Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE STORY OF MY CONVERSION TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


by David L. Gray
Publish Date: 09/01/2010

In my article Losing and Finding it All I talked about how I moved from Agnostic to Christian. I wish I could say that I went to prison and found Christ, but that would not be the truth - It was Jesus who found me in very bad condition and gave me a new opportunity at life.

After Jesus spoke to me as I was in the process of trying to commit suicide and said, "I love you. I am here," everything was different. I could no longer deny that Jesus was real and that He was interested in having a personal relationship with me, but some of those issues that troubled me about Christianity for all those years still lingered in my heart. Ever since I was teenager, I could never understand how those Christians could be in so many different denominations, and each of them teaching so many radically different things that were from what the other denominations were teaching, and, yet, all insisting that they each believed in the same God. I kept asking myself how could they all believe in the same God and simultaneously accept that their God was confusing them with opposing and competing truths? As far as I was concerned, that was not a God worth believing in.

Moreover, I was not very knowledgeable about the New Testament, but what thing I knew for sure was that the YHWH of Old Testament always kept His people together and for His children there was nothing more important than the Shema, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4). I knew that in the Davidic Kingdom there was only one God, one Temple, and one priesthood. Therefore, as an Agnostic, I concluded that either these Christians were not of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as they claimed, or there was no God.

There in October of 2004 it was good enough for me to finally know that God is real, and He truly does have a Son named Jesus Christ who loves me more than I love myself; so the restlessness and questions in my heart about those Christian denominations would wait until a later time. I was on my way to prison - my new life, and I had to figure out how I was going to adjust to that.

On August 31st, 2005 I was Baptized in prison in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I suppose that I could have been classed as Protestant at time and until my conversion to Catholicism, because that (Protestantism) was the brand of theology that I subscribed to at least; even without knowing what I was 'protesting' against exactly or knowing anything about the Catholic Church, except what I heard, such as they worship Mary and the Pope. Yet, the Baptism itself was huge step for me in the right direction, because, for me, it meant commitment; it meant that I was ready to take my walk with Christ Jesus seriously. In the light of Christ having deigned to speak to me personally to save me from myself, I felt that I owed that commitment to God. He gave me my life back, so I felt that I owed Him mine.

It was shortly after my Baptism that all the old restlessness and those questions arose in my heart again. By that time I had become more familiar with the New Testament and it had become absolutely clear to me that I had to belong to a Church, because that was the 'gift' that Jesus gave us through his Apostles, He prayed that we would be one (Cf. John 17), Paul admonished us to be of one faith, one Lord, on Baptism, and one God (Cf. Ephesians 4:5-6), and the writer of Hebrews commands us not to forsake the assembly (Cf. 10:23). I was just starting year two of five to nine year sentence, so I felt that I had plenty of time to make up my mind which Church I would join, but for awhile I assumed that I would join the African Methodist Episcopal Church because that was the one my Grandmother Minnie always took me to.

CONFUSION SET IN

In January of 2006, still restless over this issue of competing Protestant denominations, two questions arose in my heart that changed my life for good. It is true; the fruit of our life is only as good as the questions that we ask ourselves. That is, if I don't ask myself good questions, then the result is that my answers in regards to life's difficulties are no good either. In other words, it is only through the process of asking and answering questions that we discover who we are in relation to God and neighbor. The questions I asked myself that day was, "Well, what happened to the Church that Jesus started through his Apostles? What happened to the Churches in the Bible?" What a basic and most fundamental question? I thought I was silly for not asking it a long time ago. And, simultaneously, I was worried that I would not be able to find the answer, or that the answer that I found would be some church that was so small and reclusive that I would not be able to join, but I knew that my heart would be restless until I went on this journey to find the true Church of Jesus.

THE SEARCH BEGINS

My journey began with a challenge to God. First, I thanked Him for saving my life and added that if that experience was real and if the Bible is true and you told the truth when you said that gates of Hell would not prevail against your Church (Cf. Matthew 16:18) and you do not want your people to be divided and fighting each other, then the Church that you started through your Apostles should still be here today. I told Him that I believe that you are that powerful and that loving that you would not leave your people guessing for the truth or dividing in competing factions, but if you could not do that little thing then you are not worth my believing in. Finally, I told him that I needed Him to help me answer this question and that I would go wherever He led me.

My search for the Church of Christ began with Scripture. More precisely, it began with the premise of 'truth' and that would remain as the underlying foundation of my search. There are two things that Scriptures says are always true: the first is Christ Jesus, who calls Himself 'The Truth'. "I am the way, the truth, and the life . . ." (John 14:6); the second is the CHURCH, - "But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the Pillar and Foundation of Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

Because I started with the foundation of the Old Covenant, it allowed me to understand Jesus' words "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17) under the context that everything that was in the Old Covenant is now in the New Covenant, but in its fulfilled sense. That is why I immediately dismissed the Protestant notion of some 'invisible' unity, because the Old Covenant offered a clearly visible unity amongst the people, priesthood, Temple, and God. I understood that all Christians are one in 'Spirit', but, clearly, Scripture is not talking about an invisible unity. Jesus prayed that we would be one so that the world will believe and know that the Father sent the Son. He did not pray that we would be thirty-three thousand different denominations. Moreover, the unity that Jesus prayed for is a right now unity; meaning that it was something was instantly present, as opposed to something that Protestants believe will come at the end.

Because Jesus prayed that we would be one, so that the world will believe and know that the Father sent the Son, it follows that if we are not one, then the world has every reason not to believe and every reason not to know that the Father sent the Son. I am an example of the failure of Christians not living up to Jesus' prayer. The disunity of Christians harmed me as a youth. Because they were not one - I rejected them. I had not known about the Catholic Church.

It troubled me greatly back in January of 2006, after I started the process to find the Church of the Apostles, when I immediately had to dismiss every Protestant church on the grounds that not a single one of them is older than five hundred years. That meant that none them could be the actual Church that the Apostles started. On top of that, each of them was started by some man: the Lutherans by Martin Luther; the Presbyterians by John Calvin; the Anglicans/Episcopalians by King Henry VIII, the Baptist by John Smyth; the Methodist by John Wesley, and etc. In addition, the motives of these men starting these Churches seemed to be scurrilous and suspect - clearly not of God. I began to be scared of what I was about to find.

Soon thereafter, I saw that the Catholic Church was actually Christian, and I understood that because it was the Church that the Protestants were protesting against meant that it was older than them. Still today, most Protestants today have no clue what they are protesting against. Yet, at this point in my research, I figured that I would eventually discover that the Catholic Church was started some time in the middle ages (like I had always heard from Protestants). Having heard so many strange things about Catholics and what they believe, I had no reason to believe that it was the Church that Jesus Christ started through His Apostles.

THE PAPER TRAIL

Whenever I research, I never go straight to a biased source. My initial research here was done through good encyclopedias and non-religious books. What I discovered from a number of sources is that by the late first century, the same Churches that we read about in the Bible had begun to call themselves catholic. That was an odd discovery for me, but I didn't immediately connect it with the Catholic Church, because 'in context' all they were expressing is what the word 'catholic' means in Greek (that is, one, whole, united, complete). In addition, I was just like everyone else in this country - I had a built in prejudice against Catholics and the last thing that I wanted to be was a Catholic, more especially a Black Catholic.

Next, I came across some documents from the first and second century - they were letters to and from the Bishop of Rome He was not being called the 'Pope' yet ('pope' only means 'father' in Italian), but the new questions that I was being forced to answer myself was: 'Why were these Churches far outside of Rome writing to the Bishop of Rome to resolve their disputes at a time when the Apostle John was still alive?' 'Why was the Bishop of Rome writing to Churches far outside of Rome, like Corinth, and telling them what to do?' 'Who did the Bishop of Rome think he was? Ok, the answers to these questions were problematic, but I kept prayerfully going. I was starting to tell God that He had to straighten me out, because I was far off track in my research. The Church that He started could not be the Catholic Church.

Next, I backed up a little bit and started studying the teachings of the Catholic Church, because if I could prove that what they teach is not what the Bible actually teaches then I could dismiss this weird religion and find the error in my research, and get back to finding the true Church of the Apostles. I actually was starting to think that Jesus is a liar and a false God that can't even provide the means to keep His people homogeneous. So I went back to the library and checked out several books on Catholic theology and history.

The first books that I dug into were the history books written by Catholics, and they made me feel pretty stupid! Why had I not asked myself basic questions like: 'When was the Bible put together?' 'Who made up our foundation doctrines like the Trinity?' 'Who set the dates for Christmas and Easter?' I found that not only did the founders of the Church, that eventually began calling itself Catholic, write the books of the New Testament, but it was also the Catholic Church who preserved these writings and canonized (listed the books) of the Bible in 382 A.D.  It was the Catholic Church who formulated the doctrine of the Trinity and who set the dates of Easter and Christmas. In a way, we are all Catholics because we accept so many of the Church's teachings. I found that Protestants cannot truly say out of my side of the mouth that they reject the teachings of the Catholic Church, because out of the other side of their mouth they must confess that those same teachings form the foundation of their faith.

There are some teachings that are very peculiar to the Catholic Church, like Purgatory, intercessory prayer with the saints (in Heaven), belief that the communion bread and wine is the Real Flesh, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and the high honor they pay the Virgin Mary. I deduced that if I could prove that some of the main people of the first three centuries of the Church rejected fundamental and key Catholic teachings then I could rightfully dismiss the Catholic Church. In other words, because the Catholic Church holds that what She believes now that She has always believed, then if I could prove that orthodox Christians from the first and second centuries believed something other than what the Catholic Church teaches then I could get back on track to find the true Church of Christ.

I was troubled again by what I discovered. Not only was it clearly evident that what the Catholic Church believes today what has She has always believed, but that the saints and martyrs of the first three centuries were clearly members of that Church. The real shocker was the finding out that everything that the Catholic Church believes is Scriptural. But why wouldn't it be? If this is the Church that gave us the Bible, then why wouldn't She agree with everything in the Bible? I was starting to realize that the problem was not what the Catholic Churches understandings of Scripture. On the contrary, the problem was my understanding of Scripture. Who was I to interpret a book different than its own author has been interpreting it for two thousand years?

Like most people, I had heard some things about the Emperor Constantine creating the Roman Catholic Church and formulating doctrine. I already knew that this old wives tale (demonic lie) had some problems because I had already proven to myself that the Catholic Church evolved out of the first Churches of the Apostles, but what was up with the Council of Nicaea and all those early councils?

MORE QUESTIONS

By March of 2006 I had done a lot of research. God has blessed me with signs that I was on the right path. Yet, a part of me still did not want to be Catholic, but I could not deny where the Spirit was leading me. I had to admit to myself that this was not my idea to be Catholic, and it felt good that I was not following my own will. It also felt good that I might be able to trust God. If I did not have to figure out the Bible on my own, but, rather, trust the theology of the Church who has been working on explaining Her own book for two thousand years, then that would take a lot of weight off of my back. My next task was to go in undercover and investigate. I had to figure out what the Catholic Church and that Mass thing was about.

The first Mass that I attended changed my life forever. It was everything that I ever dreamed of in a Church. Don't get me wrong - there is a Catholic Church in every country in the world and they all celebrate the Mass slightly different. Even in this country where some Catholic Churches that are predominately Black, Hispanic, or Charismatic, they get down with music, dancing, and tongues and you name it, but the first Mass that I attended was perfect for me.

Besides the ritual and drama, what I love about the Mass the most is that it is all about Jesus! It is never about some man or his preaching. There are three to four Scriptures read at every Mass and all Catholics in every part of the world hear the same Scriptures every day, because Mass is not just on Sunday - it is everyday. 'They Broke Bread Daily' the Scripture says and Catholic do that. Indeed, the focus of the Mass is not on some man preaching, but, rather, on Jesus. Not on the music, but on Jesus. Not on people praising God, but on Jesus. Yes there is good preaching, music, and praise, but that is not why Catholics go to Mass. They go to the Sacrifice of the Mass to see Jesus. He is there physically and spiritually in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is incredible!

I cannot see myself going through life without the Real Manna that came down from Heaven. God is so good and compassionate to come to us in such a little and humble way. First He came to us as a little infant and now He continues to come to us in a little morsel of bread and sip of wine - that, through the ordained priest, He actually turns into His real Flesh and Blood. I know it sounds crazy, but it is what Jesus and the Apostles taught, Scripture teaches, and what we Christians have always believed for fifteen hundred years until some men came along said it actually wasn"t. Satan won when Christians became divided over the Body of Christ. I feel so sad for people who do not receive the real Flesh and Blood of Jesus. God has never been more intimate with us than He is at the Mass when we take Him into our mouths just as John 6 says we must do to have eternal life. I found that there is only one reason why all Christians are not Catholic and it is the same reason why all Catholics leave the Catholic Church; that is, they believe something different about the Holy Eucharist than what the Catholic Church actually teaches that it is. For, if they truly believed that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ then they would refuse to go even a day without receiving it.

I had lots of other issues with the Catholic Church, such as: confession to a priest, the Virgin Mary, praying with dead people (saints), and you name it, but I always came back to some basic facts: (1) That I asked for this; (2) The issue was usually my pride, not Catholic teaching; (3) What the Church teaches is what they have been teaching for two thousand years; therefore, who was I, who had only been around for three something years, to declare that I know the whole truth; (4) The Catholic Church has been consistently counter-cultural and strong on all of Her moral and social teachings (e.g. pro-life, human rights, natural marriage, and etc.), while the Protestant church has been blowing in the wind on everything; (5) The alternative is belonging to some Church that was not started by the Apostles and has only been here for five hundred or less years; and (6) The fact that the Catholic Church has been tested for two thousand years and has withstood the adversity is a sign of grace from God. Therefore, I resolved those issues in two ways; first, by researching what the Church teaches and why; and second, by trusting God not to lead me wrong.

It feels good to be able to tell God on the day of judgment that I only believed what the Church that He started taught and nothing else. That is to say, that if I was wrong about anything it was His fault - not mine! I donĂ¢€™t know what is going to happen to those people who meet God and tell Him that they believed what they wanted to believe or what Martin Luther or John Calvin (not Apostles) taught. Ultimately, I found myself in a position that I couldn't find a way out of. I had found what I went looking for. It is true - the Catholic Church was not what I expect to find when I began my journey, but it turned out to be everything that I always wanted. The Church of the Apostles is still with us. The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus started through His Apostles. Still feeling a bit reluctant, the next question I asked myself was the question that concluded my research: -Why would I believe to any other Church, but the Church that was started by the God who saved my life?-

On August 8th, 2006 I was Confirmed and received into the Catholic Church, taking St. Joseph as my patron Saint. It was funny; St. Joseph was there as a kid, as I use to ride my bike past St. Joseph Hospital in Warren, Ohio, and there he was again at my hour of conversion in St. Joseph Parish. I suppose he has always been there watching me move along.

God has been so merciful and gracious with me and has never led me wrong. I am so happy that He brought me to His Church kicking and screaming all along the way, because I appreciate the struggle and the journey. Even today, as I knell down at Mass, I have to shake my head with a grin that I am actually a Roman Catholic and the happiest I have ever been in my life.

12 comments:

epsilon said...

Powerful stuff - so inspiring and humbling to those of us who have taken our Faith for granted all these years.

Anonymous said...

Keep your heart open to God. There are inconsistencies between the Roman Catholic church and the Bible. Does the Bible not say that all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God? But the Catholic church says she never sinned and they pray to her as queen of heaven. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. Don't pray to those who have died.

Michael said...

There are inconsistencies between the Roman Catholic church and the Bible.

Christ did not found a Book.
He founded a Teaching Church.


Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus Christ wrote a book or commanded anyone else to write a Gospel. In fact the only place where it is recorded that He wrote anything at all, is in John 8:6-8.

He wrote on the ground with His finger, and to this day, we do not even know what He wrote.

However, He did found a beautiful Church. He made her His Bride, and He made her a teaching Church.

His teaching Church had been in existence for over a decade before the first book of the New Testament was even written.

By the time Revelation, the last book of the Bible was written about 100 A.D., the Church was already on its fifth Pope.

"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." (Matthew 28:19-20)

Michael said...

Anonymous said...
Don't pray to those who have died.

Praying for the Dead

II Maccabees 12:43-46: "And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve thousand 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 up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."

Those who've died in a state of grace are not truly "dead"; they are our beloved in Heaven or in Purgatory (on their way to Heaven) and will forever be, world without end, part of the Communion of Saints -- the Church Triumphant (the Saints in Heaven, whether or not they are beatified or canonized), the Church Suffering (the saints in Purgatory), and the Church Militant (the saints on earth).

Because we can't know, aside from those the Church has beatified or canonized, who is already in Heaven, who is in Purgatory for a time, or who is damned, we pray for the dead for the rest of our lives -- assuming they are in Purgatory, while hoping they are in Heaven and not damned.

We also ask those who've died to pray for us. While those whom the Church has deemed to be of the Church Triumphant (the canonized Saints) are in Heaven for certain and are, therefore, in no need of our prayers for them, we've always asked for them to pray for us. As to the Church Suffering in Purgatory, Aquinas teaches that they are not able to know, by themselves, our prayers; however, it is piously believed, and taught by St. Alphonsus Liguori, that God makes our prayers known to them -- not directly, as they are deprived of the Beatific Vision until they enter Heaven, but by infusing this knowledge into their souls. St. Bellarmine teaches that because the Church Suffering is so close to God -- much closer than we are and having the great consolation of knowing they are saved -- their prayers for us are very effective. So, as you pray for your dead loved ones, ask them to pray for you, too!

As to the damned, there is no hope; no prayer can help them and we can't pray formally for those in Hell. The problem, of course, is that we can't know who is damned, and so we pray generally for "all the faithful departed." For those who've died outside of visible Communion with Christ's Church or for those Catholics who've died seemingly without repentance and in scandal, public prayer cannot be offered, but we can most certainly still pray privately with the hope that they've died in a state of grace (i.e., those who are denied a Catholic funeral can't be prayed for liturgically, publicly, but they can most definitely be prayed for -- and should be prayed for -- privately). Priests can even offer Masses for such people privately, without naming them.

Michael said...

Anonymous said...
But the Catholic church says she never sinned and they pray to her as queen of heaven.

The Immaculate Conception

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain.

The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter").

The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit.

In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.

Michael said...

Fundamentalists’ Objections

Fundamentalists’ chief reason for objecting to the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s consequent sinlessness is that we are told that "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Besides, they say, Mary said her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior.

Let’s take the second citation first. Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.

Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way:

She was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that she was "redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son" (CCC 492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!

But what about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Have all people committed actual sins? Consider a child below the age of reason. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin.

This is indicated by Paul later in the letter to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11).

We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So if Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the New Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the New Eve (Mary) can also be made.

Paul’s comment seems to have one of two meanings. It might be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass of mankind (which means young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out).

If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception, is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for the unborn, even for Mary—but she, though due to be subject to it, was preserved by God from it and its stain.

The objection is also raised that if Mary were without sin, she would be equal to God. In the beginning, God created Adam, Eve, and the angels without sin, but none were equal to God. Most of the angels never sinned, and all souls in heaven are without sin. This does not detract from the glory of God, but manifests it by the work he has done in sanctifying his creation.

Sinning does not make one human. On the contrary, it is when man is without sin that he is most fully what God intends him to be.

Michael said...

continued

The Immaculate Conception

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was "invented" at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals.

They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.

Actually, doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine.

In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her.

Michael said...

The Assumption

The doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her. It’s also necessary to keep in mind what the Assumption is not. Some people think Catholics believe Mary "ascended" into heaven. That’s not correct. Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.

The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, "after the completion of her earthly life" (note the silence regarding her death), "was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven."

The possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: "[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many."

Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called "paradise," where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

Michael said...

No Remains

There is also what might be called the negative historical proof for Mary’s Assumption. It is easy to document that, from the first, Christians gave homage to saints, including many about whom we now know little or nothing. Cities vied for the title of the last resting place of the most famous saints. Rome, for example, houses the tombs of Peter and Paul, Peter’s tomb being under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In the early Christian centuries relics of saints were zealously guarded and highly prized. The bones of those martyred in the Coliseum, for instance, were quickly gathered up and preserved—there are many accounts of this in the biographies of those who gave their lives for the faith.

It is agreed upon that Mary ended her life in Jerusalem, or perhaps in Ephesus. However, neither those cities nor any other claimed her remains, though there are claims about possessing her (temporary) tomb. And why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there weren’t any bones to claim, and people knew it. Here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints, certainly the most saintly, but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere.

Michael said...

Complement to the Immaculate Conception

Over the centuries, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church spoke often about the fittingness of the privilege of Mary’s Assumption. The speculative grounds considered include Mary’s freedom from sin, her Motherhood of God, her perpetual virginity, and—the key—her union with the salvific work of Christ.

The dogma is especially fitting when one examines the honor that was given to the ark of the covenant. It contained the manna (bread from heaven), stone tablets of the ten commandments (the word of God), and the staff of Aaron (a symbol of Israel’s high priesthood). Because of its contents, it was made of incorruptible wood, and Psalm 132:8said, "Arise, O Lord, and go to thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy might."

If this vessel was given such honor, how much more should Mary be kept from corruption, since she is the new ark—who carried the real bread from heaven, the Word of God, and the high priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ.

Some argue that the new ark is not Mary, but the body of Jesus. Even if this were the case, it is worth noting that 1 Chronicles 15:14 records that the persons who bore the ark were to be sanctified. There would be no sense in sanctifying men who carried a box, and not sanctifying the womb who carried God himself! After all, wisdom will not dwell "in a body under debt of sin" (Wis. 1:4 NAB).

But there is more than just fittingness. After all, if Mary is immaculately conceived, then it would follow that she would not suffer the corruption in the grave, which is a consequence of sin [Gen. 3:17, 19].

Michael said...

Mary’s Cooperation

Mary freely and actively cooperated in a unique way with God’s plan of salvation (Luke 1:38; Gal. 4:4). Like any mother, she was never separated from the suffering of her Son (Luke 2:35), and Scripture promises that those who share in the sufferings of Christ will share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). Since she suffered a unique interior martyrdom, it is appropriate that Jesus would honor her with a unique glory.

All Christians believe that one day we will all be raised in a glorious form and then caught up and rendered immaculate to be with Jesus forever (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 21:27). As the first person to say "yes" to the good news of Jesus (Luke 1:38), Mary is in a sense the prototypical Christian, and received early the blessings we will all one day be given.

The Bible Only?

Since the Immaculate Conception and Assumption are not explicit in Scripture, Fundamentalists conclude that the doctrines are false. Here, of course, we get into an entirely separate matter, the question of sola scriptura, or the Protestant "Bible only" theory.

There is no room in this tract to consider that idea. Let it just be said that if the position of the Catholic Church is true, then the notion of sola scriptura is false. There is then no problem with the Church officially defining a doctrine which is not explicitly in Scripture, so long as it is not in contradiction to Scripture.

The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly—guided, as he promised, by the Holy Spirit until the end of the world (John 14:26, 16:13). The mere fact that the Church teaches that something is definitely true is a guarantee that it is true (cf. Matt. 28:18-20, Luke 10:16, 1 Tim. 3:15

Michael said...

THE AWESOME POWER OF THE VIRGIN MARY TO ANSWER PRAYERS

From the Book: The Glories of Mary, by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

"We read in the life of the servant of God, Sister Seraphina of Capri, that once during the novena of the Assumption of Mary she asked our Blessed Lady for the conversion of a thousand sinners, but afterwards thought that she had asked too much; and then the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and corrected her for her ungrounded anxiety, saying, 'Why dost thou fear? Is it that I am not sufficiently powerful to obtain from my Son the conversion of a thousand sinners? See, I have already obtained the favor.' With these words, she took her in spirit to heaven, and there showed her innumerable souls which had deserved hell, but had been saved through her intercession, and were already enjoying eternal happiness."