Saturday, November 28, 2015

Top 10 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church (part 2)

5. Indulgences

Orthodox Indulgence
Misconception: Indulgences let you pay to have your sins forgiven
First of all we need to understand what an indulgence is. The Catholic Church teaches that when a person sins, they get two punishments: eternal (hell) and temporal (punishment on earth while alive, or in purgatory after death). To remove the eternal punishment of hell, a person must confess their sins and be forgiven. But the temporal punishment remains. To remove the temporal punishment a person can receive an indulgence. This is a special “blessing” in which the temporal punishment is removed if a person performs a special act such as doing good deeds or reading certain prayers.
In the Middle ages, forgers who were working for disobedient Bishops would write fake indulgences offering the forgiveness of sins (removal of eternal punishment) in exchange for money which was often used for church building. Popes had been long trying to end the abuse but it took at least three centuries for the sale of indulgences to finally end. True indulgences existed from the beginning of Christianity and the Church continues to grant special indulgences today. Wikipedia has an excellent and honest article on the abuse of indulgences from the Middle Ages. You can read it here. Here is a BBC article on a new indulgence granted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

4. Emperor Constantine

Misconception: Emperor Constantine invented the Catholic Church in 325 AD
In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine announced toleration of Christianity in theEdict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity. At the age of 40 he converted to Christianity and in 325 he convened the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea. Because of the importance of this council, many people believe that Constantine created the Church, but in fact there had been many councils (though not as large) prior to Nicaea and the structure of the Church already existed. Constantine was at the council merely as an observer and the Bishops and representative of the Pope made all of the decisions. Before the council of Nicaea, priestly celibacy was already the norm, baptism of infants was practiced (as were all 7 sacraments), and the structure of priests and Bishops was already 300 years old.

3. Priestly Celibacy

Misconception: Catholic Priests can’t get married
In order to clear this one up, we need to first understand the nature of the Catholic Church. Within the universal Church there are sections (also called churches but not in the sense that they are separate) – the most common one is, of course, the Roman (or Latin) Catholic Church. Then there is the Eastern Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Orthodox which is a different religion). Both of these churches fall under the jurisdiction of the Pope and all believe the same doctrines. There are a lot of differences between the two groups but these are all in matters of style of worship and certain rules. In the Eastern Church, priests are allowed to be married – but a married priest can’t become a Bishop.
It also happens that occasionally in the Latin Church, pastors who convert from other religions such as the Church of England are allowed to become priests even though they are married, so married priests can be found in all parts of the Roman Catholic Church. Pictured above is a Greek Catholic priest and his wife. Don’t believe me? Here is proof. And here is more proof.

2. Modified Bible

Misconception: The Church added books to the Bible
The Catholic version of the Old Testament differs from the Protestant version in that the Catholic edition contains seven more books than Protestant Bibles. These “extra” books are the reason that many people consider the Church to have added to the Bible, but in fact these books were considered the official canon (list of books) by all Christians until the Protestant reformation during which Martin Luther (leader of the revolution) removed them. Interestingly some of these books contain affirmations of Catholic doctrines which Luther rejected. The reason that the Catholic Church uses the Greek edition is because the apostles used it exclusively in their preaching.
Luther decided to use the Jewish Masoretic canon (circa 700 – 1000 AD) instead of the Apostolic canon. The seven books he removed were:Tobit,Judith1 Maccabees2 MaccabeesWisdomEcclesiasticus, andBaruch. While initially wanting to remove at least one book (The Epistle of James, because it contradicts Luther’s teaching that faith alone is needed for salvation [James Chapter 2]) from the New Testament, Luther ultimately decided to keep the Catholic New Testament in full.
Interestingly, Hanukah is mentioned only in 1 and 2 Maccabees, which is not included in either the Jewish or Protestant versions of the Old Testament.

1. Medieval Papacy

Misconception: The Papacy is a medieval invention
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, and from the beginning of Christianity he was considered the head of the Church. This fact is alluded to in many of the early Church documents and even in the Bible itself: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter [Greek for “rock”]; and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and he led the Church until his death in 64 AD, at which point St Linus became the second Pope. St Irenaeus mentions him here:
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate [office of Bishop of Rome]. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy [2 Timothy 4:21]. To him succeeded Anacletus [third Pope, pictured above]; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement [4th Pope] was allotted the bishopric. — Against the Heresies, 180 AD
St Irenaeus goes on to mention another six Popes and the various tasks they undertook during their reigns – such as the imposition by Pope Linus of the rule that women cover their heads in Church (a rule which, though often ignored, still exists today).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Top 10 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church (part 1)

10. Discourage Bible Reading

Misconception: The Church discourages Bible reading
The very first Christian Bible was produced by the Catholic Church – compiled by Catholic scholars of the 2nd and 3rd century and approved for general Christian use by the Catholic Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The very first printed Bible was produced under the auspices of the Catholic Church – printed by the Catholic inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. And the very first Bible with chapters and numbered verses was produced by the Catholic Church–the work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.

At every Mass in the world everyday, the Bible is read aloud by the priest. In the traditional Mass there is one reading from the general body of the Bible (excluding the gospels), and two from the Gospels. In the modern Catholic Mass, there are two readings from the general body of the Bible and one from the Gospels. All Catholic homes have a Bible and the Bible is taught in Catholic schools (as is its perennial tradition).

This myth has come about because Bibles were often locked away in Churches in the past, but that was not to prevent people having access – it was to prevent them being stolen. These were hand written Bibles which were incredibly valuable due to scarcity. Furthermore, people think the Church forbade people from reading the Bible by putting it on the Index of Forbidden Books, but the Bibles placed on the Index were Protestant versions (lacking 7 books) or badly translated versions – the most famous of which is the King James Version which Catholics are not supposed to use.

9. Idolatry


Catholics worship Mary and are, therefore, committing idolatry. In Catholic theology there are three types of worship – one of which is condemned in the Bible if offered to anyone but God:

1) Latria – this is adoration which is given to God alone – giving this type of worship to anyone else is considered to be a mortal sin and it is the idolatry condemned in the Bible.

2) Hyperdulia – this is a special type of worship given to Mary the Mother of Jesus – it is only given to her and it is not considered to be idolatory as it is not adoration, merely reverence.

3) Dulia – this is the special type of worship given only to the saints and angels – it is also not idolatrous as it, too, is a form of reverence.

The distinction was made by the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787 AD. The council was called to condemn the people who claimed that it was idolatrous to have statues and images of saints.
 The canons of the Council can be read here.
Just to clarify: “Latria is a Latin term (from the Greek ???????) used in Orthodox and Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity.” – there are lower forms of worship (as is implied here). A Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it. The images of saints (whether it be in statue form or painting) serves as a reminder of the holiness of the person depicted.

8. Non-Christians

02064 Early Church Fathersjpg
Misconception: Catholics aren’t Christians
In fact, Catholics are the first Christians. When reading over the early Christian writings, you can see clearly that their doctrines and teachings are the same as the Catholic Church today. You hear of Bishops, virgins living in community (nuns), priests, confession, baptism of infants, the Bishop of Rome as head of the Christian religion, and reverence for the saints. Here are some comments by the early Church fathers who were, in many cases, the apostles of the Biblical apostles:
Bishops: For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop’s office unblamably and holily. — Pope St Clement, Letter to the Corinthians 1, A.D. 96.
 The Papacy: “[From] Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father” (St Ignatius, Letter to the Romans 1:1 [A.D. 110]).
 Holy Communion: “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” — St. Justin Martyr, “First Apology”, A.D. 148-155.
 Infant Baptism: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (St Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).
 Confession: “[A filial method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink fromdeclaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, “I said, to the Lord, I will accuse myself of my iniquity.” ” (Origen, Homilies in Leviticus 2:4 — A.D. 248)
From these quotes it is obvious that the practices of the modern Catholic Church are the closest to the practices of the apostles and early Christians. It should also be said that the majority of historians accept that the Catholic Church was the first Christian Church as it is verifiable from ancient texts.

7. Totally Infallible

Misconception: The Pope is infallible in all things
Roman Catholics believe that only under certain circumstances is the pope infallible (that is, he can not make a mistake). The Catholic Church defines three conditions under which the Pope is infallible:
I. The Pope must be making a decree on matters of faith or morals
II. The declaration must be binding on the whole Church
III. The Pope must be speaking with the full authority of the Papacy, and not in a personal capacity.
This means that when the Pope is speaking on matters of science, he can make errors (as we have seen in the past with issues such as Heliocentricity). However, when he is teaching a matter of religion and the other two conditions above are met, Catholics consider that the decree is equal to the Word of God. It can not contradict any previous declarations and it must be believed by all Catholics. Catholics believe that if a person denies any of these solemn decrees, they are committing a mortal sin – the type of sin that sends a person to hell. Here is an example of an infallible decree from the Council of Trent (under Pope Saint Pius V – 16th Century):
If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.
The last section of the final sentence “let him be anathema” is a standard phrase that normally appears at the end of an infallible statement. It means “let him be cursed”. The most recent pronouncement that can be seen as falling under Papal Infallibility was when Pope John Paul II declared that women could not become priests.

6. Anti-Science

Misconception: The Catholic Church is opposed to science and rejects evolution
In fact, may great scientific advances have come about through Catholic scholarship and education. The most recent and interesting case is that of Monsignor Georges Lemaître (pictured above, center) a Belgian priest who proposed the Big Bang theory. When he proposed his theory, Einstein rejected it, causing Monsignor Lemaître to write to him: “Your math is correct, but your physics is abominable.” Eventually Einstein came to accept the theory.
Also, unlike many of the American Protestant or evangelical religions, the Catholic Church does not reject the theory of evolution. Right from the early days of the theory, the Church remained mostly silent on the issue. The first public statements specifically regarding evolution came from Pope Pius XII who said: “The Church does not forbid that…research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.”
In 2004, a Theological Commission overseen by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) issued this statement: “According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. […] Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.”
Catholic Schools all around the world (including the US) teach scientific evolution as part of their science curriculum.

to be continued.....

Monday, November 23, 2015

Best psalms to pray before bed

These psalms are derived from the Liturgy of Hours

Saturday Night (Sunday Vigil) (Psalm 4)

When I call, answer me, O God of justice;
from anguish you released me, have mercy and hear me!
O men, how long will your hearts be closed,
will you love what is futile and seek what is false?

It is the Lord who grants favours to those whom he loves;
the Lord hears me whenever I call him.
Fear him; do not sin:  ponder on your bed and be still.
Make justice your sacrifice and trust in the Lord.
“What can bring us happiness? many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us , O Lord.
You have put into my heart a greater joy
than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Sunday Night (Psalm 91)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: “My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!”
It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you under his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.
You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right,
you, it will never approach;
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.
Your eyes have only to look
to see how the wicked are repaid,
you will have said: “Lord, my refuge!”
and have made the Most High your dwelling.
Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.
His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: “I am with you.”
I will save him in distress and give him glory.
With length of life I will content him;
I shall let him see my saving power.

Monday Night (Psalm 86)

 Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am faithful:
save the servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I cry to you all day long.
Give joy to you servant, O Lord,
for to you I lift up my soul.
O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.
In the day of distress I will call
and surely you will reply.
Among the gods there in none like you, O Lord;
nor work to compare with yours.
All the nations shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
you who alone are God.
Show me, Lord, you way
so that I may walk in you truth.
Guide my heart to fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart
and glorify your name for ever;
for your love to me has been great:
you have saved me from the depths of the grave.

The proud have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life:
to you they pay no heed.
But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.
O give you strength to your servant
and save your handmaid’s son.
Show me a sign of your favor
that my foes may see to their shame
that you console me and give me your help.
Glory to the Father, and the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit: as it was
in the beginning, is now, and
will be for ever. Amen.

Tuesday Night (Psalm 143, 1-11)

Lord, listen to my prayer; turn your ear to my appeal. You are faithful, you are just; give answer. Do not call your servant to judgment, for no one is just in your sight. The enemy pursues my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead, long forgotten. Therefore my spirit fails; my heart is numb within me. I remember the days that are past: I ponder all your works. I muse on what your hand has wrought and to you I stretch out my hands. Like a parched land my soul thirsts for you. Lord, make haste and answer; for my spirit fails within me. Do not hide your face lest I become like those in the grave. In the morning let me know your love, for I put my trust in you. Make me know the way I should walk: to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will for you, O Lord, are my God. Let your good spirit guide me in ways that are level and smooth. For your name’s sake, Lord, save my life; in your justice save my soul from distress.

Wednesday Night (Psalm 130)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness or redemption,
Israel indeed he will redeem
From all its iniquity.
Glory to the Father, and the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit: as it was
in the beginning, is now, and
will be for ever. Amen.

Thursday Night (Psalm 16)

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.”
He has put into my heart a marvellous love
for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.
Never will I offer their offerings of blood.
Never will I take their name upon my lips.
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot market out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord even in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is gland;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let you beloved know decay.
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Friday Night (Psalm 88)

Lord my God, I call for help by day;
I cry at night before you.
Let my prayer come into your presence.
O turn your ear to my cry.
For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,
like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.
You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,
in places that are dark, in the depths.
Your anger weighs down upon me:
I am drowned beneath your waves.
You have taken away my friends
and made me hateful in their sight.
Imprisoned, I cannot escape;
my eyes are sunken with grief.
I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work your wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you?
Will you love be told in the grave
or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
or you justice in the land of oblivion?
As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?
Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.
They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friends and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Does Christ the King Mean for Us?

by Father John McCloskey
In 1925 Pope Pius XI introduced the Feast of Christ the King in his encyclical Quas primas. An important part of that document was the pope's repetition of the point that the kingdom of Christ embraces the whole of mankind, not only at the end of time but also now, in the hearts of all women and men:
Since the Ascension God's plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at "the last hour." "Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect." Christ's kingdom already manifests its presence through the miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church. (Quas primas, 670)
Today's feast, then, has much real-world, daily-life significance for each of us. It is a hopeful message for today and every day, in spite of the undeniably fallen nature of this world that confronts us all too often.
How to Use Our Freedom
The Feast of Christ the King can be an opportunity for reflecting on our own freedom and for considering how we as Catholics are called to participate in public life. Getting some clarity about the possibilities in these two areas is essential for approaching and hopefully resolving many of the societal and cultural problems that plague us today. All Catholics should not only wish for but also actively pray and work for the renewal of our country, so that it becomes a place where it is easy for people to be virtuous, and where laws regarding marriage, the family, and education reflect the reality that Christ truly reigns.
Let's take a look at freedom first. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that freedom is the power rooted in reason and will, to act or not, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate action's on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. . . . The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (CCC, 1731)
We know that we are free because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and the greatest gift he has given us is the capacity to deploy that freedom through the proper use of our intellect and will. Exercising our freedom affects not only others but also ourselves, and in a deeply formative, self-determining way. Indeed, each of us can say that, in important ways, we truly are or have become the choices we have made throughout our lives. The Church today stands as virtually the sole defender of the reality of personal human freedom against the whole weight of modern ideologies which are gradually devolving into a return to a barbaric paganism. Within the Church we learn how to exercise our freedom well, by our imitation of Jesus Christ, who as the Lord of History is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. His Truth sets us free. In this life, the Catechism tells us, "progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts." The ultimate judgment of the use of our freedom will take place in the afterlife, in both the particular and the final judgments when we will arrive to our final destination.
"My Kingdom Does Not Belong to This World"
We should ask, what is the role of the Church in terms of helping us to administer our freedom? In Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, the Council Fathers of Vatican II tell us, Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic, or social order: the purpose he assigned to it was a religious one. But this religious mission can be the source of commitment, direction, and vigor to establish and consolidate the community of men, according to the law of God. (Gaudium et spes, 42) This may be a surprising statement to some who view the Church in merely human terms. But we ought not to forget that its divine mission is to lead us to heaven. As Jesus tells Pilate in today's gospel reading, "My kingdom does not belong to this world." But on our way to heaven, and as a byproduct, so to speak, if we exercise our freedom correctly we will create an environment in which it becomes more and more possible for ourselves and all mankind to achieve a relative happiness in this world, while preparing for the next. The two happinesses, of this world and of the next, are very different and even incommensurable things, but they need not be understood as completely contradictory or incompatible.
Truly, there is a real Christian duty to improve things, to make things better in this world. But who is responsible for these temporal matters? We can be grateful that the answer is clear. "It is to the laity, though not properly exclusive to them, that secular activities and activity properly belong. . . . The laity are called to participate actively in the whole life of the Church; not only are they to animate world with the spirit of Christianity, but they are to be witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind" (Gaudium et spes, 43).
The pope and bishops are our pastors who are called to transmit to us divine revelation and the sacraments, which enable us to live according to that revelation. The rest of us, in turn, are called to be the leaders who evangelize government and all the other this-worldly realities of society and culture, precisely by the effective and holy use of our freedom. The teachings of the Second Vatican Council and their implementation by our recent popes all point out that the laity as members of the Church are called to use their freedom prudentially in the midst of the world, for both God's glory and the good of mankind.
St. Josemaria Escriva, a great and holy man, one of the most influential saints of the last century, stated the point this way: "Your task as Christian citizen is to help see Christ's life and freedom preside over all aspects of modern life: culture and the economy, work, and rest, family life, and social relations." In turn, may we enthusiastically reply with the words of the "sons of thunder" in sacred scripture, James and John: "We can!"
Practical Considerations
This important Feast of Christ the King has weighty practical implications. Christ reigns, now and eternally. As we hear in today's second reading: "I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty." Even so, he counts on us as free and loving agents to prepare the way for his Second Coming! How can we do that? Give some thought to this passage from St. Josemaria's book The Furrow:
The Lord has shown us this refinement of Love: he has let us conquer the world for him.
He is always so humble that he has wished to limit himself to making it possible. . . . To us He has granted the easiest and most agreeable part: taking action and gaining the victory.
The world . . . "That is our field!" you said, after directing your eyes and thoughts to heaven, with all the assurance of the farmer who walks through his own ripe corn. Regnare Christum volumus! – we want Him to reign over this earth of his!
"It is a time of hope, and I live off this treasure. It is not just a phrase, Father," you tell me, "it is a reality." Well then . . . bring the whole world, all the human values which attract you so very strongly – friendship, the arts, science, philosophy, theology, sport, nature, culture, souls – bring all of this within that hope: the hope of Christ.
Note the all-encompassing nature of this message. No part of our lives, none of it, is cordoned off or irrelevant when it comes to Christ our King.
My last word. Want to change our culture? Then remember the corporal and spiritual works of mercy! When we feed hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and bury the dead, we reflect in our lives and in our world the truth that Christ reigns. When we console the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, and pray for the living and the dead, we do our part to make manifest today the Kingdom of God. When we take just a bit of time to reflect, we begin to see that opportunities to do these things present themselves all the time, every day, by God's own merciful grace.
Want to change the world for Christ and help re-evangelize our country? There is something – there are many things, indeed – for each of us to do, starting today, now. Get with the early Christians' winning program! Along with the sacraments and prayer, this is exactly how they radically changed the world. Go and imitate them!

Friday, November 20, 2015

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Purgatory

As this month is dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory, it’s an opportunity for all of us to learn more about one of the most misunderstood of Church teachings. Far from being the much-maligned second-chance hell or hell-lite that critics make it out to be, purgatory actually well reflects the beauty of the Church’s teaching.
Here are 10 things about purgatory that may surprise you:
  1. The Fathers taught it. Purgatory is usually associated with medieval Catholicism, but it’s been believed by the Church from the earliest times. Though they may not have actually used the term purgatory, it’s clear that many Church Fathers believed in it nonetheless. In The City of God Augustine states, “But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.” Others include Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. BasilGregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Great, and St. Bede.
  1. Souls in purgatory will know their fate. One wonders, if a faithful Christian dies and finds himself suffering in the afterlife, will he be able to tell the difference between hell and purgatory? Will he know that he is heaven-bound? On this issue, the answer seems a decisive yes. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, “Are the souls detained in purgatory conscious that their happiness is but deferred for a time, or may they still be in doubt concerning their ultimate salvation? The ancient Liturgies and the inscriptions of the catacombs speak of a ‘sleep of peace,’ which would be impossible if there was any doubt of ultimate salvation.”
  1. Souls in purgatory may be praying for usWe are often rightly told to pray for the souls in purgatory. But some think they may also be praying for us. It makes sense if you think about it: they are, after all, closer to God than we, and therefore their petitions may have greater intercessory power. Such, in fact, was the basic argument of theologians like St. Robert Bellarmine (sources here and here).
  1. Ancient pagans believed in it too. Just as other cultures have deeply ingrained beliefs in an afterlife with something like our heaven and hell, so also there was widespread conviction that there would be something like purgatory, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. For example, the great Roman epic poem the Aeneid—a text familiar to the Latin-speaking Fathers—describes souls that have had the “taint of wickedness … burned away with fire” before arriving in the “joyous fields of Elysium.” Of course, the Christian doctrine of purgatory is no more a pagan idea than heaven or hell. (In fact, 2 Peter 2:4 uses the same word for hell, Tartarus, that is found in the Aeneid, as is evident in some more slavishly literal translations likethis one.)
  1. Souls in purgatory will be with other believers. We tend to forget that souls in purgatory are not suffering alone—otherwise the term the Church Sufferingwould be emptied of meaning. We can only speculate, but it seems reasonable to surmise that the souls in purgatory will be able to console each other much as we do now on earth.
  1. United with Christ. Again, purgatory is not some kind of spiritual time-out or bypass from our lives of faith on earth and the beatific vision we yearn for in heaven. If the souls in purgatory are indeed truly part of the Church Suffering, then it follows they remain a part of the mystical body of Christ and therefore remain united to Him. How much closer will they become to the Crucified Christ in the suffering of purgatory! We tend to hear a lot about union with Christ among the most saintly in this life, but the obvious potential for a profound union in purgatory seems to be largely overlooked.
  1. The suffering is voluntary. St. Catherine of Genoa, author of a treatise on purgatory, says that once the soul sees what is in store in heaven, immediately casts itself into purgatory. Of course, purgatory is not voluntary in the sense that someone could choose not to go there. But it is voluntary in the sense that souls submit willingly to it, which is what Aquinas also says.
  1. Christ consoles those in purgatory. Remember the part in the creed about the descent into hell? Traditionally theologians considered purgatory as part of hell, understanding hell as simply everywhere that is not heaven. In the descent, all who were “in any part of hell” were “visited in some respect” by Christ, Aquinas writes inthe Summa Theologica. The holy fathers in limbo were delivered, while the souls in purgatory were consoled, so he suggests.
  1. There will be joys as well as suffering. Traditional accounts of purgatory seem to focus on the pain and punishment. There’s more to purgatory than that though. St. Catherine of Genoa describes it as a state of great happiness: “I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the  hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin’s rust is the hindrance, and the fire burns the rust away so that more and more the soul opens itself up to the divine inflowing.”
  1. Purgatory makes saints. This conclusion, as radical as it may sound, is inevitable. Here’s why—the basic Catholic doctrine on who ends up in heaven and who goes to purgatory can be simply stated this way: those who have reached such a state of sanctity that they do not need the purifying fires of purgatory go straight to heaven. We call them, fittingly, saints. Put another way: only saints get into heaven. That’s what purgatory does: it makes all of us who will end up there into saints. That’s the beauty of the Church’s teaching on purgatory.
Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at