by the
special assistance of the Holy Ghost, cannot err when it teaches or believes a
doctrine of faith and morals.
Christ promised: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and teach all nations ... teaching them to observe all that I
have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the
consummation of the world" (Matt. 28:20). If Christ is with the Church all
days, it cannot err in teaching; it cannot lead men away from God.
- "Infallibility" is often distorted by enemies of the Church to mean
"impeccability", and therefore derided. Infallibility is freedom
from error; impeccability is freedom from sin. In
an institution established by God for the salvation of men, error in doctrine
Every teacher in the Church, from the Pope down to the humblest priest,
like all of the faithful, is capable of falling into sin. But in the Catholic
Church, because of the promise of Infallibility, the Holy Ghost cannot permit
the purity of a single doctrine to be stained.
- Jesus Christ promised to preserve the Church from error. If
His prediction and promises were false, then He would not be God, since God
cannot lie. Christ said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My
Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." If
therefore the Church falls into error, the gates of hell certainly would
prevail against it.
Christ promised: "I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another
Advocate to dwell with you forever ... He will teach you all the truth"
(John 14). If the Church can err, then the Holy Ghost cannot abide in it and
Christ has failed to keep His promise-a thing absolutely impossible.
- A doctrine of faith is something we must believe in order to be
saved. A doctrine of morals is something we must do in order to be saved.
For example, we must believe the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity: that
there are Three Divine Persons in One God. We must believe that Jesus Christ
is God. We must believe in the Blessed Virgin Mary's immaculate conception.
Of things we must do are these: we must go to Mass on Sundays and holydays
of obligation; we must fast and abstain when our bishops so order; we must
receive Holy Communion at least once a year. We must obey the Ten
- Jesus Christ commanded all men to listen to and
obey the Church, under pain of damnation. If His Church can teach error,
then He is responsible for the error, by commanding all to obey.
Jesus sent forth His Apostles with full powers to preach His Gospel: "As
the Father hath sent Me, I also send you." - "Make disciples of all
nations teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." - "Preach the
Gospel to every creature."
- Christ said: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who
does Hot believe shall be condemned" (Mark 16: 16). A just God could not
command men under penalty of damnation to believe what is false. So the
teaching of the Church must be infallibly true.
He said: "You shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea,
and Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Since it
was physically impossible for the Apostles to preach to the whole world, the
mission must have been intended also for their successors to the end of
time, our Catholic Bishops and priests.
- Christ said: "If he refuse to hear even the Church, let him be to thee
as the heathen and the publican" (Matt. 18:17) "He who hears you hears me;
and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects him who
sent me" (Luke 10:16) .
He said, "And whoever does not receive you, or listen to your words-go
forth outside that house or town, and shake off the dust from your feet.
Amen I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and
Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that town" (Matt. 10:14-16).
- No Christian denies that the Apostles were infallible. In fact, in
the first century, they were the only authority in the Church. The Bible was
not completed till the end of that century, not within reach of all.
But God loves the Christians of today as much as He did the primitive
Christians. We have as much need of unerring teachers as they. The Apostolic
Church of the 20th century must therefore be as infallible as the Apostolic
- An infallible Bible is no use without an infallible interpreter.
History has proved this, in the multiplication of the innumerable
denominations that deny the infallibility of the Church. By infallibility, the
faithful know exactly what to believe and what to do in order that they may be
pleasing to God and save their souls. They have surety; they need suffer no
It is a great blessing that, in the midst of the everchanging views of men
and the conflict of human opinion, there is one voice crying out in unerring
tones: "Thus saith the Lord."
Has the Church in fact proved itself infallible? --It is a
historical fact that the Catholic Church, from the twentieth century back to
the first, has not once ceased to teach a doctrine on faith or morals
previously held, and with the same interpretation; the Church has proved
- It is a historical fact that not one Pope, whatever he was in his
private life, has ever taught error.
"The Scribes and the Pharisees have sat on the chair of Moses. All things,
therefore, that they command you, observe and do. But do not act according to
their works." By obeying the Pope, every Christian can live as Christ
commanded, in any age.
- True, some high rulers of the Church have gravely sinned. Nevertheless,
enemies of the Church have exaggerated even the lack of impeccability. In the
long line of Popes the vast majority led virtuous lives. Many of them are
honored as Saints and martyrs. The enemies of the Church can bring charges
against only five or six Popes: Most of the charges are calumnies or
exaggerations. But even if the charges were true, they prove nothing against
Of the Sovereign Pontiffs that have succeeded Peter, 84 are canonized
Saints, of whom 32 were martyrs. However holy the Pope, he regularly goes
to confession to a priest. No Pope ever considers himself above the
laws of the Church and of God.
- The Church cannot change its teachings on faith and morals. But it
may restate the doctrines more clearly and completely. Year after year the
Church proclaims the same unchanging doctrines. Her doctrines need
no reform, for they are of Divine origin, the work of the Incarnate God.
No Pope or general Council in almost two thousand years has annulled or
revoked a single decree of faith or morals enacted by a previous Pope or
Council. This is history.
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|Since the time of Christ, from the first council of the Apostles in
Jerusalem in the year 50, to the last Vatican Council in 1870, there have
been held in all twenty-one general or ecumenical councils. The Vatican
Council, shown above, declared the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.
When does the Church teach infallibly? --The Church teaches
infallibly when it defines, through the Pope alone, as the teacher of all
Christians, or through the Pope and the bishops, a doctrine of faith or morals
to be held by all the faithful.
The Church, as the representative or substitute of Jesus Christ on earth,
is infallible, and speaks with His own words: "This is why I was born, and why
I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37).
- When the Church makes an infallible pronouncement, we are not to suppose
that a new doctrine is being introduced. For instance, when the Holy Father in
1854 defined the Blessed Virgin's Immaculate Conception as an article of
faith, the infallible definition was not a proclamation of a new doctrine, but
was merely an announcement of an article of faith true from the very
beginning, and publicly defined only in order to make the dogma clear to
all and to be believed as part of the deposit of faith left to the Church.
Another example is the definition of the Holy Father's infallibility, made
in 1870 by the Vatican Council. The dogma was true from the very beginning,
and had been universally held. But as in recent times many objections were
being made against it, the Bishops in the Vatican Council thought it best, in
order to make clear the stand of the Church, to make an infallible definition.
- The Church makes infallible pronouncements on doctrines of faith
and morals, on their interpretation, on the Bible and Tradition, and the
interpretation of any part or parts of these. The dogma of the Inmaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin was an interpretation of a long-standing
Tradition in the Church.
The Church also pronounces on the truth or falsity of opinions, teachings,
customs, etc., with relation to fundamental doctrines. Another subject on
which the Church makes infallible declarations is in the canonization of
Saints. All whom the Church has raised to the glory of the altar by a
solemn canonization are undoubtedly now in heaven, enjoying eternal
bliss in the presence of God.
When does the Church teach infallibly through the Pope alone?
--The Church teaches infallibly through the Pope alone, when he speaks
officially (ex cathedra) as the Supreme Head, for the entire universal
As the Pope has authority over the Church, he could not err in his
official teaching without leading the Church into error. As Our Lord said
to Peter, the first Pope: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not
fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren"
In order to speak infallibly, the Pope must speak ex-cathedra,
or officially, under the following conditions:
- He must pronounce himself on a subject of faith or morals. Infallibility
is restricted to questions regarding faith and morals. The Church
pronounces on natural sciences and on legislation only when the perversity of
men makes of them instruments for opposing revealed truths.
If the Pope should make judgments on mathematics or civil governments, he
is as liable to error as any other man with the same experience. Letters to
kings and other rulers are not infallible pronouncements. However, we should
hold the Pope's opinions on any subject with great respect, on account of his
position and experience.
- He must speak as the Vicar of Christ, in his office as Pope, and to the
whole Church, to all the faithful throughout the world. In his capacity as
private teacher, for example, in his encyclical letters, he is as any other
teacher of the Church.
Should the Pope, like Benedict XIV, write a treatise on Canon Law, his book
would be written in a private capacity, and liable to error, just as the books
of other theologians. We accept, not on faith, but in obedience to his
authority, out of respect for his experience and wisdom.
- He must make clear by certain words his intention to speak ex-cathedra.
These words are most often used: "We proclaim," "we define," etc.
The Pope's infallible decrees are termed "doctrinal," since they involve
doctrine. From the earliest days of the Church, the infallibility of the Pope
has been acknowledged. In the year 417 the Holy See condemned the Pelagian
errors; St. Augustine cried out the famous words, "Rome has spoken; the cause
is ended!" The Council of Florence in 1439 called the Pope "the Father and
Teacher of Christians."
When does the Church teach infallibly through the Pope and the
bishops? --The Church teaches infallibly through the Pope and the
bishops when convened in a general (or ecumenical) council. [when they INTEND
to teach infallibly(RMO)]
- A General Council is an assembly convened by the Holy See, of all the
bishops of the world, and others entitled to vote. It represents the teaching
body of the Church, and must be infallible.
In the year 50 the Apostles held the first General Council in Jerusalem.
Its decisions were proclaimed as coming from God, the final decree beginning
with these words: "For the Holy Spirit and we have decided to lay no further
burden upon you" (Acts 15:28)
- Over a General Council, the Pope or his legate presides; a
representative number of bishops and others entitled to vote, such as
cardinals, abbots, and generals of certain religious orders, must be present.
Upon confirmation by the Pope, a General Council's decrees are binding
on all Christians.
It must be understood that the decrees of a General Council have no binding
authority until confirmed by the Pope. There is no appeal from
the Pope to a General Council.
- A unanimous vote is not necessary for an infallible decision of a
general council; a great majority is sufficient.
The most notable of the General Councils so far held following the Council
of Jerusalem have been: (1) the Council of Nicea, in the year 325, which
pronounced against the heresy of Arius; (2) the Council of Ephesus, in the
year 425, which declared Mary the Mother of God; (3) the Council of Nicea. in
787, which declared the veneration of images as lawful and profitable; (4) the
Council of Trent, 1545-1563, which declared against the heresies of Luther;
(5) the Council of the Vatican, 1870, which defined as an article of faith the
doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope.
- Even when the bishops are not gathercd together in one place, they form
the teaching body of the Church, united with the Pope. Therefore their
voice must be infallible, otherwise the universal Church would be led into
error. For the same reason as above, the daily ordinary uniform teaching of
the Church in every place in the whole World is infallibly true.
"Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark
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Indefectibility of the Church
|The Catholic Church will endure to the end of time, for it is founded
on a rock. The powers of evil will beat in vain against it. They will break
themselves and perish, but the Church will remain, indefectible. The
testimony of almost two thousand years proves the perpetuity of the Church.
Nothing that malice and envy could invent; nothing that the world, the
flesh; and the devil could do have been left untried in the past 1900 years.
Still the Church is with us, exactly as Christ founded it, and stronger than
What is meant by the indefectibility of the Catholic Church?
--By the indefectibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, as
Christ founded it, will last until the end of time.
The Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that Christ "shall be king over the
house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke
- Christ meant His Church to endure to the end of the world. It is to be
indestructible and unchanging,-to possess indefectibility. Christ, God
Himself, could scarcely have come, and with such incredible pain and labor
have founded a Church which would die with the Apostles.
He came to save all men. Those to live in future ages needed
salvation as much as the people of Apostolic times.
- Christ said to Peter: "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). By the
"gates of hell", He meant all the power of the devil-all kinds of
attacks, physical violence as well as false teaching.
Christ promises here that the Church would be assailed always, but never
overcome. This promise of Our Lord has been proved for almost 2000
years by the facts of history. Not one of the persecutors of the Church has
prevailed over it. On the contrary, many of them have come to a fearful end.
There will always be Popes, bishops, and laity, to Compose the Church; the
truths taught by Our Lord will always be found in His Church.
- After telling His Apostles to teach, all nations, Christ said: "Behold, I
am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt.
As the Apostles were not to live to the end of the world, Christ must have
been addressing them as representatives of a perpetual Church.
- The Apostles themselves understood Christ to mean that His Church should
endure. After organizing Christian communities, they appointed successors
in their place, to live after them and carry on the Church.
The Apostles instructed these successors to ordain in turn other bishops
and priests. All these acts were to assure the perpetuity of the
- Christ intended the Church to remain as He founded it, to preserve
the whole of what He taught, and the shining marks which He gave it in the
beginning. If the Church lost any of the qualities that God gave it, it could
not be said to be indefectible, because it would not be the same institution.
Indefectibility implies unchangeability.
Our Lord promised to abide by the Church, to assist it, and to send the
Holy Ghost to remain in it. God does not change: "Behold, I am with you all
days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt. 28:20).
- Because of its indefectibility the truths revealed by God will always
be taught in the Catholic Church. St. Ambrose said: "The Church is like
the moon; it may wane, but never be destroyed; it may be darkened, but it can
St. Anselm said that the bark of the Church may be swept by the waves, but
it can never sink, because Christ is there. When the Church is in greatest
need, Christ comes to its help by miracles, or by raising up saintly men to
strengthen and purify it. It is the bark of Peter; when the storm threatens to
sink it, the Lord awakens from His sleep, and commands the winds and the waves
into calm: "Peace; be still!"
Has the Catholic Church actually proved itself indefectible?
--The Catholic Church has, throughout its long history, proved itself
indefectible, against all kinds of attack from within and without, against
every persecution and every heresy and schism.
As its Founder was persecuted, so the Catholic Church has been and ever
will be persecuted. "You will be brought before governors and kings for my
sake" (Matt. 10:18). "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake" (Matt.
10:22). "No disciple is above his teacher, nor is the servant above his
master" (Matt. 10:24).
"They will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the
synagogues" (Mark 13:9). "They will arrest you, and persecute you" (Luke
- The Church survived three hundred years of incredible persecution
under pagan Rome. Of the 33 Popes that ruled before the Edict of Milan, 30
died as martyrs. That mighty Empire, with its colossal strength, before whose
standard the nations quailed, could not kill the infant Church or stop its
progress. In a short time the Popes were ruling where the imperial Caesars had
issued edicts against the Christian Church.
The Roman Empire waged ten fierce persecutions against the Church, but
could not destroy it. In the year 313 the Emperor Constantine was converted,
and granted the Church freedom by the Edict of Milan.
- Then for two centuries hordes of barbarians swept upon civilized
Europe, destroying the old Roman Empire. The Church not only survived, but
converted and civilized the barbarians.
God's ever-watchful providence brought about the conversion of the Frankish
king Clovis, with a great number of his warriors. This was the beginning of
the firm establishment of the Church in the Frankish kingdom, although
missionaries had gone there from the first century. In the eighth century St.
Boniface converted Middle and Northern Germany, until then the home of violent
- For nine centuries Mohammedanism threatened Christian civilization.
It was the Church under the Popes that urged the nations to league against
In the sixteenth century the Mohammedan menace was removed.
- Not only non-Christians, but its own rebellious children have
persecuted the Church. From the beginning heresy has attacked it from within.
And still the Church lives, greater than ever,
The long history of the Catholic Church is attended by schism and heresy,
but each attack has only strengthened it. It has continued to live and spread
in spite of everything and everybody.
- The Church is the Bride of Christ, cast into prison,
starved, thrown to the beasts, trampled underfoot, hacked, tortured,
crucified, and burned. But this fair Bride emerges from it all in the bloom
and freshness of youth, serene, calm, immortal.
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Salvation and the Catholic Church
|Christ said: "As the branch cannot bear fruit
of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide
in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in
him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does
not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they
shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn" (John
15:4-6). Time has continually proved the truth of what Christ predicted
about schisms and their divisions. This is the reason for the fact that they
change so often and finally disappear: they are branches broken from the
tree, and must wither as He said.
70. Salvation and the Catholic Church
What do we mean when we say, "Outside the
Church there is no salvation? --When we say, "Outside the Church there
is no salvation", we mean that those who through their own grave fault do not
know that the Catholic Church is the true Church, or knowing it, refuse to
join it, cannot be saved.
The 3 Baptisms, Three Errors of the Feeneyite Movement
(Please Click Here)
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (No Salvation Outside the Church) (Please Click
The One True Church (Please Click Here)
The Church or the Bible (Please Click Here)
The few who will be saved (Please Click Hear)
More on the few who will be saved (Please Click Here)
- All are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in
order to be saved. Christ said: "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be
born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into, the kingdom
of God" (John 3:5).
The Catholic Church is founded on the Apostles, to
whom Our Lord gave the commission to baptize; by Baptism one is made a member
of the Church. If then Baptism is indispensable, the Church must be
- Christ did not die for a part of, but for all
mankind. He did not leave His legacy the Church for the benefit of a few,
but for all. Our Lord said: "He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you
rejects me" (Luke 10:16).
Since God commanded all to be members of His Church.
those who deliberately disobey His command will not be saved. Whoever,
through his own fault, remains outside of the Catholic Church, will be lost
- One who, knowing the Catholic Church to be the true
one, leaves it or does not join it because he wants to make a good
marriage, to advance his business, or for some other worldly motive,
will not be saved. He is a willful and malicious unbeliever.
One who leaves the Church or does not enter it
because of human respect, or because its doctrines require personal
sacrifices, will not be saved. One who belongs to another church and has
doubts about the truth or falsity of his own church, but takes no pains
to find out the truth will not be saved. "If you believe not that I am he, you
shall die in your sin."
- It is not enough to belong to the Church. We
must also live up to our beliefs, otherwise our membership will only work to
our greater condemnation. Only those Catholics who, live according to the
teachings of the Church will be saved.
The Church is a guarantee of salvation to those only
who obey it. Unfortunately, there are bad Catholics. We must therefore
study our religion and then practice it. God has given us the grace
to be members of the true Church; we must not waste that grace.
- Catholics who have committed grave sins such
as murder, arson, adultery, etc., are still members of the Church. As long as
a Catholic does not deny a doctrine of the Catholic faith, or is not
excommunicated, he is a member of the Church.
Catholics in grave sin are called dead members,
for their soul dead in mortal sin. Nevertheless they remain members, and have
the privilege of receiving the sacraments to wash away their sins. Christ
Himself predicted that in the Church there would be bad people with the good,
cockle among the wheat. Mother Church is a good mother that patiently awaits
the return of her sinful children, and does not exclude them from her gifts.
- An excommunicate is one who has been cut off
from membership in the Church for some serious sin against faith. He is
excluded from the sacraments, from Catholic burial, and from being prayed for
in the public prayers of the Church. In order to become once more a, member of
good standing in the Church, an excommunicate has to obtain the absolution of
Catholics who join Masonry, or marry before a non
Catholic minister, are automatically excommunicated, if they knew the
serious nature of their action.
NOTE: Some revisions
have been made to this 1956 edition watering down the Catholic Doctrine:
"Outside the Church there is no Salvation." Some clarifications need to be
made. The use of the word "outside" refers to
those who are in the state of Invincible Ignorance
of the Church and Invincibly Ignorant of the Doctrine: "Outside
the Church there is no salvation". These invincibly ignorant souls, who
cooperate with all the graces God sends them are implicitly INSIDE the
Catholic Church. Invincible ignorance is quite rare considering the great
availability of the truths of the Catholic Faith in today's information
Can they be saved who remain "outside" the
Catholic Church[[not official members of the Church, but Invincibly Ignorant
of the Church and obey the natural law through the use of their reason,
are implicitly INSIDE the Church(RMO)] because they do not know it is the true
Church? --They who remain "outside" the Catholic Church[not official
members, but Invincibly Ignorant of the Church are implicitly INSIDE the
Church(RMO)] through no grave fault of their own, and do not know it is the
true Church, can be saved by making use of the graces which God gives them.
NOTE: TECHNICALLY, NO ONE CAN BE SAVED WHO IS
OUTSIDE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. INVINCIBLY IGNORANT SOULS, WHO COOPERATE WITH ALL
THE GRACES GOD SENDS THEM, WHO ARE INVINCIBLY IGNORANT OF THE CHURCH ARE
IMPLICITLY INSIDE THE CHURCH. Honestly, in today's information age, the
typical Invincibly Ignorant soul would have to be a native on a primitive
island. Most people know the Catholic Church's basic Doctrines. After all,
Protestants protest many Catholic Doctrines so they are very familiar with
- God condemns no man except for grave sin. Therefore
He will not condemn those who through no fault of their own are unaware
of His command to belong to the True Church[which is quite RARE(RMO)],
provided they serve Him faithfully according to their conscience[However they
will be responsible and culpable for what they should know given the
information available to them(RMO)], have a sincere desire to do His will in
all things, and therefore implicitly wish to become members of His
Church. They are members of the Church, in desire [and they must also
be INVINCIBLY IGNORANT of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church's
Doctrine: "Outside the Church there is no salvation"(RMO)].
A baptized Protestant, of Protestant parents,
lives all his life a Protestant without ever having a doubt that he is in the
wrong. Before death he makes an act of perfect contrition for the sins he has
committed. Such a man will be saved, for he dies in the state of
grace.[However this Protestant is responsible and culpable for what he should
know, given the information available to him. It is unthinkable that this
Protestant has never heard the Catholic Doctrine "Outside the Church there is
- It is possible for one that has never even heard of
Jesus Christ to be saved, for God "wishes all men to be saved and to come to
the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4) and "Christ died for all" (2 Cor. 5:
15) . In order that such a one may be saved, it is required that he observe
the natural law; with the help of God; everyone having the use of
reason can do that.
Whoever then obeys the natural law will be
enlightened by God, at some time in his life, with the grace with which he can
make an act of Divine faith. If he makes good use of this grace and firmly
believes whatever God has revealed, he will receive the further graces with
which he can make the acts of hope, repentance, and charity that must precede
before God will bestow on his soul sanctifying grace, with which he can merit
- The fact that it is possible for those "outside" the
Church to be saved[those who are not official members, but are INVINCIBLY
IGNORANT OF THE CHURCH, which is quite RARE, are actually implicitly
INSIDE the Church, for if anyone is to be saved, it will ONLY be BY and
THROUGH the Catholic Church(RMO)] should not make us lose sight of the
great disadvantages they are under, as compared with Catholics who live in
the full light of Divine revelation. Such persons have not the infallible
Church to guide them in what they are to believe and do in order to serve God.
They have to live without the Sacraments, Holy Mass, and Holy Communion, and
the other countless sources of grace which the Church supplies for the
sanctification of its children, those professed Catholics who are members of
the body of the visible Church.
These disadvantages should make us Catholics realize
more fully the many reasons we have for humbly thanking God for the priceless
blessings we have received without any claim or merit of our own. They should
also spur us on to give Him a more worthy service, and help spread our Faith.
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Schism and Heresy
|Our Lord said; "Everyone therefore who hears
these my words and acts upon them, shall be likened to a wise man who built
his house on rock. And the rain fell, and the floods come, and the winds
blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall, because it was
founded on rock. And everyone who hears these my words and does not act upon
them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the
rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that
house, and it fell, and was utterly ruined" (Matt. 7:24-27). Non-Catholic
churches are the "house upon sand"; they rise up and fall. The Catholic
Church is the "house upon rock"; it will last forever.
71. Schism and Heresy
What is schism; and what is heresy?
--Schism is the refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope; heresy is the
formal denial or doubt by a baptized person of any revealed truth of the
Apostasy is the total rejection of his
Faith by a baptized Christian. With heresy and schism, and supported by
persecution, it has caused divisions in the True Church, and the rise of other
- Christ predicted divisions in the Church, and
the rise of other churches. From the time of the Apostles new denominations
have sprung up, and have divided and subdivided, to form other denominations.
With other churches that are non-Christian, the Christian denominations have
opposed the Apostolic Church.
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and
will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the
elect" (Matt. 24:24)
- After some time, separated as it is from the
authority of the Pope,. a schismatical church is led into errors in
doctrine. Today schismatical churches deny the infallibility of the Pope.
What were the most important schisms and
heresies that have tried to destroy the Church? --Of the numerous
schisms and heresies, the following may be mentioned:
- Arius was a priest of Alexandria who taught that
Jesus Christ was not God. The heresy of Arius spread rapidly, and was
supported by the Roman emperors. He was condemned by the First General Council
of the Church at Nicea, in the year 325; the Council declared the divinity of
In a few centuries the Arian sect was divided and
swept away by other errors. Today we know Arius only by name: he has passed
on, but the Church he fought still lives, upholding Christ's divinity.
Another heretic of the early days was Macedonius,
who denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost. His theories were condemned by the
Council of Constantinople in the year 381.
In the fifth century Pelagius denied original
sin, and declared grace not necessary for salvation. The doctrines were
condemned by the synods of Milevi and Carthage, and the decision ratified by
Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, in the
fifth century taught the doctrine that Jesus Christ was two persons: a man and
God the Son; only the man Jesus was born of Mary and died on the cross. As a
consequence the Nestorians rejected the title "Mother of God" for the Blessed
Virgin. The Third Council in Ephesus, 431, condemned the heresies.
As a form of extreme reaction from Nestorianism, the
Monophysites, held that Jesus Christ had only one nature, his divinity
totally engulfing his humanity. Dioscoros, Patriarch of Alexandria, was
the chief propagator of the heresy, which was condemned by the Council of
Chalcedon in 451.
In an effort to call back the Monophysites to the
Church, the heresy of Monothelitism arose. The chief doctrine was that
Christ had a single will; the heresy was condemned by the Council of
Constantinople in 681.
In the year 727, the Greek emperor Leo forbade all
veneration to images on the ground that such veneration was idolatry. The
heresy spread, and mobs entered churches to break images, to burn and destroy
priceless works of art. Great harm was done to the people and their faith,
before this heresy, called Iconoclasm (image-breaking) , died out. The
Council of Nicea in 787 defined the true doctrine of the Church.
- The greatest schism suffered by the Christian
Church was that of the East, resulting in the establishment of the Orthodox
Eastern Church. The Eastern emperors, desiring more power in the Church, tried
to make the patriarchs of Constantinople independent of Rome. Finally, Photius,
with the support of the emperor, held a council of Eastern bishops in the year
867, and broke from Rome.
The cause of the schism was not doctrinal, but rather
political and material,-jealousy between the East and the West. It has
resulted in the separation from Rome of 145 million people with valid
priesthood and sacraments. In the United States there are a number of
schismatical churches, among them the Greek Orthodox, and the Russian Church.
- After minor schisms and misunderstandings between
East and West in 1054 there was a final break by Cerularius, patriarch of
Constantinople, continuing today.
Today the Orthodox Eastern Church remains in
schism, but does not spread. It is a withered branch, having cut itself off
from the parent tree.
- The Orthodox Eastern Church denies the Catholic
dognia that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. It also
teaches that the souls of the just will not attain complete happiness till
the end of the world, when they will be joined to their bodies; and that the
souls of the wicked will not suffer complete torture in hell until that last
day. These are heresies against the doctrines of the Church.
Thus it can be seen that today the Orthodox Eastern
Church is not merely schismatical, but truly heretical; for it holds primary
doctrines in a different light. But it has valid orders. (See Chapter 55 on
The Catholic Eastern Church; Rites)
- In the 12th century Albigensianism arose in
southern France. It upheld dualism: two opposing creative principles, the good
creating the spiritual world, and the evil creating the material world.
The Albigenses went to excesses, recommending
suicide, forbidding marriage, asserting that Our Lord did not have a human
body, denying the resurrection of the body. The heresy was condemned by the
Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.
- As an offshoot of Albigensianism, Waldensianism
spread throughout Spain, Lombardy, Bohemia, and neighboring countries. The
heresy continued until the outbreak of Protestantism, when it merged with
The Waldenses denied the existence of Purgatory,
combatted indulgences, asserted that laymen could preach and absolve, oaths
were unlawful, sinful priests had no valid power of ministry, etc.
But out of evil God has often drawn good. Each schism
and heresy has led to profound study in the Church, study of Scholars to
discover the correct interpretation of doctrine under dispute. In this way
light came from darkness. As wise St. Augustine said: "Those who err in
doctrine only serve to show forth more clearly the soundness of those who
- In the fourteenth century, Wycliff in England
taught that the Bible was the sole rule of faith, that there was no freedom of
the will, that confession was useless, that the Pope had no primacy.
Adopting the theories of Wycliff, Huss in
Bohemia spread the errors. Political considerations complicated the heresy;
fighting broke out, lasting years.
Comments by Roger Owen(RMO):
NOTE: The greatest schism of the Catholic Church
occurred at Vatican II in the 1960s that hijacked almost all those who were
once truly Catholic. The primary heresies introduced by Vatican II and
afterwards are: false religious freedom/liberty, collegiality, there is
salvation outside the Church implying that differences in doctrine do not
matter in attaining salvation, false ecumenism, implying with the use of the
word "subsists" that separated churches subsist in the Catholic Church and
that the Church Christ founded is NOT one and the same as the Catholic Church,
but two separa ies, a new definition of the Mass ignoring Christ’s Real
Presence and excessively focusing on His mystical presence, natural family
planning (NFP) practiced erroneously, and sex education in the schools instead
of by the parents in the home.
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|Upon Martin Luther's refusal to retract his
declarations on the teachings of the Church, he was excommunicated. But
Luther proudly tore up the papal bull of excommunication, and burned it. The
fire that incident started has not yet burned down.
72. Protestant Churches
Who are Protestants? --In general,
Protestants are adherents of the religious organizations that broke off from
the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or of any religious body formed
- The term "Protestant" was first given to
those who protested against the decree of the second Diet of Speyer in 1529.
Later the term was applied to all reformers, all opposing the doctrines of the
Even today the term is included in the new formula of
the Declaration of Faith that the ruler of England must make at the
coronation, saying: "I declare that I am a faithful Protestant."
- In the sixteenth century the Protestant revolt
took place, this beginning of a multitude of heresies, this sad event that has
divided Christendom for centuries. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk of
Erfurt, taking offense at what he believed was a lack of appreciation for him
at Rome, combated the teaching of the Church on indulgences, in the year 1517.
The Pope commanded Luther to retract his teachings
upon his refusal, he was excommunicated, in 1520. His heretical teachings
spread like wildfire over Germany, occasioning religious wars; peace came only
with the Peace of Augsburg, in 1555.
- The Council of Trent met (1545-1563) to set forth
in a clear manner the errors of the Protestants, by explaining the true
doctrine of the Church on those points. At that time, religious training
had relaxed; many did not know the true doctrines.
Among the errors of Luther were these: that there
is no supreme teaching power in the Church; that temporal rulers have the
right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters; that the Bible is the sole
guide to faith: that every man should interpret the Bible according to his
own mind; that faith is sufficient for salvation; that the priesthood does
not imprint a special character on the soul of a man, and that everybody is
or can be a priest, as a result; that Penance is not a sacrament, but a mere
invention of the Church; that the Mass gives no special grace; that there is
no purgatory, etc.
- In the beginning, Protestantism spread rapidly.
Whole countries, led by their rulers, adopted its doctrines. In Switzerland
Zwingli and Calvin, and in England Henry VIII, about this time increased the
defections from the Church. But soon there were other kinds of
Today the divisions and subdivisions of
Protestantism are too well known to need comment. Great numbers of
Protestants are returning to the faith of their fathers. Meanwhile, as the
divisions subdivide, the Church continues to grow.
How may Protestant denominations be grouped?
--Protestant denominations may be placed into three groups:
First, those requiring that a church be
able to trace its origin to apostolic times. They believe in a
priesthood established by Christ, and commanded to offer sacrifice and
administer the sacraments. The High Church Episcopalians belong to this group.
Unfortunately the High Church Episcopalians deny a
fact: their succession of bishops was cut when they separated from the
Catholic Church, and so they have no valid orders. Hence they cannot
have any sacraments except Baptism and Matrimony. The Anglican orders were
declared invalid under Pope Leo XIII in 1896, after the question of their
validity had been thoroughly examined.
Second, those that do not believe in
the theory of "all religions are the same," but do not have an organized
hierarchy. They, insist on their own brand of Protestantism, requiring
prospective members to study their doctrines. They consider Holy Scripture
as the only rule of faith and of life. Some of them accept the Apostles'
Creed, and teach justification by faith alone.
Lutherans, and some bodies of Methodist and Episcopal
churches belong to this group.
Third, those that declare Christ their
personal Saviour, and believe in Baptism as indispensable; although some
bodies do not hold the latter doctrine. Every Christian, according to them,
must be a member of some church, on account of the practical benefits
from church membership, from organized religion. But, one church is just as
good as another.
To this group most of the bodies of Baptists,
Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Congregationalists belong.
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The Gates of Hell
|In the castle of Fontainebleu Napoleon forced
the Pope to give up the States of the Church, promising an annual income of
two million francs. In the same castle Napoleon was himself later forced to
sign an abdication and was promised a yearly income of the same amount. When
the Pope excommunicated Napoleon, he answered that the words of an old man
would not make the arms drop from the hands of his soldiers. In the Russian
campaign, because of the intense cold, this actually happened. He kept Pius
VII prisoner for five years; he himself was later a prisoner for seven
years. Four days after ordering the union of the States of the Church with
France, he lost the battles of Aspern and Erlingen.
73. The Gates of Hell
What was the end of the leaders of persecution,
schism, and heresy? --Many of the leaders of persecution, schism, and
heresy came to a bad end.
- Of the first persecutors, several died violent
deaths. The death of Judas is the type for his imitators. It is related
Herod, the murderer of the Holy Innocents,
died in unspeakable tortures.
Herod, the murderer of James the Apostle, was devoured by worms.
- Of the persecutors in Rome, Nero was deposed,
and in despair stabbed himself.
- Domitian was assassinated.
Hadrian became insane.
Marcus Aurelius, despondent over the ingratitude of his only son,
starved himself to death.
Septimus Severus, whose life had been attempted by his only son, died
Decius died miserably in a swamp, during a battle.
Valerian was flayed alive by the Persians.
Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber.
Diocletian died from a loathsome disease.
Julian the Apostate was struck down by a lance on the field of battle,
and died crying: "Galilean, Thou hast conquered!"
- The case of Napoleon is instructive.
Drunk with power, Napoleon seized Rome in 1808, declaring himself the
"successor of Charlemagne". He banished Cardinals and bishops, and carrying
off Pope Pius VII, held him prisoner in Savona. Enemies of the Church exulted:
"The Papacy is ended! The Emperor has devoured the Pope!" They forgot the
divine promise to Peter: "The gates of hell shall not prevail!";
on that promise was based the ancient saying: "Who eats of the Pope dies like
a beast." On the same day that Napoleon died in exile at St. Helena, Pope Pius
VII was celebrating his own feast day in Rome.
- Heretics and schismatics have shared
the same fate. Arius burst asunder during a triumphal procession. Voltaire
died in despair. The Greek Schismatics fell under the Turkish yoke in 1453, on
Pentecost, the feast of that Holy Ghost about whom they had expressed doubts.
Truly history has shown the truth of the words of
Holy Scripture; "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God" (Heb. 10:31).
Why can no other church except the Catholic
Church be the True Church of Christ? --No other church except the
Catholic Church can be the True Church of Christ, because no other church
possesses the marks of unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.
Truth cannot change; hence the constantly changing
doctrines of non-Catholic churches can not be true. They also differ in their
government. Some recognize the temporal ruler as their spiritual head.
Others have ministers whom they call bishops, deacons, elders. The majority
reject such titles.
- There are hundreds of churches and Christian
denominations, each different from the others; they do not possess the
mark of unity. They differ in even the essentials of faith. They
cannot agree, and keep dividing and subdividing year by year. Their only
similarity appears to be their opposition to the Catholic Church.
Such churches are multiplying. In the United States
there are over two hundred religious bodies. They arise, then pass away, to
give place to other denominations. Realizing the great handicap of disunity,
efforts have been made by various groups of churches to organize. General
councils and conferences of different bodies have been held; but there is no
vital result for unity. This is of course because, though agreement may be
general concerning matters such as social work, beneficent societies, and the
like, no agreement can be found in the essentials of faith and doctrine. This
is the result of free interpretation of the Bible, and the repudiation of
Peter's successor, Vicar of Christ.
- The denominations and their founders are not
holy in the same sense or degree as the Catholic Church and its
Founder are holy. Many non-Catholics are upright and good because they have
retained many doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church.
Many founders of non-Catholic churches were far from
holy. Luther, the founder of Protestantism was an apostate friar, who
married a nun who had left her convent and turned against her vows. During his
life he taught contradictory doctrines, some of them immoral. Henry VIII,
the founder of Anglicanism, married five women successively, after divorcing
his lawful wife; he had two put to death.
No denomination is catholic, or
universal. These non-Catholic churches are everywhere, but are different
A regional or national Church cannot be the
true Church, since it cannot teach all nations, as Christ commanded.
No heretical Christian denomination is
apostolic. The Protestant churches are some 1500 years later than the
Church founded on the Rock of Peter.
Not even their teachings come down from the Apostles.
Their ministers cannot trace their succession from the Apostles. Not one
teaches all the doctrines of the Apostles. How then could they be the
Church founded by Christ?
What should be the attitude of Catholics
towards those who do not belong to the True Church? --Catholics should
observe an attitude of understanding towards them, because the majority of
those who do not belong to the True Church are in good faith.
- Catholic teachings are not easy to understand
at first sight; many Catholic practices require sacrifice. Towards such
a religion there is bound to be prejudice.
To be obliged to go to Mass every Sunday under pain
of mortal sin; to have to confess to a priest, who is another human being like
ourselves; to condemn divorce and birth control; to observe fasts and
abstinence;-these are not easy doctrines.
No wonder in looking for relief, man often, however
unconsciously, seeks motives for not accepting the Church that commands its
members to obey such precepts, to accept such doctrines.
When Our Lord first announced the institution of the
Holy Eucharist, many of the disciples said, "This is a hard saying. Who can
listen to it?" (John 6:62). And they no longer went with Jesus.
- Catholics should above all try to give good
example; nothing is more effective in the eyes of non-Catholics than the
exemplary lives led by good Catholics.
"Behave yourselves honorably among the pagans; that,
whereas they slander you as evildoers, they may through observing you by
reason of your good works glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter
2:12). Catholics should often pray for the conversion of those outside the
Church, praying with the Good Shepherd for only one Fold.
- While avoiding useless discussions that generally
end in bitter quarrels, Catholics should try to show the beauty, the
truth of the Catholic Church.
In our friendly discussions with non-Catholics we
should not be always on the defensive, but should try to see whether they can
trace the origin of the authority of their ministers to the Apostles, whether
their church can be proved the True Church by the possession of the four
marks. Often our non-Catholic friends criticise the Catholic Church on account
of some devotional practices like holy water, candles, etc., as if such
practices belonged to the essentials of faith.
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One Body in Christ: Communion of
|The illustration shows the continuous
communication in the three portions of the Church spiritually united in
Jesus Christ. The members on earth send up prayers to the angels and saints
for themselves and for the poor souls in purgatory. They in turn are helped
by the intercession of the saints and angels, and by the graces obtained
thereby. The poor souls pray for the members on earth.
74. One Body in Christ: Communion of Saints
Why is the Catholic Church called the Mystical
Body of Christ? --The Catholic Church is called the Mystical Body of
Christ, because its members are united by supernatural bonds with one another
and with Christ, their Head, thus resembling the members and head of the
living human body.
- The term "Mystical Body of Christ" is derived from
St. Paul's metaphor: "He is the head of his body, the Church"
(Col. 1:18) . Again: "You are the body of Christ, member for member" (1 Cor.
12:27). "We, the many, are one body in Christ" (Rom. 12:5).
Jesus Himself used a similar symbol: "I am the vine,
you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit;
for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be
cast outside as the branch and wither" (John 15:5-6).
- In the Mystical Body, Christ as Head wills to be
helped by His Body. Thus He rules the Church, but does so indirectly,
through the hierarchy, human authority.
In a similar manner the human head, to live, has need
of the rest of the body. The hierarchy is the material on which is formed the
Image of Christ, God. The acts, ceremonies, ritual, liturgy of the Church,-all
these are outward signs of the inward reality of the union of the members with
one another and with their Head, Christ; they are visible manifestations of a
common supernatural life in the Godhead.
- Among the members of the Mystical Body of Christ
there exists an interdependence; so that although each one has his own
individual function, yet he does not live for himself alone, but for the
entire Body. Every good he does perfects the Body, of which he is a part.
Similarly, the eye, or the foot, or the arm of a man
is useless existing alone and apart from the rest of his body. Here is an
example of the interdependence among members of the Church: Suppose a Catholic
prays to recover from a grievous illness, and he does not recover; there is no
evident answer to his prayers. Yet, do they go to waste? God lets no good work
"go to waste"; the merits of the prayers are not lost for the Mystical Body.
- Because of the interdependence among the members,
and between members and Head, of the Mystical Body, there follows a continuous
contribution and distribution of merits and graces, profiting all
towards eternal life. This supernatural fellowship, this mystical union and
interdependence, is presented to us in the Apostles' Creed in the doctrine of
the Communion of Saints.
What is meant by "the Communion of Saints" in
the Apostles' Creed? --By "the Communion of Saints" is meant the union
of the faithful on earth, the blessed in heaven, and the souls in purgatory,
with Christ as their Head.
There is only one Mystical Body, only one
Church. But this Church has three aspects: the Church Triumphant, the Church
Suffering, and the Church Militant.
- The saints and angels in heaven compose the
Church triumphant, because they have gained the crown of victory. The
souls in purgatory compose the Church suffering, because they
still have to expiate for their sins before they can enter heaven. The
faithful on earth compose the Church militant, because they have
to struggle ceaselessly against the enemies of their souls.
The Church triumphant, the Church suffering and the
Church militant compose one Church united in Christ, members of a body
whose head is Christ: "So we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally
members one of another' (Rom. 12:5).
- All the members of the Church are of one family,
and share in the spiritual treasures of the Church. However, not all members
of the Church Militant fully enjoy the benefits of the communion of saints,
but only those in a state of grace.
"Dead members" do not lose all the benefits of the
communion of saints, for the Church prays publicly for them, and particular
members in the state of grace often send up petitions for them. Thus they may
receive the grace to repent and recover sanctifying grace. Hence a Catholic
who still belongs to the Church, although a great sinner, may have more hope
of being converted than one who cuts himself off from the Church.
How do the members of the Communion of Saints
help one another? --The members of the Communion of Saints help one
another by prayer and intercession, and by the merits of their good works.
- The faithful on earth can help one another by
practicing supernatural charity and, especially, by performing the spiritual
and corporal works of mercy.
St. Peter was freed from prison by the prayers of the
faithful. St. Stephen's prayer obtained the conversion of St. Paul. The
prayers of St. Monica led to the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. This is
why today, on all occasions, Catholics ask for each other's prayers, and pray
for those in need. They give the spiritual alms of prayers continually,
even when they cannot perform the corporal works.
- The faithful on earth, through the communion of
saints, can relieve the sufferings of the souls in purgatory by prayer,
fasting, and other good works, by indulgences, and by Masses offered for them.
St. Augustine says: "Prayer is the key by which we
open the gates of heaven to the suffering souls." In the Memento after the
consecration at every Mass, a special petition is made for the souls of the
faithful departed. The poor souls cannot merit anything; they depend
upon their brothers in Christ on earth and in heaven to help them attain their
eternal home as soon as possible.
- The souls in purgatory pray to the angels and
saints, and pray for the living.
They cannot merit anything, either for themselves or
for the living, but they intercede for us.
- Through the communion of saints, the blessed in
heaven can help those in purgatory and on earth by praying for them. The
faithful on earth should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them,
because they are worthy of honor and as friends of God will help the faithful
This is why we pray to the saints and angels that
they may intercede for us before God, Whom they see face to face. "Rendering
thanks to God the Father, who has made us worthy to share the lot of the
saints in light" (Col. 1:12).
- The doctrine of the communion of saints is one of
the most consoling dogmas of the Church. When our loved ones die, they
are not separated from us forever. Whether in heaven or purgatory, they still
love us and pray for us.
We should be happy to call saints and angels our
brothers. We should implore their intercession, not only for ourselves, but
also for our other brothers, the poor souls in purgatory.
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The Forgiveness of Sins
|Christ taught about the forgiveness of sins in
the parable of the Prodigal Son (1). He instituted the Sacrament of Penance
for the forgiveness of sins when He said to the Apostles: (4) "Whose sins
you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain
they are retained."
75. The Forgiveness of Sins
(Tenth Article of the Apostles' Creed.)
What is meant in the Apostles' Creed by "the
forgiveness of sins"? --By "the forgiveness of sins" in the Apostles'
Creed is meant that God has given to the Church, through Jesus Christ, the
power to forgive sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if sinners
- In the Old Law, sins were forgiven through the
merits of the Redeemer that was to come. In the New Law they are
forgiven through the merits of the Redeemer Who has come.
Pointing to Christ, St. John the Baptist said:
"Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
- We can obtain forgiveness of sin, because Christ
the Redeemer merited forgiveness for us by His death. The Church has power
to remit sins through the merits of Jesus Christ, "in whom we have our
redemption, the remission of our sins" (Col. 1:14).
During life, Christ actually forgave sin. For
example, He forgave Mary Magdalen, the paralytic, and the good thief. In
curing the paralytic, He said, "But that you may know that the Son of Man has
power on earth to forgive sins -then he said to the paralytic -"Arise, take up
thy pallet and go to thy house" (Matt. 9:6).
- Christ gave to His Apostles and disciples and
their successors power to forgive sins. He said: "Receive the Holy Spirit;
whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall
retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).
This power to forgive sins was not given to the
Apostles alone, since men of later ages would need forgiveness as much as men
of Apostolic times. The power, therefore, must also remain in the successors
of the Apostles.
- It is true, as the enemies of the Church assert,
that man cannot forgive sins. Man, by his own individual power, can never
forgive the smallest sin. But he can forgive all sins, with the power and
authority God gave him, as minister of God, acting in God's place. Or
is God limited because man is sinful? "These things I write to you in order
that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the just" (1 John 2:1).
From the very beginning the Church has exercised this
power, through the sacraments of Penance and Baptism, and even through Extreme
How may sins be remitted or forgiven?
--Sins may be remitted or forgiven by various means, according to the kind and
gravity of the sin: by Baptism, by Penance, and by good works.
- Original sin is remitted through Baptism.
When we are baptized, we become children of God, and heirs of heaven.
None but children of God, the baptized, can have a
pass to God's eternal home.
- Actual sin is remitted by Baptism, by
Penance, by Extreme Unction, and by good works. Such good works are: prayer,
fasting, and alms-deeds.
Good works cannot remit grave or mortal sin; they can
only dispose a person to the state of mind which leads him to the Sacrament of
- The guilt of forgiven sins never returns.
Once forgiven, a sin is forgiven forever. If after our sins have been forgiven
we commit a new sin, or sins like the ones already forgiven, we are guilty of
A man tells five lies. He repents and confessing his
sin, obtains forgiveness. After a month he tells five lies again. He is guilty
of having told only five lies, not ten.
What is vice? --Vice is a habit of sin
formed by repeated acts of sin.
- One who makes a practice of stealing has the
vice of theft. One who habitually drinks to intoxication has the vice
of drunkenness. One who frequently sins against chastity has the vice
If one commits robbery and ever after avoids that
sin, he has committed the mortal sin of robbery, but he has no vice. Similarly
one may be completely intoxicated once, but if he resolves never again to
drink, and sticks to his resolution, he has no vice.
- A vice is easily acquired. This is one reason
why we must be very careful not to commit sin. If we should be so unhappy as
to fall into sin, we must at once cut off the possibility of forming vice by
contrition, penance, and a resolution not to sin again.
After the first fall, one more readily yields to the
next temptation. Each yielding weakens the will for the next. Thus step
by step one who starts a sin will soon find himself the slave of a vicious
habit. "He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little"
- A vice is easy to break off in the beginning,
difficult to break when fully formed, but always capable of being overcome by
a resolute will with God's grace.
It is easy enough to uproot a very young tree. But
when it has grown into a mighty tree, it becomes extremely difficult. The vice
having been firmly formed, it becomes a necessity and is impossible to break
without extraordinary grace. This impossibility often leads many vicious
persons to despair and to final impenitence. But God can do all things. One
therefore who has contracted a habit of sin must have recourse to God, who
will strengthen him, so that he can conquer his vice, by patient acts of
virtue and a constant exertion of the will.
Can all sins be forgiven? --Yes, all
sins, however great, can be forgiven, through the infinite merits of Christ,
Who is God.
The repentant sinner is told in Scripture: "If your
sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow" (Is. 1:17)
- God is always ready to forgive our sins, no matter
how great or how many they are, if we are truly sorry for them. No actual sin
can be forgiven without sorrow and repentance on the part of the
Our Lord said: "I say to you that, even so, there
will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine
just who have no need of repentance" (Luke 15:7).
- The sin against the Holy Ghost which Christ warned
us would not be forgiven in heaven or on earth is persistent impenitence,
the sin of one who rejects conversion and dies in mortal sin. One guilty of
this sin can never obtain forgiveness of God, because at the hour of death he
continues to thrust God away from him.
A man mortally wounded cannot have any hope of cure
if he not only refuses to listen to his doctors, but shuts his mouth against
all medicines, and kicks away all medical instruments and help. Even Judas
would have been pardoned if he had asked for forgiveness and made a sincere
act of contrition before his death.
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|Respect for the dead requires that cemeteries
be properly kept. We should remember that the bodies of the buried will one
day rise again to join immortal souls and live forever with God. Respect for
the dead would also advise us to give up the recent fad of dolling up
corpses, painting their faces to make them seem alive, as if they were
prepared for some flighty show.
(Eleventh Article of the Apostles' Creed.)
What happens at death? --At death the
soul is separated from the body.
- The soul is judged by God, and rewarded with heaven,
punished with hell, or sent for a time to be cleansed in purgatory. The body
begins to corrupt and returns to the dust from which it came.
St. Peter spoke of the body as a tabernacle for the
soul: "the putting off of my tabernacle is at hand" (2 Pet. 1:14). At death,
"the dust returns to its earth, from whence it came, and the spirit returns to
God, Who gave it" (Eccles. 12:7). The only exceptions have been the bodies of
Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, which rose to join their souls, and are now
- All men must die, because death is a
consequence of original sin. "Therefore as through one man sin entered into
this world and through sin death, and thus death has passed into all men"
(Rom. 5: 12) .
By their sin our first parents lost the immortality
of the body, for God condemned them to die. "Dust thou art, and into dust thou
shalt return" (Gen. 3:19). Even Jesus Christ and His Mother submitted to
- No one knows when, where, or how he will die.
All we know is that we shall die, and that when our hour strikes, nobody can
take our place.
God has mercifully hidden from us the hour of our
death. If we knew when we should die, we might be overcome by fear when the
moment approached. Some, besides, might lead sinful lives in the hope of
repenting just before their death.
- We must therefore always be ready to die.
Death comes "as a thief in the night", when we least expect it. We must live
as if every moment were the last of life, always ready to appear before our
"Therefore you must also be ready, because at an hour
that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Matt. 24:44).
How should we prepare for death? --We
should prepare for death by leading a good life, avoiding sin, and doing good.
- We must keep in God's grace and love, so that when
the Angel of Death comes, we may welcome him as one who takes us home
to see the face of our loving Father. The good do not fear death.
Let us die with joy, saying to God, as Holy Simeon
did: "Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in
peace" (Luke 2:29). Let us imitate St. Paul, who says, "I have fought the good
fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. For the rest, there
is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will
give to me in that day" (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
St. Augustine exclaims: "O how sweet it is to die, if
one's life has been a good one!" For such as he, "to die is gain." To the just
man death is only a passing into a better life. It is a journey to his
everlasting home, where his heavenly Father dwells. Death is to be feared only
by the sinner, for it is the end of his earthly pleasures, and the beginning
of his eternal punishment.
- As a man lives, so he dies. Holy Scripture says:
"As the tree falls, the trunk will lie" (Eccl. 11:3). We should often
recall the thought of death and eternity so that we may avoid sin. "In all thy
works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin" (Ecclus. 7:40) . Those
who put off reforming their lives in the hope of a death-bed repentance are
like a traveler who starts packing when the train whistles for departure.
Let us picture the death of a just man, one who all
his life has done good and avoided evil. He has often seen people taken away
suddenly, when they least expected it, and made up his mind to be always ready
to die and face his judge. He has hoped he would, at the end of his life, die
with the Last Sacraments, a priest, and his family by his side. But his
obligations have taken him into the wilderness; there he is dying, with only
the guide at his side. But he is at peace, and a smile is on his lips, for he
is ready to die: being always in the state of grace, he is ready to meet his
judge anywhere, any time. He knows the judge will smile, too, and welcome him
as a good son, a friend.
- We should also have our temporal affairs in
order when we die. This is why adults should make a will in order that
no confusion may arise as to the disposition of their property after their
death. A sudden death is not to be desired, for then we may not be able to put
in order our spiritual and temporal affairs.
This is why in the Litanies we pray: "From a sudden
and unprovided death, deliver us, O Lord!"
What are cemeteries? --Cemeteries are
the burial grounds for the dead.
- The word "cemetery" comes from the Greek, and means
sleeping-place; there the bodies of the dead sleep till Judgment Day.
It is the custom to engrave the letters R. I. P. (Requiescat
in pace. May he rest in peace) on headstones.
- Cemeteries are solemnly consecrated. Catholics
should be buried in a Catholic cemetery, if there is one; at least the grave
should be blessed.
Some day the bodies of the just will rise in glory,
and unite with their souls in heaven; is it befitting their high destiny to
bury them like animals in unconsecrated ground? The bodies are buried facing
the east, as a symbol of the hope the deceased placed in Christ, Light of the
- Cemeteries should be properly kept. They should be
such as to invite everyone to go there and pray for the departed.
We should go regularly to the cemetery to see to it
that the graves of our beloved dead are clean and well kept, and to pray for
them. If when they were alive we liked to visit them, why shouldn't we
continue to visit them even now that they are dead? Such visits would attest
to our living faith in the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of
the body. It is true the souls of the dead are not in their graves, but the
bodies there will some day be inhabited again by the souls. Our prayers in the
presence of the bodies are the proof of our love for our dear dead.
- Apostates, heretics, schismatics, the
excommunicated, suicides, duellists, Masons, and public sinners, are not
permitted to be buried in a consecrated Catholic cemetery.
The refusal of the Church to give Christian burial to
her bad children does not mean that she sentences them to damnation: judgment
of the dead is in the hands of God. It is merely a public expression of
her condemnation of sin, and a disciplinary measure so that her other children
may avoid falling into such sins. Non-Catholics are not permitted burial in a
Catholic cemetery, because since they did not belong to the Church during
life, there is no reason for including them in the burial grounds for members
of the Church, at death.
- The Church forbids cremation not
because it is in itself wrong or contrary to divine Law, but because it is in
opposition to the Jewish and Christian tradition. In cases of great
pestilences, when it is impossible to bury the dead in time to prevent wider
spread, the Church permits cremation.
Cremation has been advocated by anti-Christians with
the express purpose of destroying belief in the immortality of the soul and
the resurrection of the body. The Fathers of the Church defended the custom of
burial, by reason of the resurrection of the body, and the respect due it as
the temple of the Holy Spirit. The day may come when the Church may grant
permission for cremation.
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|Complete justice will not be done in this life,
but in the next. Then everything will be weighed in the balance of God's
justice, and punished or rewarded. If on earth we have obeyed the
commandments of God and of the Church we shall be given an eternal reward in
heaven (1). If we have obeyed all the commandments, but die with unforgiven
venial sin, or without having satisfied for forgiven mortal sin, we shall be
sent to purgatory (2). Alas for us if we die with even one mortal sin! For
then we shall be banished from the sight of God and suffer torments in hell
77. Particular Judgment
What is the judgment called which will be
passed on each one of us immediately after death? --The judgment which
will be passed on each one of us immediately after death is called the
The existence of the particular judgment can be
deduced from the parable of Dives and Lazarus; a soul is shown rewarded
immediately after death.
- As soon as each soul leaves the body at death it
undergoes the Particular judgment, at which its eternal destiny is decided.
"We must all be manifested at the judgment seat of Christ." "It is appointed
unto men to die once, but after this comes the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). "Every
one of us will render an account for himself to God" (Rom. 14:12).
Let us remember that even while the relatives gather
around the bed of the departed one, even while his body is still warm, the
particular judgment is gone through and finished; the judgment is passed, and
the soul gone to his reward or punishment. If we remember this, we shall be
more fervent in praying for the dead, in helping others die a happy death, so
that without fear they may meet God at the judgment.
- Jesus Christ is the Judge at the
Particular Judgment. Before Him each soul must stand. The soul will stand in
the awesome presence of God the Son, to give an account of its
whole life: of every thought, word, act, and omission.
"Neither does the Father judge any man, but all
judgment he has given to the Son" (John 5:22).
- A man's whole life will be spread before him like a
great picture. He will remember everything, although he might have forgotten
much at the moment of death. How he will wish then that he had done only good!
We are not to suppose that the soul will go to heaven before Christ to be
judged. God enlightens each soul in such a manner that it fully knows Christ
has passed a true judgment on it.
"Of every idle word men speak, they shall give
account on the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36). The judgment will embrace even
the good which has been neglected: a strict account will have to be rendered
of the use we made of the talents and graces given to us. Even good actions
badly performed will come under scrutiny, careless communions, hasty
confessions, etc. Only then shall we know the exactness with which God sees
and measures every act, word, and even intention in our deepest thought.
- The good and the evil that the soul has done will be
weighed in the balance of God's justice. Then the sentence will be passed by
Jesus Christ alone, without the intervention of witnesses. This sentence is
final and will never be reversed. The soul will learn the sentence, the
reasons for it, and its absolute justice.
"But of every one to whom much has been given, much
will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will
demand the more" (Luke 12:48).
What are the rewards or punishments appointed
for men after the particular judgment? --The rewards or punishments
appointed for men after the particular judgment are heaven, purgatory, or
"With what measure you measure, it shall be measured
to you" (Matt. 7:2). As we have loved God and our fellow-men during life, so
we shall be given the proper reward or punishment.
- He who dies in his baptismal innocence, or
after having fully satisfied for all the sins he committed, will be sent at
once to heaven.
The just will enter into everlasting life (Matt.
25:46). Only those souls enter heaven who are free from all sin, and from the
penalty due to sins which have been forgiven. Nothing defiled can enter heaven
- He who dies in the state of grace, but is in venial
sin, or has not fully atoned for the temporal punishment due his forgiven
sins, will be sent for a time to purgatory.
The souls in purgatory are saints, because they are
sure of going to heaven. In purgatory they cannot commit any more sin, not
even the slightest. They only long for God.
- He who dies in mortal sin, even if only with
one single mortal sin, will be sent at once to hell.
For the hope of the wicked is as dust, which is blown
away with the wind, and as a thin froth which is dispersed by the storm: and a
smoke that is scattered abroad by the wind: and as the remembrance of a guest
of one day that passeth by" (Wis. 5:15). By mortal sin a man cuts himself off
from God. It is really he himself that sends himself to hell. God's
desire would be to see all His creatures with Him in heaven.
How should we prepare for the judgment?
--We should prepare for the judgment by being most careful to lead a good life
and die a happy death.
- We should do all the good we can, so that God
may forgive the evil we may do. We should not only obey carefully all the
Commandments ot God and the Church, but do good works in prayer and
alms-deeds, practicing charity for the love of God.
How can we be careless about a matter of such
importance, when we are absolutely certain of being judged by God! "For what
shall I do, when God shall rise to judge?" (Job 31:14).
- We should do voluntary works of penance, for love of
God, in expiation of any sins we may have the misfortune to commit.
The "Imitation of Christ" says on this topic:
"In all things look to the end, and how thou wilt stand before the strict
Judge, from Whom there is nothing hid; Who takes no bribes, and receives no
excuses, but will judge that which is just. ... Be, therefore, now solicitous
for thy sins, that in the day of judgment thou mayest be in security with the
blessed. ... Then shall the poor and humble have great confidence, and the
proud fear on every side. Then it will appear that he was wise in this world,
who for Christ's sake learned to be a fool and despised. ... Then shall the
flesh that was afflicted exult more than if it had always fared in delights.
... Then a pure and good conscience shall bring more joy than learned
philosophy. Then shall the contempt of riches far outweigh all treasures of
the children of earth. ... Learn to suffer now in little things, that thou
mayest be delivered from more grievous sufferings. ... All is vanity except to
love and serve God alone" (Bk. I, chap. 24).
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- We should never go to sleep without being
prepared never to awake on earth again, but in the presence of our judge.
Let us examine our conscience every day, make acts of
contrition for our sins, confess them, and resolve to avoid them in the
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Existence of Purgatory
|Both reason and faith tell us that there is a
middle ground of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin
before it can enter the glory of heaven. "There shall not enter into it
anything defiled" (Apoc. 21:27). Christ said, "Amen, I say to thee, thou
will not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny" (Matt. 5:26).
Even persons who deny the existence of purgatory instinctively pray for
their loved ones who have died. This would be great inconsistency if their
reason did not tell them that their prayers would do the dead good. Prayers
are useless for those in heaven or hell.
78. Existence of Purgatory
What is purgatory? --Purgatory is a
place of temporary punishment for those who die in the state of grace, but are
guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment
due to their sins.
- Purgatory is a middle state where souls
destined for heaven are detained and purified. Souls in purgatory cannot
help themselves, for their time for meriting is past. But they can be
helped by the faithful on earth, by prayers and other good works.
In some places, at eight o'clock at night, the church
bells sound, to admonish the faithful to pray for the souls in purgatory. This
hour is in commemoration of Christ's prayer in the garden. We should then
kneel and pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Requiem aeternam:
"Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon
- Belief in the utility of praying for the dead
automatically includes belief in the existence of purgatory. If there were no
purgatory, it would be useless to pray for the dead, because saints in heaven
need no help, and those in hell are beyond aid.
And we can be sure there will be no more purgatory
after the General judgment; because the reason for its existence will have
- Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment
for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not fully satisfied God's
justice for mortal sins already forgiven.
- A boy steals an apple from a stall in the market;
this is a venial sin punishable in purgatory. Some argue that God is a good
God, and will not punish such slight sins with the pains of purgatory. We
must remember, nevertheless, that the judgments of God are different from
those of men, as His holiness is far above human holiness.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways
my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so
are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts."
Let us reverence God's holiness and justice, as we have loving confidence in
- A man commits a cruel murder. This is a mortal sin
which, unrepented and unconfessed, will send him to hell.
The man repents, confesses, and obtains absolution
for his sin; the guilt therefore is removed. But justice requires that he
make up for the evil he has done; this atonement takes place in purgatory,
unless he makes full satisfaction before death.
- The doctrine of purgatory is eminently consoling to
the human heart. It consoles us when our loved ones die. Purgatory is a bond
of union making us realize that death is not an eternal separation for
the just, but only a loss of their bodily presence.
Purgatory gives us an assurance that we are still in
touch with our beloved dead. We are consoled by the knowledge that we can
still help them with prayer, as in life we so helped them.
Is the doctrine of the existence of purgatory
reasonable? --The doctrine of the existence of Purgatory is not only
reasonable, but its negation is eminently contrary to reason; it is taught in
Holy Scripture, and has been taught by the Church from the very beginning.
- The doctrine of a middle state of purgation is
taught in the Old Testament, and was firmly believed in by the Hebrews.
After a battle, Judas Machabeus ordered prayers and
sacrifices offered up for his slain comrades. "And making a gathering, he sent
twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins
of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For,
if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have
seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And because he considered
that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid for them.
It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they
may be loosed from sins" (2 Mach. 12:43-46).
- When Our Lord came on earth, He purified the
Jewish Church of all those human changes that with the years had crept into
its usages and beliefs. But He never reproved anyone for belief in a middle
state of purgation, or prayers for the dead.
On the contrary, Christ more than once implied the
existence of purgatory. He said "And whoever speaks a word against the Son of
Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it
will not be forgiven him, either in this world, or in the world to come"
(Matt. 12:32). When Our Lord said that a sin will not be forgiven in the next
life, He left us to conclude that some sins will be thus forgiven. But in the
next life, sins cannot be forgiven in heaven: "There shall not enter into it
anything defiled" (Apoc. 21:27). Neither can sins be forgiven in hell, for out
of hell there is no redemption. They must therefore be forgive middle state,
- Belief in the existence of Purgatory is a continuous
and solemn teaching of the Church. From St. Paul, the early Fathers,
the Doctors of the Church, on through the ages, the Church has taught the
existence of Purgatory, and the correlated doctrine of the usefulness of
praying for the dead.
From the beginning Christians prayed for the dead at
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The oldest books used at Mass contain prayers
for the dead.
The doctrine of Purgatory was given solemn definition
by the Council of Trent as follows: "There is a purgatory, and the souls there
detained are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the
most acceptable, sacrifice of the altar."
This dogmatic definition contains three points of
faith that all Catholics are compelled to believe: (a) that there is a
purgatory; (b) that after death souls suffer there for their sins; (c) that
the living can extend assistance to such souls.
- Reason demands belief in the existence of
purgatory. If a man dies with some slight stain on his soul, a sin of
impatience, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven? God's sanctity forbids
it: "There shall not enter into it anything defiled" (Apoc. 21:27) . But must
such a soul be consigned to hell? God's mercy and justice forbid it.
Therefore reason concludes the existence of a middle
and temporary state of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of
sin before it can be admitted into the perfect holiness and bliss of heaven.
"Amen, I say to thee, thou wilt not come out from it until thou hast paid the
last penny" (Matt. 5:26).
- Among nearly all peoples there has persisted a
belief that souls must undergo some sort of purification after death. This
would point to the doctrine of purgatory.
The Greek story of Prometheus implies a place of
purgation. The Egyptians and others believed in the transmigration of souls.
Legends and myths of all nations, as well as burial customs, indicate belief
in the possibility of helping the dead.
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Souls in Purgatory
|We should be generous in helping the poor souls
in purgatory, who long for God. The best thing we can do for them is to have
Masses offered for them. The Church puts no limit to the time during which
we may pray or offer Masses for the suffering souls in purgatory. If we
cannot have a Mass said, we should at least hear Masses for our dear
departed. If God so willed, a single Mass could release all the souls in
purgatory. We should offer Masses especially on All Souls' Day and on the
anniversaries of death of our relatives and friends.
79. Souls in Purgatory
What pains do the souls in purgatory suffer?
--The souls in purgatory suffer from a great longing to be united to God, and
from other great pains:
- Their chief pain is the deprivation of the
Beatific Vision, the vision of God in the glory of heaven. This temporary
deprivation is a most severe punishment, because the poor souls already have a
full knowledge of what they are missing.
"As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so
my soul panteth after thee, O God! my soul hath thirsted after the strong
living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?" (Ps.
- The general tradition of the Church is that they
also suffer acutely in other ways.
St. Augustine believes that the sufferings of the
poor souls are greater than the sufferings of all the martyrs. St. Thomas
believes the least pain there is greater than the greatest on earth.
NOTE: (RMO) Saint Thomas Aquinas, the prince of
theologians, also teaches that the FIRE in purgatory is as intense as the fire
- The greatness and the duration of a
soul's sufferings in purgatory vary according to the gravity of the sins
committed. One who has lived a long life of sin, but is saved from hell only
by a deathbed repentance, will stay in the purging fires of purgatory longer,
and suffer there more intensely than a child, who has committed only the
venial sins of an ordinary child.
That some souls stay long in purgatory is implied by
the fact that the Church puts no limit to the offering of Masses for the dead;
some foundations have been going on for centuries, offered for the repose of
certain souls. St. Augustine believes that those stay longest in purgatory who
d the goods of earth more. Some saints have held that certain holy souls in
purgatory suffer no pain except their exclusion from the vision of God.
Practically all are agreed that in purgatory the souls suffer most in those
things in which they sinned most; as the "Imitation of Christ" says: "In what
things a man hath most sinned, in those things shall he be most grievously
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- The poor souls, however, have much to console
them. They are certain of salvation and the love of God. They are free from
temptation: they cannot commit the slightest sin, even of impatience.
They have no worry, anxiety, or distress of mind, for
they are sure of deliverance. They are comforted by the prayers of the angels
and saints, and of the people on earth.
Will all the souls in purgatory go to heaven?
--All the souls in purgatory will go to heaven some day; they will stay in
purgatory only as long as they have not atoned for all their sins.
- The poor souls cannot help themselves, for
their time for meriting was ended at their death. They cannot therefore merit
anything to satisfy for their sins.
This is why we who can still merit by our good works
should give some of them as suffrage for the poor souls, so that they may soon
be delivered from their prison. We have the special obligation of helping with
our prayers and sacrifices the Souls of our dead relatives, friends, and
- Although they cannot merit anything for themselves,
the poor souls intercede for us with their prayers to God.
Thus if we help them they repay us by their
intercession. No one who has a devotion to the holy souls in purgatory has
ever asked for their intercession in vain.
In what ways can we help the poor souls in
purgatory? --We can help the poor souls in purgatory by Masses, by
prayers, and by other good works.
- Masses. The Holy Sacrifice is the greatest
help we can offer, because its effect depends on itself, and not on the piety
of the priest who offers it. Whenever possible, Gregorian Masses should
be offered; these consist of thirty Masses celebrated on consecutive days for
some deceased person.
If we cannot have a Mass said, we should at least
hear Mass for our dear departed. A Mass has infinite merit, for it is the
sacrifice of Our Lord Himself. It will surely avail our dead to offer for them
God the Son Himself in Holy Mass.
- Prayers. We should pray with devotion for the
poor souls. God does not regard the length of the prayer or the words so much
as the love in the heart of the one who prays.
There are special prayers enriched with indulgences,
applicable to the souls in purgatory. We should also receive the Sacraments of
Penance and Holy Eucharist for the poor souls. "Know ye that the Lord will
hear your prayers if you continue in perseverance" (Judith 4:11).
- Alms-giving. No pompous funeral or profusion
of flowers is of any avail for the poor souls in purgatory. As St. John
Chrysostom says, "Not by weeping, but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead
It is better to give to charity the money spent on
idle and worldly show, which cannot help the poor souls. Instead of sending
costly wreaths to the family of a dead friend, it is an excellent custom
instead to have Masses offered for his soul.
The Heroic Act. By this Act a person
surrenders, in behalf of the souls in purgatory, all the satisfaction made to
God by his good works, including whatever satisfaction may be offered for him
by others during his life and after.
The Heroic Act is enriched with precious favors. One
who makes the Act may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the dead:
(1) on any day that he receives Holy Communion, if he has made his confession,
visited a church or public oratory, and prayed for the intentions of the Holy
Father; (2) on any Monday-or, if impediment arises, on the following Sunday-if
he attend Mass in supplication for the faithful departed, visit a church or
public oratory, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
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It is an error to suppose that one who gives up his
merits, or offers prayers and good works for the poor souls, thereby loses
something for himself. Prayer confers a blessing not only on those prayed for,
but also on him who prays. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain
- We should not, however, rely too much on the prayers
and sacrifices that our relatives may offer for us after our death. Even
granting that they will remember us often and fervently in prayers, it is
nevertheless true that works offered in suffrage for souls avail them only to
a limited extent.
God gives more value to little voluntary penance done
here on earth than to disciplines offered for that soul after death. As a
Saint aptly said, "One Mass devoutly heard during life is worth more than a
great sum left for the celebration of a hundred Masses after death.
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