|PART ONE: Salvation History
What do we mean by saying, "Salvation history? We mean the story
of Our Father's dealing with the human race. At the start, He picked one
people for special help, and planned later to offer this special help to
all people. We can see this from what St. Paul says Ephesians 3. 3-6.
Paul says that God has revealed to him the mystery that earlier times
had not known. It was this: not only the Jews, but the gentiles too are
called to be part of the people of God!
But even before Christ came, Our Father did provide for the gentiles,
who were not among the chosen people. St. Paul reasons this way in
Romans 3. 29: "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God
also of the gentiles?" St. Paul means that if God did not take care
for the salvation of all, He would act as though He were the God of the
Jews only. But, St. Paul insists, He did take care for all. He did this
through faith. He did this even for those who had never heard of the
future coming of Christ.
We can see this from what St. Paul tells us in Romans 2. 14-16. There
Paul says that Spirit of God, who is of course the same as the Spirit of
Christ, writes His law in the hearts of all. Those who accept that law,
may not know that what they are accepting is the Spirit of Christ.
Still, they really accept that Spirit of Christ, if they do what He
tells them in their hearts to do. So they have what we could all an
implicit faith. So, because they accept the Spirit of Christ without
knowing that that is what they are doing they can even be called
Christians. For St. Justin the Martyr, around 150 A.D., in his First
Apology (46) said that many in the past who even might have seemed to be
atheists, were really Christians, because they followed the Divine Word.
That is what we have just described. St. Augustine wrote about this, in
his Retractations (1. 13. 3) where he answered the pagan Celsus. Celsus
said it seemed as though God took no care of people in past times. St.
Augustine said: "This very thing which is now called the Christian
religion existed before. It was not absent from the beginning of the
human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh, and then the true
religion, that already existed, began to be called Christian."
Scientists don't agree on how old the human race is. But in 1983 Allan
Wilson of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote that all the
human there are today descended from one mother, who lived 350,000 years
ago (Science News, August 13, 1983). Many scientists today think Wilson
is right, but they now say the mother lived 200,000 years ago (Newsweek,
Jan 11, 1988).
The oldest religions for which we have good records are those of the
Near East, especially, the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The
Pyramid Texts, carved on the walls and rooms of Egyptian pyramids, tell
us much. They date from about 2800 B.C. These peoples all were
polytheists, that is, they believed in many gods. However, many
anthropologists tell us that the most primitive peoples we know about,
seem to have worshipped only one God, and many of them called Him Sky
Father. It is likely that our whole race was similar at the start, after
the fall of Adam and Eve.
Abraham the Father of All Believers
Abram, later called Abraham, came from Ur, near the north end of the
Persian Gulf. His father Terah moved the family north to Haran (Genesis
11:25-31). When did the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live?,
Educated guesses run from about 2000 to 1700 B.C.
When Abram was 75 years old, God told him to move to Canaan. He did
that with His wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and their followers (Genesis
12:4). In chapter 15 of Genesis we read that God promised Abram his
descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky. Abraham
believed God. The faith made Abram righteous: he became in the right
with God, he received what we call sanctifying grace. St. Paul, in
Galatians 3:6-9 and all of chapter 4 of Romans, says we become children
of Abraham by imitating his faith, and in that way we too are justified.
(Later we will see what St. Paul means by faith. Briefly, it includes
belief in what God teaches, confidence in His promises, obedience to
God's commands, and love.)
But St. Paul stresses that Abraham got this justification even before
God commanded him to be circumcised, for God did not order that until
later, in chapter 17 of Genesis. In that chapter, we read that God
changed the name to Abraham from Abram, and changed his wife's name to
Sarah. This happened when Abraham was 99 years ago, and Sarah was 90.
She had been sterile, unable to have children, all her life. Yet God
promised that in the next year she would have a son, Isaac, and that
through him Abraham would be the father of many nations.
Sometime later, when Isaac was still a young boy, God ordered Abraham
(Genesis chapter 22) to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on a certain
mountain. Abraham did not hesitate, even though this seemed to clash
with the promise that many nations would come from him through Isaac. He
went ahead, and was on the point of actually killing Isaac, when an
angel told him to stop. He then offered a ram, who was stuck in the
bushes, in place of his son. This was magnificent faith which held on
even when it seemed impossible to believe.
Toward the end of his life, Abraham arranged to have Isaac marry one
of his kinsfolk, Rebekah (Genesis 24). Abraham left all his possessions
to Isaac, and died at the age of 175 (Genesis 25).
Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. God changed Isaac's name to
Israel, which became the name of all the Hebrew people (Genesis 32:29).
Jacob had twelve sons, each of whom was the head of one of the twelve
tribes of Israel.
One of the most beautiful and moving stories in Scripture was that of
Joseph, the older of the two sons of Jacob by Rachel. Joseph was favored
by his Father. So his brothers became jealous of him and sold him as a
slave into Egypt. There he was put into prison for refusing the advances
of the wife of his owner, for she charged him with exactly what he had
refused. In prison he was able to interpret dreams of two of the
Pharaoh's former servants. One was executed, the other restored to
favor. The one who was restored forgot Joseph until the King himself had
strange dreams. So they called Joseph was summoned. He said the dreams
meant 7 years of great crops were coming, and then seven years of
famine. Joseph said they should save grain in the 7 rich years. Pharaoh
made him Vizier, that is, second in command in Egypt. When the famine
came, Joseph's aged father had to send his brothers to Egypt for grain.
They did not recognize Joseph, dressed as the powerful Vizier. He put
them to some tests, but finally in a most dramatic scene said: "I
am Joseph, your brother." Can we imagine the look on their faces!
The Pharaoh invited Jacob and the whole tribe to move to Egypt, to
Goshen. Jacob however had asked to be buried in Canaan with Abraham and
Isaac. Joseph did as his Father asked.
Before dying, Jacob gave a blessing to each of his sons, and foretold
about Judah (Genesis 49. 10): "The scepter will not depart from
Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh
comes." Shiloh meant the Messiah, the one who was to be sent. This
prophecy was fulfilled most dramatically! For there always was some kind
of ruler from the tribe of Judah until 41 B.C. when Rome put Herod over
them. Herod was supposed to follow the Jewish religion, but was not from
the tribe of Judah. By birth he was half Arab, half Idumean.
The Messiah in Prophecy
At this point let us say something about the marvelous sweep of our
Father's plans, and the prophecies over the whole time of the Old
Testament. We are going to get help from some ancient Jewish documents
called Targums, to understand the prophecies. These were old Aramaic
translations of the Scriptures, which were free in their language, and
filled in interpretations to show how to understand the prophecies. We
know the Jews saw these things without seeing them fulfilled in Christ,
for they rejected Him. We know that after the fall of Jerusalem in 70
A.D. the Jews lost interest in the Messiah until about 500 A.D. Even
then they did not speak of most of the ancient prophecies, only that he
should be of the line of David. So we can be sure these Targum
interpretations were very early, before 70 AD, for they could not have
been written in the centuries when the Jews no longer cared to speak of
the Messiah. Yet the Targums saw the Messiah in very many places in the
Here are the chief ones. Right after the fall of Adam and Eve, God
promised (Genesis 3:15): "I will put enmity between you [the
serpent] and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will strike
at your head, you will strike at his heel." The Targum saw this was
in a way Messianic, and said it involved a victory for the sons of the
woman. Today the Church (cf. LG # 55) with the help of fuller light from
the Holy Spirit, sees Our Lady, the Mother of the Redeemer, and her Son
in this text.
When the Jews were near to the promised land after their long
wandering, the King of Moab hired a pagan prophet, Balaam, (Numbers
22-24) to curse the Jews. But Balaam, moved by God, could not curse
them, instead he blessed them, and foretold that a star would arise out
of Jacob. The Targums know this was the Messiah. Centuries later,
sometime before 700 B.C., the great Prophet Isaiah in 9:5-6 spoke of a
child, whom the Targums said was the Messiah: "A child is born to
us, a son is given to us, the government is upon his shoulder. His name
shall be called Wonderful Counselor, God the Mighty, Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace."
Now since the large passage of Isaiah 7:1 through 12:6 is called and
is, the Book of Emmanuel, it is clear that the child of Isaiah 7.14 is
also the Messiah: "Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel." The Targums as they are today do
not make this line messianic. But we know that the great teacher Hillel
of the time of Christ did say it talked about the Messiah. We know that
later Jews stopped calling it Messianic, to try to oppose the Christian
use of the text.
When the Magi came to Jerusalem to ask where the new King was to be
born, Herod called in the Jewish theologians. They had no difficulty
replying it was at Bethlehem, according to the prophet Micah 5:2.
The Targum also knew that Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the Passion
was messianic, though again in their eagerness to oppose Christ,
they later distorted it. And Jesus Himself on the cross let us know that
Psalm 22 referred to His Passion. In that Psalm verses 16- 17 say:
"They have pierced my hands and my feet." No wonder that some
fine Jewish scholars today, like Jacob Neusner, say that at the time of
Christ, the Jews were strongly expecting the Messiah.
Further, if even the Jews could see so much in these prophecies, it
is evident that Our Lady, full of grace, would see it all the more
easily. For when the Archangel told her (Lk 1:33) that her Son would
reign over the house of Jacob forever, she could not miss the fact that
He was to be the Messiah. Jews in general then said the Messiah would
Moses and the Ten Commandments
Easily the greatest human figure in the Old Testament was Moses, who
is mentioned 80 times in the Old Testament, more than any other person.
He came from the tribe of Levi, which was to be the priestly tribe. When
a new dynasty of Pharaohs came in Egypt that did not remember the great
things Joseph had done, the Pharaoh began to oppress the Jews. He even
ordered all boy babies to be killed. But the mother of Moses put him
into a basket on the edge of the Nile. There the daughter of the Pharaoh
found him, and raised him as her own. Later Moses left the royal court,
and went to Midian, where God appeared to him in a burning bush (Exodus
3), revealed His name, and told him to go to the Pharaoh to deliver the
people of Israel from slavery. It took ten plagues to make Pharaoh
willing to release them.
After this Moses led them through the Red Sea, which miraculously
opened for them. They came to the foot of Mt. Sinai, where God gave
Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), written on two stone tablets
The Gospels will picture Jesus as the new Moses. He is the prophet
Moses foretold (Deuteronomy 18:15 and Luke 24:27). The passage of the
Red See was a prefiguration that is, a prophecy by action rather
than by words of Baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2). Moses gave the law,
which Jesus said must stand (Matthew 5:17). St. Paul may seem to say we
do not need to keep the law (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28). But as the
Second Epistle of Peter warns us (2 Peter 3:16) St. Paul often speaks
unclearly. But if we study his words, we see that he really means that
to keep the law does not earn heaven, though to break it earns the
opposite (Romans 6. 23). St. Paul also says often (1 Cor 6. 10) that
those who sin greatly will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. A child
does not say he earns what he inherits from his parents: he gets it
because they are good, not because he is good. Our Lord expressed the
same truth when He said (Matthew 18:3): "If you do not change and
become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of
Heaven". Again, Moses gave the people manna in the journey to the
Promised Land; Jesus gives us the Bread of Life, Himself in the Holy
Eucharist ( John 6:32). When the people were dying from the bites of
serpents, Moses put up a bronze serpent on a pole so that all who looked
on it were healed: the Cross of Jesus saves us from eternal death (John
3:14). Moses had a priesthood, but that of Jesus far surpasses it
(Hebrews 8:54). God made a covenant with the people through Moses,
promising favor if they would obey (Exodus 19:5); Jesus sealed the New
Covenant in the obedience of His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-22).
This does not mean we do not need to do anything, since His sacrifice
was infinite. No: St. Paul makes clear many times over that we are saved
and made holy only if and to the extent that we are members of Jesus and
like Him in all things, e.g., Romans 8:17: "We are heirs together
with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him, so we may also be
glorified with Him." Moses sealed that Old Covenant with the blood
of animals; Jesus sealed the New with His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-22).
David, Royal Ancestor of the Messianic King
For all his greatness, Moses was not the ancestor of Jesus. Our Lord,
on the human side, came from the great King David. The genealogies in
the Gospels of Matthew and Luke make that clear. St. Paul too in Romans
1:3-4 says that the Gospel is the good news about the Son of God,
"who came from the line of David, according to the flesh."
So often in the Gospels we see Jesus called the "son of
David" and the "seed of David." At the Annunciation, as
we already saw, the Archangel told Our Lady: "The Lord God will
give Him the throne of his father David; he shall rule over the house of
Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).
Just as David was the ruler of the kingdom of God on earth, so Jesus
is the Head of His visible Kingdom, which is to last forever. The words
"Kingdom of God" can vary somewhat in sense in the Gospels,
but very often they mean the Church in this world and/or in the next.
For example, Jesus told His enemies that "the kingdom of God will
be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a rich
harvest." It meant that the fact that they were rejecting Him put
them outside the Kingdom of the Messiah, the Church, the People of God
(compare Romans 11:13-24, where the tame olive tree stands for the
original People of God, which lost so many branches through their lack
of faith in the Messiah, while gentiles from the wild olive tree were
engrafted into their places). We see the fact that the kingdom often
means the Church in the parable of the Mustard seed (Matthew 13:31), in
the parable of the net (Matthew 13:47-50), and in many other places. At
the end of the world, the angels will separate the wicked from the just,
and the wicked will go into hell forever.
Jesus also made clear, especially in Matthew 5:1-12, that the joy of
the Kingdom comes even in this world to the poor in spirit, to those who
feed the hungry, clothe the naked in His name, and hunger or even suffer
for what is righteous.
The earthly kingdom of the Church will continue in the heavenly
kingdom (cf. Vatican II, LG # 48). Vatican II also taught (LG #8):
"The one Mediator, Christ, established and constantly sustains His
one and holy Church as the visible community of faith, hope and love, by
which He pours truth and grace upon all.
Jesus is our Way, our Truth, and Our Life (John 14: 5-6). He is the
Truth because it is from His teaching that we learn what we need to know
to reach Heaven. He entrusted the interpretation and guarding of these
truths to His Church, to which He promised divine protection in its
Jesus is also our Way, since by His example as well as by His
teachings, He showed us how we need to live in this world, to attain our
eternal goal. We need to follow His rules, the Commandments, and to move
also in the direction of the ideals given us in the Eight Beatitudes.
He is our Life, because He gave us the Mass and the seven Sacraments,
which feed, nourish, and heal us at every point in our lives. And He
gave us His own prayer, the Our Father. Through the Sacraments and
prayer we are born again into life, for to those who receive Him
"he gave the power to become the sons of God, those who believe in
His name, who are not born of blood or of the will of the flesh or of
man, but of God (John 1. 12-13).
How to Give Reasons for Our Faith
When we were small, we believed things just because other older
people said so. But when we grow up, we should, as St. Peter urged us (1
Peter 3:15),"Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks
you for a reason for the hope that is in you."
Let us sketch the chief lines of how this is done. We begin with the
Gospels, but do not at first look upon them as inspired we still
have to prove that. So for now, we think of them only as ancient
documents. We give them many tests, such as we use on other ancient
documents. We reach the point where it is clear we can get from them a
few simple, uncomplicated facts about Jesus (We mean things not entwined
in an ancient culture, things that eyes and ears can pick up so directly
and without any need of interpretation that danger of bias is not
present). We look and find these six simple things:
1) There was a man
2) He claimed He was sent from God, as a sort of
3) He proved this, by working miracles in situations where
there was a tie
established between the miracle and His claims (e.g.,
where He cured the paralytic to prove He had forgiven the
4) He had an inner circle in the crowds that followed Him,
and He spoke
more to them, and
5) told them to continue His work, His
6) He promised God would protect their teachings: "He who
hears you hears
me" (Luke 10:16. Cf. Matthew 1:17-18).
identifies with them that is, says He who hears you hears me not
just in the way in which He identifies with the poor. No, He says they
are speaking in His place as teachers, not as poor. So, finally, we see
in front of us a group or Church, with a commission to teach by a
messenger from God, and promised divine protection on that teaching.
Then we not only may but should believe its teachings. Among other
things, it tells us that this messenger from God was really God, that
the ancient documents we used are really inspired, that there is a Pope,
and what powers he has.
PART TWO: The Apostle's Creed
Christ our Truth
For about the first century and a half, the creeds, the professions
of faith probably did not always have the same wording. But, as St. Paul
tells us in Romans l0:9: "If with your mouth you confess that Jesus
is the Lord, and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the
dead, you will be saved." We need now to fill in an explanation:
That word saved has three meanings in Scripture:
1)rescue from temporal
2) entry into the Church,
mistake some fundamentalist Protestants make, of saying
"saved" means being infallibly sure of heaven as a result of
just once "taking Christ as your Savior" this has no
scholarly backing at all. It is not found in Scripture. Here in 10:9
saved means entry into the Church by a profession of faith. The first
evidence of the use of a fixed formula comes in the questions a
candidate for Baptism at Rome was asked, in the early third century (cf.
Hippolytus, Tradition of the Apostles 21). With some further fill-ins,
this became the standardized wording for a confession of faith in the
western churches, the Apostles' Creed. Even if the Apostles did not
directly compose it, yet it goes back to the basic truths they preached,
in accord with the commission given them by Jesus Himself (Mt 28.
19-20): "Go then and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe
all things that I have commanded you."
The Roman Catechism of Pope St. Pius V officially explained
this so that Pope John Paul II called the Catechism "a work of the
first rank as a summary of Christian teaching.
Our belief in the truths of the Creed is not just an opinion; no, it
is a most firm acceptance of these things on the authority of God
Himself who has revealed them, so that we will also have confidence in
His promises, and obey His commands (cf. St. Paul, Romans 1:5, "the
obedience of faith", i.e. the obedience that faith is). That is why
Vatican II (On Revelation # 5) tells us that in faith "a
person freely commits himself totally to God, giving the full commitment
of mind and will to God who reveals, and voluntarily assenting to the
revelation He has given."
We know what God has revealed by means of the teachings of the Church
Jesus founded, as we saw in part one. If anyone thinks the words of
Scripture are self-interpreting, so that he does not need the Church, he
has only to look at the yellow pages in the telephone book, and see the
countless denominations, all of which claim they know the
"obvious" meaning of Scripture. But it was not to these
denominations, which did not even exist then, that Jesus promised
"He who hears you hears me" (Luke 10:16). They appeared on the
scene only centuries after Jesus. If His promises could fail for
centuries, we could not trust His promises as all.
The basic revelation of the message of Jesus was completed when the
last Apostle died and the New Testament was completed (Cf. Vatican II, On
Divine Revelation #4) Any revelation after that time is called
"private" to distinguish it. (The word private is used even
for a revelation addressed to the whole world, such as Fatima). There is
to be no new public revelation until the glorious return of our Lord at
the end of time.
His Church teaches in varied ways at times by a solemn
definition, at times by less formal statements. The key point to watch
is whether or not the Church presents some truth as to be held
definitively. It can do this in rather formal public utterances, or in
the day to day teaching given throughout the world, presenting things as
definitive (Cf. Vatican II, LG #25). All these teachings are
protected by the promises of Christ. At times too the Church teaches in
a way that is not definitive. Even then we should not only keep from
openly contradicting, but should accept it in our minds, with the
understanding that there could be a far-out possibility of a slip. Yet
the experience of centuries shows that is much more remote than is our
belief that a dish of food we often eat out of a can, is free of the
deadly poison of Botulism, even though we do not send all cans to a lab
for checking. The divine protection Jesus promised to the Church is so
great that if the entire Church, people as well as authorities, has ever
accepted something as revealed even for one period of history
that belief is infallible (Vatican II, LG # 12). If a later
generation falls away from that belief, what was once infallibly
guaranteed cannot become untrue. We find what God has revealed in both
Scripture and Tradition, which both come from the same source, and tend
to the same goal. Yet they are not identical. Vatican II, On Divine
Revelation # 9, said: " The Church draws her certainty on what is
revealed not only from Sacred Scripture."
But we look to the Church for the guaranteed interpretation of both
Scripture and Tradition. Vatican II said, On Divine Revelation # 10:
"The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether
written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition] has been entrusted
exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority
is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." So a theologian who
would say he must ignore the Church to find the truth is not a Catholic
theologian, and his search is apt to end in failure.
First Article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father
Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."
In this article we express our belief in the existence of God. He is
a pure spirit, that is, He has no matter at all, and no parts.
We call Him Father, since He is the supreme source of everything, the
one "from whom all Fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its
name" (Ephesians 3. 16).
We call Him the Creator, since He has made all things , not out of
some previously existing material, but simply out of nothing. Now to
bring nothing up to any degree of being is an infinite distance, and so
we see He has infinite power. By just willing it, He can do all things.
So in Genesis 1 He merely spoke and said, "Let light be." And
light came into existence. Really, He did not speak in our sense of the
word; He merely willed it, and it came into being.
To describe Him we use the word attributes. These are the perfections
that He has, which we attribute to Him by comparison with creatures.
Some of His attributes belong to Him by His very nature; others belong
to Him in relation to the world He made.
The chief attributes that are His by His very nature are His
unchangeability and eternity. He is unchangeable. Since He has the
fullness of being, He could not change into anything higher or better,
or acquire anything: "I, the Lord, do not change", He said
through the prophet Malachi (3:6). We call Him eternal not in the sense
that there always was time, and in it He always was. No, since He is
unchangeable there is no past or future for Him: all is one unchanging
present. So when we say that He made the world a past expression
to His divine mind it registers as present! "Before the mountains
were born, before you brought forth the earth and the world, from
everlasting to everlasting you are, O God" (Psalm 90:2). There are
attributes that follow upon God's relation to this world. He is
omnipotent or almighty because "nothing is impossible to God"
(Luke 1:37). The book of Sirach 23:20 says: "Before they were made,
all things were known to Him." So He is all-knowing, or omniscient.
We say He is present everywhere. In Jeremiah 23:24 He said: "Do I
not fill heaven and earth?" Yet He is not present in the sense of
taking up space, as we do: we say a Spirit is present wherever it causes
an effect. He caused all things to come into being, and keeps them in
being. Since He rewards good and punishes evil we call Him all-just. St.
Paul wrote (Romans 2:6): "He will repay each one according to his
works." He guides and directs the paths of all creatures, and hence
the First Epistle of Peter 5:7 can say: "Cast all your care upon
Him, for He takes care of you". He is all-good since He is the
author of everything that is good, and wills eternal good to us. Psalm
136:1, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good."
Even though everything the Three Persons do outside the Divine nature
is done by all Three, yet it is suitable that we attribute some works
specially to one or the other Person. So we speak of the Father
especially as the power of creation, of the Son as the wisdom of the
Father, of the Holy Spirit as goodness and sanctification.
2. The Holy Trinity
Perhaps the deepest, the most profound of all mysteries is the fact
that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet we
do not speak of three Gods, but only one God. They have the same nature,
substance, and being.
We came to know this immense mystery because Christ revealed it to
us. Just before ascending He told them: "Go teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). We know that these Three are not just
different ways of looking at one person. For at the Last Supper, Jesus
told us: "I came forth from the Father. So He is different from the
Father." But He also promised: "If I go, I will send Him [the
Paraclete] to you... He will guide you to all truth. (John 16:28, 7,
13). So the Holy Spirit is also different.
Even though the Three Persons are One God, yet they are distinct: for
the Father has no origin, He came from no one. But the Son is begotten,
He comes from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit comes or proceeds from
both the Father and the Son. These different relations of origin tell us
there are three distinct Persons, who have one and the same divine
The First Epistle of John (4:8) says, "God is love." Now to
love is to will good to another for the other's sake. The Father wills
divinity to the Son; Father and Son together will divinity to the Holy
Spirit, who is the love of the Father and the Son. This complete
self-giving of the Three Persons is the divine model for the love we
It is strictly correct to say that God is love, since if we said that
He has love, there would be a duality, two. But He is totally unity. He
is identified with each of His attributes. So He is mercy, He is
justice, and therefore in some way, mercy and justice are identified in
Him. We can see something of this when we notice that if someone goes on
sinning, He gradually loses his ability to see spiritual truths: this is
justice, but it is also mercy, for the more one understands of the
spiritual truths, the greater his responsibility. Similarly, one who
makes steady progress spiritually, finds ever-increasing light to
understand spiritual things: in a sense this is something earned, is
justice; but more basically, it is mercy, for no creature by its own
power can generate a claim on God. All He gives is unmerited mercy.
3. Creation and Divine Providence
To create is to make things out of nothing, with no material at all
being used. We cannot ask: why did God wait so long before creating the
world, because before creation, there is no time. Time is a measure of
change on a scale of before and after (Aristotle, Physics 4:11).
Therefore when if we may use that word at all in speaking of
eternity there was no change, there was no time. Time began to be
when changing creatures came into being. Time is a restless continuous
set of changes. Ahead is a moment we call future it quickly changes
into present then quickly changes into past. God could have created
from all eternity, and the world would have been eternal. For there is
no point in eternity (if we may use such a word) at which He did not
have the power to create. But Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the
beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And Christ told
His Father :"You loved me before the foundation of the world"
St. Irenaeus wrote: "In the beginning God formed Adam, not
because He was in need of humans, but so He might have someone to
receive His benefits" (Against Heresies 4. 14. 1). So we can say He
always loved us, since He always willed us the most basic good,
existence. Beyond that, He wills that, "all be saved and come to
the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). If to will good to
another is to love, then this is really love. But when we love, we need
a starter, we need to see something good or fine in another. But God
began (if we may use that word) to love us when we did not exist. His
Son died for us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:6).
When we say that He created for His own glory, we must understand
these words the way Vatican I meant them: He made a creature that by its
very nature would give glory to God, even though God gains nothing by
that glory. (We read this in the acts and decrees of Vatican I, found in
Collectio Lacensis , VII. 116). Similarly, He wants us to obey because
all goodness says creatures should obey their Creator, and because as
St. Irenaeus said, He wanted to have someone to whom to be generous in
He keeps all things in existence by the same power by which He
brought them up out of nothing. "And how, if you had not willed it,
could anything continue in being if you did not will it?" (Wisdom
11:25). Our dependence on Him for continued existence is like that of
the images on the movie screen dependent on the projector.
His providence watches over and guides everything: "No creature
is invisible before Him: all are bare and uncovered to His eyes"
(Hebrews 4:13). His wisdom "extends from end to end mightily and
governs all well" (Wisdom 8:1).
As we saw from 1 Timothy 2:4, He "wills all to be saved".
That will to save us is so great that He did not spare His only Son, but
sent Him to a horrible death, to make eternal life open for us (Rom
8:32). Thus He really, "proved His love" (Rom 5:8). For the
greater an obstacle the one who loves can get over in trying to bring
happiness and well-being to the beloved, the greater the love must be.
So He gives His helps, His grace, most abundantly, since the infinite
price of redemption (cf. 1 Cor 6. 20; 7:23) paid for an infinite
treasury of forgiveness and grace for each individual one, for "He
loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). This does not
mean that someone could say: Since I have so great an abundance going
for me, I can sin greatly most of my life, and pull up short at the end.
No, one who sins much becomes spiritually blind, incapable of receiving
the graces God so greatly wills to give him.
If we follow up the most basic comparison used by Our Lord Himself in
the Gospel we would say: God is our Father. As such, He wants all His
children to turn out well. But if someone then throws aside His graces
to such an extent that he cannot be saved becoming blind then
with sorrow the Father must let him be lost. But otherwise, He will save
us, not because we earned it, but because He, like any good Father,
wants all His children to turn out well. So St. Paul speaks of sinners
as not being able to "inherit the kingdom" (1 Cor 6:10; Eph
5:5). When we inherit from our parents, we do not say we earned it: we
get it because they are good, not that we are good. But we could have
earned to lose that inheritance by being evil. So Paul said in Romans
6:23: "The wages of sin [what we earn] is death; the free gift of
God [unearned] is eternal life." As a student once said: "As
to salvation, you cannot earn it, but you can blow it." If we live
with this attitude and realization, we fulfill what Our Lord called for:
"If you do not change and become like little children, you will not
enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).
The very first grace is normally the grace to pray. Other things then
follow. St. Augustine wrote well: "See these things, Lord,
mercifully, and free us who now call on you. Free also those who do not
yet call on you, so that they may call on you, and you may free
them" (Confessions 1:9).
When God decided to create the human race, it was inevitable to give
them free will otherwise it would be something other than the human
race. He saw this would give an opening to great evils, but also to very
great goods. He decided to as it were buy the package. There is so much
evil in the world. Why? Physical evils result from the frailty of
creatures, made out of nothing. To stop all of these, God would need to
multiply miracles very frequently but then He would contradict
Himself, constantly going beyond the laws of nature which He Himself had
established. Moral evils come from the fact that He gave us free will
opening the way, as we said, to great good, and great evil. Again,
to prevent these would take miracles of grace constantly, which would be
out of order. And it would reduce human freedom also. However, He can
and does draw much good out of evil, e.g., evils provide the material
for the patience of the just; physical evils give opportunity for much
4. Angels, Good and Bad
An angel is a pure spirit, that is, an angel has no matter, no body.
They are of a nature higher than ours. They are often sent by God for
certain duties on this earth, in fact, the word angel means "one
who is sent" or "messenger." The oldest references to
angels in the Old Testament might leave us wondering if angels are
separate beings or does the phrase "messenger of God"
merely means God? (cf. Judges, chapter 6). But in the later part of the
Old Testament and in the New Testament it becomes entirely clear that
they are distinct creatures. We see this by many references to them in
Scripture, e.g., Psalms 148:2; 103: 20-21; Matthew 22:30; Luke 1:26; 2
Peter 2:4; Revelation/Apocalypse 5:11. Each angel is a person, and has a
mind and a will like ours.
The angels were not created in heaven, that is, with the vision of
God. If they had had that, sin would have been impossible. But God gave
the angels some sort of command we do not know what and some
obeyed, some did not. Those who disobeyed were fixed in evil, and became
devils. When we sin, our intelligence is limited by the material part of
our intellect, the brain in our heads. For a material brain is much less
powerful than the spiritual intelligence our souls have. This means that
we seldom see things as fully as possible at once. But an angel has no
such limit, and hence sees everything as fully as possible at once. So
he cannot go back on his decision, and say: "I see it differently
now; I wish I had not done that". The fallen angels, the devils,
still keep the great powers natural to a pure spirit. So they can do
things that seem like miracles to us.
The good angels are sent to guide and protect us. They too have great
powers. Each of us has a guardian angel. This is implied in Scripture
and is found in the constant Tradition of the Church. After Peter was
delivered from prison by angel, the disciples said in astonishment:
"It was his angel" (Acts 12:15).
Our guardian angels are able to put good thoughts into our minds, and
to protect us. Psalm 91:11 says: "He will command His angels about
you, to guard you in all your ways." In time of temptation they can
give us both light and strength. They never stop praying for us, and
they present our prayers before God.
Clearly, it is only good sense to venerate our guardian angel, to
cultivate their friendship, to thank them, to ask their help. So God
said in Exodus 23:20-21: "Behold, I am sending an angel ahead of
you, to guard you and bring you to the place I have prepared. Listen to
his voice, and do not rebel against him, for my name is in Him, and he
will not forgive."
Because of their disobedience, the wicked angels were condemned to
eternal punishment. St. Peter, using poetic language, says: "When
the angels sinned, God did not spare them, but consigned them to the pit
of hell to be kept for the judgment" (2 Peter 2:4).
As we said, the will of the devil is fixed in evil, and so he tries
to seduce people, to harm them spiritually, and even to bring them to
hell. He wants to lead us from the faithful service of God. First Peter
5:8-9 advises: "Be calm and watch, for your enemy the devil goes
about seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, strong in faith, knowing
that your brothers all over the world have the same trial."
God permits the devil to do this as a result of His decision to
create spiritual beings, having free will. To thwart that regularly
would be to contradict His own natural laws. He does draw good out of
evil: temptation gives us the opportunity to show our faith and to trust
in Him; it give us the chance to grow in virtue by the struggle. And He
has given us a powerful counterforce in our Guardian Angels, and the
Blessed Mother, and ordinary Saints.
5. Nature and Origin of the Human Race
We are creatures made up of spirit and matter, body and soul. Our
spirit is the immaterial soul, which our senses cannot feel. But our
faith tells us it is there. So by way of our soul, we have some share in
the nature of the angels.
We can see that we have a spiritual soul in this way. Each of us has
a concept or idea of dog in general. Our mental dog is not high or low,
long or short, sharp-nosed or pug-nosed. If we hired the very best
artist, offered him any sum and his choice of mediums: oil paints,
carving, casting etc., to make an image of our dog, we would get
nothing. For no material can hold this concept. So that in us which
holds it is not material, but spiritual. This is all the more obvious in
our concepts of goodness, truth, justice etc.
Our soul can exist apart from the body. It will never die, because
being spiritual, it has no parts, and so cannot come apart. It will live
forever in happiness beyond what we can imagine, or in the reverse,
eternal damnation. The Book of Wisdom 3:1-4 says: "The souls of the
just are in the hand of God, and no torment will touch them. They seemed
to die, to the eyes of foolish people, and their departure was
considered evil... but they are in peace. Their hope is full of
Each human soul is directly created by God Himself, it is not
produced by or derived from the parents. The parents produce only the
human body, and do even that, only with the help of God's power. The
uniting of the soul with the body is called infusion. Modern biology
knows that at the moment of conception, when the 23 chromosomes from
each parent join, the complete genetic pattern of a unique being is
already present. So abortion is gravely sinful.
6. Original sin
God had given to our first parents three levels of gifts:
humanity, consisting of a body and soul, with mind and will. Each
within it certain natural drives and needs. No one of these is evil in
itself, but without the help of some added gift to coordinate them, they
to get out of order, to rebel.
2)God gave to our first parents an
added gift, which is just such a
coordinating gift, which made it easy
to keep each drive in its place. (It is
sometimes called the gift of
integrity). When Adam and Eve sinned, the
lower flesh began to get out
of line, to rebel. Hence Adam felt the need of
cover; before the fall,
he did not feel that, for the flesh was easily docile.
God gave them
also exemption from physical death, which otherwise
would be natural to
a being composed of parts, body and soul, which can
come apart, and so
3) He gave them the life of grace, which made the soul basically
the vision of God in the life to come.
God clearly intended they should pass on all thee gifts to their
children, including us. But they lost all but the basic humanity by sin.
Hence they transmit to us only that basic humanity, without the other
The new baby arrives without the grace God willed it should have. An
adult who sins mortally also lacks that grace: hence both can be said to
be in the "state of sin", they lack the grace they should
have, except that the adult is that way by his own fault, the baby
without any fault. John Paul II explained, in a General Audience of
October 1, 1986: "... it is evident that original sin in Adam's
descendants has not the character of personal guilt. It is the privation
of sanctifying grace... ." Privation means the lack of what ought
to be there. So when we speak of transmission of original sin, it would
be more accurate to speak of non-transmission of sanctifying grace.
When we say or hear that our mind is darkened and will weakened, we
mean this only in comparison to what it might have been. Hence John Paul
II also said in a General Audience of October 8, 1986: "According
to the Church's teaching it is a case of a relative and not an absolute
deterioration, not intrinsic to the human faculties... not of a loss of
their essential capacities even in relation to the knowledge and love of
God." In other words, original sin took our race down only to the
essential level, the first level we described. It did not make it
positively corrupt, surely not totally corrupt as Martin Luther thought.
Many today think that the human body evolved from lower beings. If
they say that this happened without any help from God, it is atheistic
evolution. Not only theology rejects that foolish idea, even mere reason
rejects it: it supposes that matter could lift itself up and up higher
by its shoelaces, as it were, with no outside source for the new higher
or added being that turns up each time it rises to become a higher kind
of a being.
Pius XII in Humani generis in 1950 told us we may consider as a
possible not as something proved that God established some
natural laws that would bring about this evolution from lower to higher.
Even so, He would need to supply the higher being at each point where it
would appear, especially the human soul. We would call this theistic
evolution, that is evolution involving the power of God at so many
points. The scientific evidence for bodily evolution is almost
non-existent. "Research News" in Science, November 21, 1980,
reported that the majority of 160 scientists at a conference at the
Field Museum in Chicago said Darwin was wrong in supposing there had
been many intermediate forms between species, e.g., between fish and
birds. The fossils do not give one clear case of that. So the scientists
decided on "Punctuated equilibria", the theory that a species
might stay the same for millions of years, and then suddenly by a fluke
leap up into something higher. No solid proof was reported as offered at
As we mentioned briefly earlier, Science News, August 13, 1983,
reported that Allan Wilson, of the University of California, Berkeley,
said his study of specimens of mitochrondrial DNA from all over the
world, showed all existing humans come from one mother, who lived
350,000 years ago. More recent studies by many scientists agree that
there was only one mother, but lower the age to 200,000 years (cf.
Newsweek, January 11, 1988).
Through the narrative of the forbidden fruit, the Sacred author tells
us that God gave our first parents some kind of command, whether it was
about a tree or something else. Whatever it was, they violated His
orders, and fell from His favor, losing sanctifying grace. (Here we need
to keep in mind what is said in the chapter on Scripture in general on
genre, patterns of writing).
As we said, since our first parents sinned, they did not transmit
sanctifying grace to us. There is, of course, the exception of Jesus and
Mary, who were conceived with that grace. Without it, the soul is not
capable of the vision of God in heaven.
Right after the fall, God promised to send a Redeemer. God said to
the serpent in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the
woman, between her descendants and yours. He will strike at your head,
you will strike at his heel." About this text Vatican II said (LG #
55): "These early documents [meaning chiefly Genesis 3:15, and
Isaiah 7:14), as they are read in the Church, and understood in the
light of later and full revelation, gradually bring to light the figure
of the woman the Mother of the Redeemer." We notice the careful
language. The council said the Church now sees Our Lady in this text,
but only with the help of later revelation, which gradually made it
clear. It did not want to say that the original human writer of Genesis
saw all this we do not know if he did.
PART THREE: The Apostles'
Creed II - V
Second Article: "Jesus Christ His Only Son, Our Lord"
1. The Incarnation
This article teaches that Jesus is the Redeemer promised to Adam and
Eve in Genesis 3:15, the only Son of God, and by that very fact, Lord of
all Creation. He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, sent to the
world by the Father to become man and save us from our sins. So St.
Peter said in Matthew 15:16: "You are the Christ, the son of the
Living God". The name Jesus means Savior, as we see from Matthew
1:2. The name Christ means the Anointed one (cf. Acts 10:38).
We can easily see He was not the same as other great religious
teachers. He not only worked miracles that could be authenticated, but
worked them in contexts such that there was a tie established between
the miracle and the claim, as we see in the healing of the paralytic in
Mark 2. He foretold His own resurrection; He lived a life of such
holiness that He could challenge people: "Which of you can convict
me of sin?" (John 8:46). Hardly anyone else would dare to give such
a challenge! His teaching rested not on human reasoning but on the
divine authority which He claimed, e.g., when He said several times
over: "You have heard it was said to them of old... but I say to
you" (Matthew 5:27-44). He inspired His followers to follow Him
even to dreadful deaths. If someone objects: other religions have had
martyrs too correct. But not one of them can provide the solid
support of data that we can, as shown in our sketch of apologetics in
part one. He founded a Church whose doctrine can and does develop in the
same line, that is, without reversing any previous teaching, over all
centuries. He made clear this was the divinely given means of getting
peace in this life and eternal salvation in the world to come.
"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" wrote St.
John (1:14). So the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed human
nature, He who "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with
God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1)
He became man to redeem us from sin, that is, to pay the debt of our
sins, as Leo the Great said (Letter to Flavian, June 13, 449). We read
in the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:4-5): "God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead
in our transgressions, made us alive again together with Christ."
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 brought to the climax the long
debates about the make-up of Jesus: He is one Person, a Divine Person,
having two natures, divine and human, in such a way that these two
natures remain distinct after the union in the one Person. We call this
union "hypostatic union" from the Greek "hypostasis"
which means person two natures joined in one Person. His human
nature is the same as ours except that He was without sin, even though
He was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). However, this does not mean
that He had within Him disorderly passions. The Second Council of
Constantinople in 553 defined this truth against "impious Theodore
His divine nature is the same as that of the Father. The Council of
Nicea in 325 defined that He is "one in substance [homoousios] with
The Church has repeatedly taught, e. g, in the Encyclicals of Pius
XII on the Mystical body and on the Sacred Heart, that from the first
instant of His conception, Jesus' human mind had the vision of God, in
which all knowledge is available. This was reaffirmed at least
implicitly in the Encyclical Sempiternus Rex of Pius XII, and in the
Letter of the Holy Office under Paul VI, of July 24, 1966 which
complained: "There creeps forth a certain Christological humanism
in which Christ is reduced to the condition of a mere man, who gradually
acquired consciousness of His divine sonship." Pius XII in his
Encyclical, Humani generis, in 1950, pointed out that "if the Popes
in their Acta pass judgment on a matter thus far debated, it is clear to
all that according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, the
question cannot be considered any more open to free discussion among
theologians." He added that these statements come under the promise
of Christ, "He who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16). Of
course, that promise cannot fail.
Really, theological reasoning even without the help of the Church can
reach the same conclusion thus: Any soul has the vision of God if,
besides grace, the divinity joins itself directly to the human mind,
without even an image in between (no image could represent God). Now
since Jesus has a true humanity but it is joined to the divinity in such
a way that there is only one Person (the hypostatic union), it is
obvious that His human soul and mind was joined to the divinity
directly, even more closely than an ordinary soul is joined in the
vision, in which the soul remains one person, while God is a different
Person. But in Jesus there was only one Person. So He not only happened
to have the vision: it could not have been otherwise.
What of the words of Luke 2:51 that He advanced in wisdom? St.
Athanasius in the 4th century found the answer. In his Third Oration
Against the Arians he said: "Gradually as the body grew and the
Word manifested itself in it, He is acknowledged first by Peter, then by
all." In other words: There was no real growth in wisdom, only a
growth in manifestation. If at age 3 for example He had shown His full
wisdom, it would have been overwhelming. Rather, He chose a gradual
self-revelation. Only late in His public life did he say such things as,
"I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and, "Before
Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:57). As to His saying that even the Son
did not know the day of the end (Mark 13:32), Pope Gregory the Great
gave us the answer in his Epistle to Eulogius: "... in the nature
of His humanity He knew the day... but not from the nature of humanity
did He know it." That is, it registered on His human mind, but His
humanity was not the source of that knowledge.
Finally , Plato, the great Greek philosopher, in his Symposium 203,
wrote: "No god associates with men". Aristotle in his
Nichomachean Ethics 8.7 wrote that friendship of a god with a man is
impossible, the distance is too great. What would they have thought had
they learned that God actually became man, and even, that He willed for
our sake to submit to a horrible and shameful death? In the Old
Testament, Deuteronomy 21:23 says: "Cursed be everyone who hangs on
the wood". No wonder St. Paul told the Corinthians (I. 1:23) that
the doctrine of the cross is folly to the Greeks, and a scandal to the
Third Article: "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin
1. The Blessed Virgin Mary: Her Privileges and Relation to Christ and
According to a late tradition, the parents of Our Lady were St.
Joachim and St. Anne, natives of Bethlehem who lived in Nazareth.
Her most fundamental privilege is that of being the Mother of God. We
do not mean she produced the divine nature, of course. But her Son is
God, so she is the Mother of God. Similarly, Mrs. Jones shares only in
the production of the body of her son John, not at all in the making of
his soul. Yet we do not say she is mother of the body of John Jones, but
of John Jones, the person. Pius XI quoted St. Thomas Aquinas with
approval in saying that "From the fact that she is the Mother of
God, she has a sort of infinite dignity from the infinite good that God
is. (Lux veritatis, Dec. 25, 1931, citing Summa I. 25. 6. ad 4).
She conceived her son by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
The Archangel first told her that her Son was to be the Son of the Most
High. However, any devout Jew could be called a son of God. But there
was more: the angel told her He would reign over the house of Jacob
forever: right then she would know He was to be the Messiah, for Jews
then commonly believed the Messiah would reign forever. Finally, the
angel said He would be conceived when the Holy Spirit would
"overshadow" her. That word, she would know, was the one use
to describe the Divine Presence filling the ancient Tabernacle in the
desert (Exodus 40:35). Her Son was to be called Son of God "for
this reason". So that He was the Son of God in a unique sense. From
this alone she likely knew of His divinity, especially when she would
add the words of Isaiah 9. 5-6 that the Messiah would be "God the
Mighty". Even though the Jews found that text hard, she, full of
grace, would readily grasp it.
So this was a virginal conception, that is, without the intervention
of a man. Both Matthew and Luke make this clear. If we believe the
Gospels, we will understand that readily. The teaching of the Church,
already in the oldest creeds which call her "ever-virgin"
tells us she remained a virgin during and after His birth. Some have
tried to say the teaching on her virginity was not physical, but just a
way of expressing her holiness. But it is more than that: Vatican II (LG
# 57) wrote that His birth "did not diminish, but consecrated her
virginal integrity." That word "integrity" refers to
Therefore when the Gospels speak of the "brothers and
sisters" of Jesus, they do not mean other children of Mary. The
Hebrew words were very broad, could cover any sort of relationship. For
that matter, modern English uses these words even more broadly for
members of fraternities and sororities.
As a result of this Divine Motherhood, because it was fitting for Her
Son, she obtained the great grace of the Immaculate Conception, defined
by Pius IX in 1854. This means that from the first instant of conception
her soul had sanctifying grace, in anticipation of the future merits of
Vatican II, Pope John Paul II and others understand the Greek of Luke
1:28, kecharitomene, to mean "full of grace". The Greek
perfect participle is very strong, the root verb means to put someone in
the state of grace/favor. And especially, the word is used instead of
her name. This is like saying someone is Mr. Tennis the ultimate in
tennis. So she is Miss Grace, the ultimate in grace. Pius IX, in
defining the Immaculate Conception, said that even at the start, her
holiness was so great that "none greater under God can be thought
of, and no one but God can comprehend it"! One of the oldest
teachings of the Church is that she is the New Eve: just as the first
Eve really contributed to the disaster of original sin, so Mary the New
Eve really contributed to removing it, that is, to redeeming us. Every
Pope since Leo XIII, and Vatican II, in seventeen documents have said
that her role in redeeming us extends even to a part in the great
sacrifice of Calvary itself! It is a general principle, that if
something is taught repeatedly by the Church, even on a level less than
a definition, the teaching is infallible.
Vatican II, echoing earlier papal teaching, tells us that at the
cross she was asked even to "consent" to the death of her Son
(LG # 58). Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical, The Mother of the
Redeemer, set out to further deepen that teaching (as he tells us in his
Guardian of the Redeemer [on St. Joseph]). He showed that this was the
"deepest self-emptying in history" for her and her Son. That
she in it practiced "the obedience of faith". Now since all
perfection lies in positively willing what God wills whenever we know
His positive will, she was called on to positively will that He die, die
so horribly. All this in spite of a love so great that "only God
can comprehend it" for Pius IX had said, as we saw above that
her holiness was that great even at the start. But holiness and love of
God are interchangeable words. So her suffering was such that "no
one but God could comprehend it." As we would expect, having shared
at immense cost in earning all graces, she shares similarly in
distributing all of them as Mediatrix of all graces. This truth too has
been taught numerous times by a long series of Popes, everyone from Leo
XIII through John XXIII.
Pius XII, in defining the Assumption, explained that "Just as
the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign
of this victory [over sin and death by Calvary] so that struggle
[Calvary] which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, had to be
closed by the glorification of her virginal body". That is, the
struggle, a work common to the two was a common cause. It brought Him
glorification; it had to bring the same to her. (In all this it is
understood she is subordinate to Him, and really depends on Him for all
her ability to do anything at all).
As a result, just as He is now King of the Universe, she is Queen of
the Universe. "And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and
God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion" (Pius XII,
Bendito seia, May 13, 1946).
Chapter 8 of the Vatican II Constitution on the Church is entirely on
her. In it the Council goes through in detail her association with Him.
She is eternally joined with Him in the eternal decree for the
Incarnation. She will remain eternally joined to Him as Queen in His
Kingdom. And the council went through in detail every one of the
mysteries of His life and death, showing in each case her close
association with Him. The place the Father gave her is really
all-pervading, in His approach to us. In writing this, Vatican II wrote
more extensively about her, went farther theologically than all previous
Councils combined! In spite of talk that it downgraded her, it was the
opposite. Vatican II could really be called the Marian Council.
On the floor of the Council, Paul VI declared her Mother of the
Church. This was not entirely new. Pius XII, in a message to the Marian
Congress of Ottawa, Canada, on July 19, 1947 said: "When the little
maid of Nazareth uttered her fiat to the message of the angel... she
became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but
also in the supernatural order of grace, she became the Mother of all,
who... would be made one under the Headship of her Son. The Mother of
the Head would be the Mother of the members."
Fourth Article: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified,
died, and was buried"
When Jesus died, His body and soul were separated, for that is what
death means. They remained separated until the Resurrection, but His
divinity remained united to both His body and His soul.
How did His death produce the effect of Redemption? Sinners had, as
it were, taken from one pan of a two-pan scale an image to represent
the moral order what they had no right to take. The Holiness of the
Father, loving all that is morally right, wanted the scales of the moral
order righted, wanted the debt to be paid. Further, the imbalance was
infinite, so that only a divine Person incarnate could rectify it, by
giving up satisfactions He could have lawfully had, and by suffering
things He did not owe. Pope Paul VI wrote (Constitution on
Jan 9, 1967):
It is necessary... for the full remission and...
reparation of sins, not only that friendship with God be
reestablished... and amends be made for the offense against His wisdom
and goodness, but also that all the personal as well as social values,
and those of the universal order, diminished or destroyed by sin, be
fully restored, ... through voluntary reparation... . Indeed Christ,
'who committed no sin, ' suffered for us, 'was wounded for our
iniquities, bruised for our sins... . by His bruises we are healed. '
Thus there was established as it were a treasury of 'the infinite and
inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ our Lord have
We willed to suffer so much also "to draw all
things to Himself" (John 12:32) by proving (cf. Romans 5:8) the
immense love of His Heart, which went to such lengths to make eternal
happiness open to all.
Further, since as St. Paul tells us (cf. Romans 8:17), we are saved
and sanctified to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but
are like Him, therefore we too must share in this work of reparation.
Jesus wanted to draw us to imitate Him in His work of satisfaction.
So we might join with Him, He commanded "Do this in memory of
me." So it is precisely in the Mass that we bring our offering of
whatever obedience to the Father we have carried out since the last
Mass, and we present too our penance of reparation, to be joined with
the obedience and reparation of Jesus and His Mother at the double
consecration, when He Himself, using a human priest to carry out the
same dramatic sign He used in the Upper Room, presents again His
willingness to obey the Father, to make reparation for sin. We might
note: Even though in the U. S. we have a dispensation from Friday
abstinence, the Church cannot dispense us from this obligation of
penance, in union with the sufferings of Jesus and His most holy Mother.
Fifth Article: "He descended into hell, the third day He rose
again from the dead"
1. Christ's Descent into Limbo and His Resurrection
After His death, the soul of Jesus, still united to the divinity,
descended into the realm of the dead, which the Creed calls
"hell", in the old English usage. It does not mean at all the
hell of the damned. He visited what is called the Limbo of the Fathers.
For the just, who had died in the state of grace, and had paid all the
debt of their sins, were still not admitted to the vision of God until
Jesus had died.
When a soul reaches the vision of God, by that vision, it knows all
that pertains to it on earth. But without that vision, it would not know
any of these things, unless God might decide to give a special
revelation. Of course, then, the afterlife was very different then from
what it is now. So we can understand some otherwise strange texts in the
Old Testament. Job 7. 9-10 says that the dead one "does not return
to his house." Of course not, the resurrection will be not a return
to the present mode of life. Psalm 6:6 asks "who in Sheol can
praise you?" Sheol is the realm of the dead. The Psalmist is
thinking of the grand liturgical praise of God, which the Hebrews really
loved. That liturgical praise of course is not found in Sheol. In Isaiah
38:19 we read that "those who go down to the pit cannot hope for
God's fidelity." The "fidelity" means God's faithful
keeping of His covenant promises. Those in Sheol cannot appeal to the
covenant. Qoheleth 9:10 says there is no work in Sheol of course
not. It says there is no knowledge that is, of what goes on on
earth. Jesus came to take them out of that drab and dull place. Then
there was fulfilled what St. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:9-10: "God
exalted Him and gave to Him the name that is above every name, so that
at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and on
the earth, and under the earth." This can also refer to the power
of Jesus over satan. The passage is poetic, and so need not mean that
Sheol is under the earth.
Jesus rose from the dead, as He had foretold in John 2:19-22, and
elsewhere. Sometimes Scripture says He rose, that is, by His own power.
In as much as He is God, this is true. It also says the Father raised
Him: this is true, thinking of His human nature.
So many witnesses saw Him after this resurrection, for example we
have an enumeration of them in First Corinthians 15:5-8.
How can we arrange in plausible order the events after His
resurrection? In more than one way, e.g., :
1) Magdalen and other women
come to the tomb at dawn, and see it is
2) In excitement she or
they run to the Apostles (Matthew here, between
20:8 &9, omits the
visit of Peter and John, our item 3),
3) Peter and John do not believe
but do run to the tomb, and see it empty.
They do not see Jesus,
Peter and John leave, Magdalen then sees Him, takes Him for the
gardener; He makes himself known,
5) Jesus appears to Peter,
appears to two men on road to Emmaus,
7) They go back to the Apostles,
hear Peter had seen Him,
8) He appears to the Eleven, gives them the
power to forgive sins.
9) Thomas was absent, Jesus comes again,
Further appearances at Lake of Galilee.
PART FOUR: The Apostles' Creed VI - VIII
Sixth Article: "He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right
hand of God the Father almighty"
1. The Ascension of Christ and His Glorified Existence
After 40 days He ascended. During this period, He actually gave the
primacy He had promised to Peter, as we read in John 21. The many events
between His resurrection and ascension preclude the theory that He
ascended on Easter. His ascension does not mean that heaven is somewhere
up in space. This was a way of making clear that He was leaving the
present mode of existence. St. Paul in Colossians 3:1 urges us to live
our lives now as if we had already died, had risen, and had ascended
with Him. In a mystical sense we have done that, in that our Head has
done that. In the physical sense it is still in the future.
He ascended to receive the glory of the conqueror of sin and death
(Philippians 2:8-11); to be our Mediator and advocate with the Father
(Hebrews 9:24); to send the Holy Spirit as He had promised at the Last
Supper (John 16:7); and to prepare a place for us as He also promised
Now He is seated at the Father's right, which means He has had as He
said "all power given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew
28:18). He always had that power as God, but now exercises it as man, as
King of the Universe, with His Mother beside Him as Queen of the
As God He is everywhere, but not as man, though He is present most
widely in the Holy Eucharist even as man.
Besides this real bodily presence, there are other lesser forms of
presence. Vatican II explained the various forms of presence, in the
Constitution on the Liturgy , # 7:
Christ is always present to His
Church, especially in liturgical actions. He is present in the Sacrifice
of the Mass in the person of the priest, 'He is the same one, now
offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the
Cross [citing the Council of Trent].' But He is most greatly present
under the Eucharistic species. He is present by His power in the
Sacraments, so that when anyone baptizes, Christ Himself baptizes. He is
present in His word, for He speaks when the Sacred Scriptures are read
in the Church. He is present, finally, when the Church prays and sings
the Psalms, He who promised 'Where two or three are gathered in my name,
there I am in their midst.'(Matthew 18:20)
Seventh Article: "From thence He shall come to judge the living
and the dead"
1. General and Particular Judgment
Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all human beings. This is
called the parousia, His second coming. It was foretold by the angels as
He ascended: "This Jesus who is taken up from you to heaven, will
come in the way in which you saw Him going into heaven" (Acts
There are two judgments for each one of us. At once after death we
will be judged on our life. The Epistle to the Hebrews says (9:27):
" It is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes the
judgment". Then. "Each one will receive his pay, according to
his works" (1 Cor 3:8).
The general judgment at the end of time simply solemnly confirms the
particular judgments of each one, with the difference that then the body
as well as the soul will receive what is due it. And all God's judgments
will be revealed as most just.
We do not know what form it will take. In Matthew 25:31-46 we read a
picture of that judgment, with the good on the right of the Judge, the
wicked on the left. We know there will be such a judgement, but its
precise form we do not know, for there is no place on the globe where
all men of all centuries could stand before the Judge. It will however
certainly give the solemn sentence, and will, as we said, reveal to each
one the justice of all the judgments of God. God can reveal this
interiorly by one touch as it were, as He does at times in Interior
Locutions, which can convey any amount of knowledge at one stroke.
2. Eternal Punishment
There can be no change of heart towards God, for or against His will,
after death. Hence hell and heaven must both be without end.
The chief suffering of hell is the loss of God. In this life, we can
go comfortably without thinking of Him. But then it will be different.
For one thing, our senses now keep telling us this world and this life
are the only important things. Then that din of the senses will be gone.
But more especially, when we cross into the next life, as it were, the
light goes on. In this life, our intelligence has two components, the
spirit intellect that is proper to the spiritual soul, which is tied to
the marvelous, but yet material instrument in our heads. The latter
limits us greatly. But at death, that limit is gone. Then even if the
soul does not at once see God, it carries with it the information on
Him, but then really understands, and wants Him intensely. To lose Him
forever, or to be in a twisted state of wanting Him, yet in revolt
against Him this is the chief pain of hell. Scripture often speaks
of fire in hell. On May 17, 1979, the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith explained: "She [the Church] believes that
there will be eternal punishment for the sinner, who will be deprived of
the sight of God, and that this punishment will have a repercussion on
the whole being of the sinner." This will be, then a bodily pain.
The imagery of fire means it will be a suffering as intense as that
caused by earthly fire.
Of course, those who have sinned more will suffer more. But for all,
there is no end to suffering and despair.
Mere reason suggests there must be a Purgatory. So many people seem
to be good, but not so greatly good that they should be fit for heaven
at once. Again, not nearly all are so evil as to deserve hell. So there
should be a means of purification and paying the debt of temporal
punishment for those not fit for hell, nor for heaven at once. (Of
course Luther would say we can sin all we want and still go to heaven at
once, if only we believe it is all covered by Christ's merits: Epistle
501 to Melanchthon).
There is not much in Scripture on Purgatory except that in Second
Maccabees 12:45 Judas sends a collection to the Temple for those fallen
in battle, found with amulets on, "that they might be freed from
this sin." Luther saw so clearly that this referred to Purgatory
which he rejected that he rejected this book too, declaring it
not part of Scripture. Some have tried to see an implication of
Purgatory in Matthew 12:32. There Jesus speaks of the sin against the
Holy Spirit that will be forgiven "neither in this world nor in the
next." But the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature,
where it means merely "never". Still less could we deduce
purgatory from First Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul means if the work of some
Christian worker has been of such low quality that it burns down, he
himself will be saved "as through fire." But the fire seems to
mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory. But
our belief in Purgatory rests on the definitions of the Church, at the
Councils of Lyons II, Florence, and Trent.
The essential, perhaps the only suffering of Purgatory is the loss of
God it is like what we described in speaking of hell, except that in
Purgatory there is no despair, rather, great consolation from assurance
of salvation. Is there also something like fire in Purgatory? A host of
private apparitions say there is; the Church has never pronounced on it.
In fact the Eastern part of the Catholic Church has no such tradition.
Many theologians say the suffering is greater than anything on earth.
Neither Scripture nor Tradition tells us if that be so. We do know that
the souls there cannot merit or help themselves in any way anymore, they
can only suffer. We know we can by prayers and penances relieve them,
and somehow, they are enabled to know it when we do that, and they pray
for us. How long should we pray and sacrifice for a particular soul? We
do not know. St. Augustine in his Confessions (9:13), written 10 to 15
years after the death of his mother, St. Monica, still asked for prayers
for her. If we can believe the private apparitions, Purgatory may last
the equivalent of many years (we speak thus, for there is no time in
Purgatory). For certain, it is terribly wrong to virtually canonize a
person at the funeral, as Protestants do under the influence of Luther's
sad mistake. Sadly not a few Catholics are imitating them.
Eighth Article: "I believe in the Holy Spirit"
1. The Holy Spirit in the Trinity and His Mission in the World.
We already said the most essential things about the Holy Spirit in
explaining Article One. Let us add a few things here.
He makes holy the souls of the just by His presence. But a Spirit is
not present in the sense of taking up space. We say a Spirit is present
wherever it causes an effect. In the soul, the Holy Spirit transforms
it, making it basically capable of taking in, after death, the infinite
streams of knowledge and love that flow within the Holy Trinity. Thus we
are really "sharers in the divine nature" ( 2 Peter 1:4). This
is a dignity so great that any earthly honor is insignificant besides
He comes with his Seven Gifts. These make the soul capable of taking
in the special lights and inspirations He sends in a much higher way
than what is had in ordinary graces. We do not notice much of any
effects from these Gifts until we have advanced rather far in the
spiritual life, for great docility and purity of heart are needed.
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down visibly on the Apostles. He
gave them the power to speak in strange tongues to the crowds that came
to Jerusalem for that Feast. He also transformed them, from selfish and
timid men into giants of courage and faith.
PART FIVE: The Apostles' Creed IX - XII
Ninth Article: "The Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of
1. The Mystical Body of Christ
Speaking of full membership in the Church, Pius XII, in his
Encyclical on the Mystical Body, said it is the society of those who
have been baptized, and who profess the faith of Christ, and who are
governed by their bishops under the visible head, the Pope, the Bishop
The Church came into being when Christ died on the Cross, but it was
formally inaugurated on Pentecost, when He sent the Holy Spirit as He
had promised. St. Paul speaks of all Christians as members of Christ, so
that with Him, they form one Mystical Body (Cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31; Col
1:18; 2:18- 20; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13). St. Paul did not use the word
Mystical. It was developed more recently to bring out the fact that this
union is unique, there is no parallel to it. It is not the same as the
union of a physical body, nor that of a business corporation.
The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called
the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the
flesh and the devil. The Church suffering means the souls in Purgatory.
The Church triumphant is the Church in heaven. The unity and cooperation
of the members of the Church on earth, in Purgatory, in Heaven is also
called the Communion of Saints. When St. Paul uses the word
"Saints" in opening an Epistle, he does not mean they are
morally perfect. He has in mind Hebrew qadosh , which means set aside
for God, or coming under the covenant. Being such means of course they
are called to moral perfection. But of course, not all have reached it
in this world.
The word Saint in the modern sense means someone who has been
canonized by the Church in recent times, or was accepted as such by the
Church in earlier times. If a person is shown to have practiced heroic
virtue beyond what people in general do in all virtues, the
title Venerable is given; with two miracles by that one's intercession,
the title is Blessed; two more miracles can lead to canonization and the
title of Saint. 2. The Marks of the Church
We often speak of the four marks of the Church: one, holy, Catholic
and Apostolic. We do not mean that these are distinctive enough to prove
the Catholic Church is the only Church of Christ. But they do help.
Christ established only one Church. "There is one Lord, one
faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). Presently we will speak of the
relation of members of other churches to the Catholic Church.
We say the Church is holy, not in the sense that all members are holy
far from it. But her Founder gave it all the needed means to make
people holy. The Church is Catholic because it is universal: "God
wills all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth"
(1 Timothy 2:4). It aims to take in all persons, in fulfillment of the
command of Christ in Matthew 28:19.
We say the Church is apostolic because it goes back to the Twelve
Apostles chosen by Christ Himself. The Pope and Bishops have their
authority in succession from the Apostles. The Pope is the visible Head
as Vicar of Christ, Christ is the invisible Head. We know Christ
intended His Church to last until the end of time, because He explicitly
said: "Behold, I am with you all days until the consummation of the
world" (Matthew 28:20). Again, many of His parables make this
clear, such as the parable of the net in which the good will be
separated from the evil at the end, or the parable of the weeds in the
wheat, with the same idea.
There can be, and are, bishops validly ordained who are not in union
with the Pope. These are called schismatics, and lose many graces by
their rejection of the Head of the Church.
Vatican II taught that just as Peter and the Apostles formed a sort
of college, with Peter as the head, so in a somewhat similar way, the
Pope and the Bishops also form a college (LG chapter 3). This
relationship is called collegiality. However Vatican II also taught in
that same chapter that the Pope can even, if he so wishes, give a solemn
definition of doctrine without consulting the Bishops, and that He has
immediate authority over everyone in the Church, including each Bishop.
The Church is also called the People of God, that is, those who come
under the new and eternal Covenant (cf. Exodus 19:5; Jeremiah 31:31-33).
St. Paul in Romans 11:17-18 pictures Christians of his day and so
also today as being engrafted into the tame olive tree, which stands
for the original People of God, into places left empty by the fallen
branches, Jews who rejected Christ.
2. Teaching Authority and
By the Magisterium we mean the teaching office of the Church. It
consists of the Pope and Bishops. Christ promised to protect the
teaching of the Church : "He who hears you, hears me; he who
rejects your rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent
me" (Luke 10. 16). Now of course the promise of Christ cannot fail:
hence when the Church presents some doctrine as definitive or final, it
comes under this protection, it cannot be in error; in other words, it
is infallible. This is true even if the Church does not use the solemn
ceremony of definition. The day to day teaching of the Church throughout
the world, when the Bishops are in union with each other and with the
Pope, and present something as definitive, this is infallible. (Vatican
II, LG # 25). It was precisely by the use of that authority that Vatican
I was able to define that the Pope alone, when speaking as such and
making things definitive, is also infallible. Of course this
infallibility covers also teaching on what morality requires, for that
is needed for salvation.
A "theologian" who would claim he needs to be able to
ignore the Magisterium in order to find the truth is strangely perverse:
the teaching of the Magisterium is the prime, God-given means of finding
the truth. Nor could he claim academic freedom lets him contradict the
Church. In any field of knowledge, academic freedom belongs only to a
properly qualified professor teaching in his own field. But one is not
properly qualified if he does not use the correct method of working in
his field, e.g., a science professor who would want to go back to
medieval methods would be laughed off campus, not protected. Now in
Catholic theology , the correct method is to study the sources of
revelation, but then give the final word to the Church. He who does not
follow that method is not a qualified Catholic theologian. Vatican II
taught (On Revelation # 10): "The task of authoritatively
interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or
Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of
the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus
3. No Salvation Outside the Church
The Church is sometimes called the universal sacrament of salvation.
That use of the word sacrament is broad, not strict. It is true in as
much as the Church is the divinely instituted means of giving grace to
all. But the Church is not a visible rite it rather confers these
visible rites which we call the seven Sacraments. From the fact that the
Church is God's means of giving grace, is it is clear that there is no
salvation outside the Catholic Church. This truth has even been defined
by the Church more than once, e.g., in the Council of Florence in 1442.
However we must take care to understand this teaching the way the Church
understands it. We just saw that the Church claims the exclusive
authority to interpret both Scripture and Tradition. So one like Leonard
Feeney who interprets the teaching on the necessity of the Church his
own way is not acting like a Catholic theologian at all. The Holy
Office, on August 8, 1949, declared that L. Feeney was guilty of this
error. Because of his error, he rejected several teachings of the
Magisterium, saying they clashed with this definition but they clash
only with his false interpretation, given in private judgment. Pius IX (Quanto
conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863) taught: "God... in His
supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished
with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary
fault." Vatican II (LG # 16) taught the same: "They who
without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His
Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the
influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them
through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation."
Pius XII had said (Encyclical On the Mystical Body) that one can
"be related to the Church by a certain desire and wish of which he
is not aware", i.e., by the desire to do what God wills in general.
Precisely how does this work out? We saw on our very first page that
St. Paul insists (Romans 3:29) that God makes provision in some way for
all. We saw that one of the earliest Fathers, St. Justin Martyr (Apology
1:46) said that some, like Socrates could even be Christians because
they followed the divine Word. Now St. Justin also said that the Divine
Word is in the hearts of all. Then we notice in St. Paul's Romans
"The gentiles who do not have the law [revealed religion] do by
nature the things of the law; they show the work of the law written on
their hearts." And according to their response, they will or will
not be saved. Clearly, it is this Divine Word, or the Spirit of Christ,
the Divine Word, that writes the law on their hearts, i.e., makes known
to them what they should do. If they follow that, although they do not
know that that is what they are following, yet objectively, they do
follow the Logos, the divine Word. And so St. Justin was right in
calling them Christians. We can add that St. Paul in Romans 8:9 makes
clear that if one has and follows the Spirit of Christ, he "belongs
to Christ." But, to belong to Christ is the same as being a member
of Christ, and that is the same as being a member of the Church. Not
indeed by formal adherence, but yet substantially, enough to satisfy the
requirement of substantial membership. Indeed, Vatican II even wrote (LG
# 49): "All who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into
So, St. Paul was right: God does take care of them; St. Justin was
right too: they can be Christians without knowing it. Otherwise, God
would be sending millions upon millions to hell without giving them any
chance at all, if they lived far from places where the Church was known,
e.g., in the western hemisphere before 1492.
That fact that salvation is possible in this way does not mean that
there should be no missions or attempts to bring back the Protestants.
Richer and more secure means of salvation are to be had with formal
explicit adherence to the Catholic Church. Therefore we need to make
every effort. In regard to Ecumenism, it is good to keep in mind a rule
from Vatican II, in its Decree on Ecumenism (# 11): "It is
altogether necessary that the complete doctrine be clearly presented.
Nothing is so foreign to true Ecumenism as that false peace-making in
which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss, and its true and
certain sense is obscured."
4. The Church and the State
The Church is of divine origin. The state is of human origin, it is
necessary to provide things for human needs that are such that
individuals each alone cannot obtain them, e.g., a system of courts,
police, fire dept. etc.
Since it was established by the Divine Redeemer, the authority of the
Church is higher than that of the state. We should obey all legitimate
orders of the state. We may and must disobey immoral commands or laws
contrary to those of God and the Church.
In Romans 13:1-2 St. Paul says: "Let every person be subject to
higher authorities. For there is no authority except from God. Those
that exist, are put in place by God. So one who resists, resists the
ordinance of God."
There are chiefly three kinds of governments: monarchy, aristocracy,
and constitutional government, according to Aristotle (Nichomachean
Ethics 8:10. Each is good if it promotes the common good. But if those
with power use it for their own selfish ends, it is evil. God is willing
to accept any of these, if it promotes the common good. He does not
specify how those in power are to be chosen. But, once they are chosen,
the power comes from Him, not from the people, as St. Paul made clear in
the verses we cited above. St. Paul even says the state has the right of
capital punishment, in Romans 13:4: "It [the authority] is a
minister of God for good to you. But if you do evil, be afraid. For not
without reason does he carry the sword. For he is the minister of God
and agent of [God's] wrath on evildoers." In the Roman situation,
the right to carry the sword meant the right of capital punishment. So
we may not say it is immoral or unchristian. We may only, if we wish,
debate if it is an effective deterrent.
It is important to notice that three things are needed to make a
democracy function as it should:
1) All who have the right to vote
should use it , but only,
2) if they are well informed on the issues
(otherwise they may be voting for
3) they must vote for the
common good, not just for the advantage of their
Vatican II (On Religious Liberty) taught that all have religious
freedom. This does not mean they have a right to be wrong: God gives no
one a claim to be wrong. They have a claim not to be jailed, executed
etc. for their beliefs. They may hold and follow them in private and in
public, alone and in groups, "within due limits." However,
Vatican II further specifies (On Religious Liberty ## 4 and 7) that the
state must exercise "due custody for public morality" and that
non-Catholic churches must abstain from anything that involves
"improper persuasion aimed at the less intelligent or the
Vatican II also taught that public authority must see to it, as a
matter of justice, that public funds for education are given in such a
way that parents are really free to follow their consciences in choosing
schools (On Christian Education #6). For parents are the primary
educators of their children.
Tenth Article "The forgiveness of sins"
This forgiveness was won for us through the sacrifice of Calvary. It
is dispensed through the Church, though even without the Sacraments, God
will forgive one who is truly repentant, i.e., sorry for sinning because
God is good not just to us, but in Himself.
Eleventh Article: "The resurrection of the body"
Death entered into this world by sin (Romans 5:12). So all will die,
with the exception that those who are alive at the return of Christ at
the end, will never die (First Thessalonians 4:13-17). In verse 17:
"Then [at His return, and after the resurrection of the dead] we
the living, will be taken together with them [the risen dead] in the
clouds to meet the Lord" (Cf. 1 Cor 15:51).
There will be a resurrection of all, as St. Paul explains in First
Corinthians chapter 15. Those who have been faithful to Christ will rise
glorious, their bodies transformed on the model of the risen body of
Christ, who could travel instantly at will, could ignore closed doors
and come through anyway, but yet had real flesh. St. Paul says the risen
body is "spiritual " (15:44). It is still flesh, but such that
the flesh is completely dominated by the soul, so that it can no longer
suffer or die.
St. Paul insists that because Christ our Head rose, those who are
members of Him must also rise. So, to deny the general resurrection
would imply a denial of Christ's resurrection (1 Cor 15:13).
No matter what happens to the body after death, the omnipotence of
God can recall the material of the body. In fact, we now know that
because of metabolism in which every cell is constantly being torn
down and rebuilt in a normal life span a person has the material for
many bodies. We will, of course be the same persons after the
resurrection as we were before death.
Twelfth Article "And life everlasting. Amen".
In commenting on article VII we spoke of Purgatory and Hell. Now we
consider Heaven. The Second Epistle of Peter 1:4 says by grace we are
"sharers in the divine nature." We learn from John 1:1 that
the Father speaks a Word. It is not a vibration in the air, but it is
substantial, it is the Second Divine Person, coming from the Father by
as it were an infinite stream of knowledge. Between Father and Son
arises love, which again is substantial, is the Third Person, the Holy
Spirit, coming forth by a stream of infinite love. Only a being that is
part divine could as it were plug into these infinite streams. Grace
here gives us the basic ability to do that.
As we saw in speaking of hell, death breaks the bond between our
spiritual intellect and the material brain. Then the lights go on, and
one knows God greatly even without seeing Him. The soul, if properly
purified, and if all debts to the objective order are paid, will finally
reach that vision. We are all finite, limited receptacles, trying to
take in the Infinite. In this life our capacity for that can grow
indefinitely, with increases of sanctifying grace. Then whatever
capacity the soul has will be completely filled, fully satisfied. Since
the vision is infinite, it can never become dull. Further, St. Augustine
says (City of God 10:7) that the angels participate in God's eternity.
Eternity for God is timeless. Things do not just go on and on, He takes
in everything in one view, as it were. Similarly the soul in that vision
does not just go on and on: it simply is unbelievably fulfilled, happy,
satisfied. St. Augustine said well (Confessions 1:1): "You have
made us for yourself, and restless are our hearts until they rest in
When the glorified body at the resurrection is joined to the soul, it
too will share in its own way in the reward the person has earned. It
will be as we said, on the pattern of the glorified body of Christ.
The Blessed too will be united with others there, especially those
close and dear to them in this life.
And as a secondary but immense source of blessedness they will see
Our Lady. Of it Pius XII said well:
Surely, in the face of His own
Mother, God has gathered together all the splendors of His divine
artistry... . You know, beloved sons and daughters, how easily human
beauty lifts up and makes a gentile heart ecstatic. What would it ever
do if it could contemplate clearly the beauty of Mary! That is why Dante
saw in Paradise, in the midst of "more than a million rejoicing Angels,
a beauty smiling what joy! it was in the eyes of all the other
Saints"; Mary! (Pius XII, To Catholic Action Youth, December 8,
1953. Acta Apostolicae Sedis 45: 850. Internal quote is from Dante,
Paradiso 31. 130-35)
PART SIX: Commandments I - III
The Book of Exodus, chapter 20, tells how God on Mt. Sinai revealed
to Moses the Ten Commandments (also called the Decalogue) giving them to
him on two stone tablets. In Deuteronomy 5 Moses is pictured as telling
all the people the Ten Commandments. Exodus 32:15 describes how God
Himself gave Moses the two stone tablets which He had made. Moses broke
them in anger when he saw the people had fallen into idolatry; in
chapter 34 Moses cuts two more tablets to replace the ones he had
There is some difference in grouping the commandments, and hence in
numbering, between the more usual Protestant and the Catholic lists of
the commandments. The sense is the same.
Some have doubted if these laws could have been transmitted orally so
many centuries. We reply: We do not know the date of the Exodus, and
therefore, of the law; but the chief suggestions are about 1290 B.C.
(under Rameses II) or around 1450 B.C. (perhaps under Thutmose III). In
either case, writing was known before that time in Egypt and in
Mesopotamia. We have the Law Code of Hammurabi his dates are
uncertain, perhaps about 1792-50 BC. His Code has 282 laws, some of them
quite similar to those of the Ten Commandments, though the first four
commandments of the Decalogue seem to be unique to the Hebrews. Further,
oral transmission in ancient times was remarkable. Thus for long the
name of King Tudiya, first king of Assyria, was considered only a
legend. But now tablets have been found at Ebla, showing a treaty
between King Ebrum of Ebla, and King Tudiya, dating from about 2350
B.C., about 13 centuries before the Assyrian King lists were written
down (Cf. G. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, Doubleday, N. Y. 1981, pp.
70, 73, 103-05). These ten commandments are simply the code of basic
morality. Our Lord accepted them and said He came not to destroy but to
fulfill. He also perfected them, making them broader in some things
(Matthew 5:17-48). And He summed them up in the two commandments of love
of God and of neighbor. The Old Testament had the first, love of God
(Deuteronomy 5:4-5). It had the second, in a way (Leviticus 19:18), but
the Jews understood neighbor to mean only fellow countrymen. Our Lord
extended the word neighbor, in the parable of the good Samaritan, to
mean all humans. (Let us recall here what we said in speaking of Moses
in our opening sketch of salvation history, and of the relation of the
words of St. Paul to those of Jesus).
God cannot gain anything by our obedience. But He wants us to obey
for two reasons:
1) Moral goodness requires that creatures obey their
Creator. He, being
Holiness itself, loves all that is good;
2) He wants
to give us good things; His commandments tell us how to be
receive His gifts, and how to avoid the penalties built into the
of things (since sinful things are contrary to our nature, and so are
harmful to us).
In accord with this, the Old Testament says that the law is wisdom.
It is that. In Deuteronomy 4:6 Moses tells the people that if they obey
the law, other nations will say: "This great nation is really a
wise and understanding people." The Jews carried this idea to such
lengths that the Palestinian Targum on Deuteronomy 32:4 asserts that God
Himself spends three hours a day studying the law!
The First commandment: "I am the Lord your God, you shall not
have other gods before me"
The commandment most directly prohibits the worship of false gods,
and, to follow up, prohibits images. The Jews were very prone to such
idolatry before the great exile. Afterwards they seem to have been
The prohibition of images does not apply now, since the danger of
idolatry has gone. Our images of Our Lord, His Mother, and the Saints,
are just helps to devotion. We do not adore them. We only venerate them,
but even the veneration goes not to the image but to the holy one for
which the image stands.
We need to avoid also superstition, which is offering worship in an
improper manner, probably based on false revelations, e. g, prayers that
if said for a set number of days will have an infallible result. Vain
observance would be magic or satanism. Sadly, there is explicit worship
of satan today. The Ouija board is dangerous, and we should avoid it,
since part of its results come from automatic writing, but often enough
We must also avoid sacrilege, which is scornful treatment of a
person, place or thing dedicated to God. To receive Holy Communion in
the state of sin is sacrilege. We avoid also simony, which takes its
name from Simon Magus, who tried to buy with money the gift of working
miracles . St. Peter rebuked him strongly (Acts 8:9-24). To give a
stipend for a Mass etc. is not simony. It is not buying the Mass, it is
an offering for the support of the priest, or a means of sharing
specially in the Mass.
In a loose sense, not a strict sense, some people today
"worship" the false gods of secularism, which says this world
is the only one to be considered, or hedonism, which makes pleasure the
goal of life, or Communism, which denies the existence of God, seeks
happiness in a so-called classless society in Russia the very opposite
has been true, great privilege and luxury for the ruling class.
On the positive side, we are to worship God, which means most
essentially, adoration and obedience. Adoration means recognizing who He
is, and who I am in comparison. This is due in justice, but also, more
importantly, in love: we recognize that God is not only infinitely good
to us, but also in Himself. As such we should respond by pleasing Him by
making ourselves open to receive His gifts for that pleases Him.
that is what love for God means. In no other way to we really give Him
anything. The central virtue that gave all its value to the sacrifice of
Jesus was His obedience to the will of the Father. Without it, His death
would have been a tragedy, not a redemption.
Sacrifice for us (some pagan peoples had different ideas of
sacrifice) has an external sign, which is there to express and perhaps
even promote the essential, which is the interior dispositions. God
complained through Isaiah (Is 29:13: "This people draw near to me
with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far
from me." The ancient Israelites at that time seemed to think their
participation in their liturgy meant merely making responses and singing
these things were good, but the obedience was lacking. We must join
our obedience carried out in the recent past, or to come in the near
future to the offering of Jesus, when, through the human priest, He
puts Himself on the altar under the appearance of separation of body and
blood, to express His continued attitude of obedience to the Father. So
catechists say our role in the Mass is ACTS:
We should do these things, but we must
not let them cause us to forget the real center is obedience (Cf. Romans
519 and LG #3).
Outside the time of the sacrifice of the Mass, we should of course
pray. Regular times are called for to insure we do not forget prayer
To God we give adoration, it the sense just described; but to Our
Lady and the Saints we give only veneration, honor, something less than
adoration. The sacrifice of Jesus is infinite, and so in a way we should
need to do nothing. Yet St. Paul insists that the whole Christian regime
means we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are not
only members of Christ, but like Him. That includes being like Him in
the work of reparation for sin (cf. Rom 8:17-18; Col 1. 24).
Second Commandment: "You shall not take the name of the Lord
your God in vain."
1. Blasphemy and cursing
The chief thing prohibited by this commandment is taking the name of
God in vain, i.e., using it in and empty way. Ordinarily this will not
be more than venial sin, but it should be avoided. The Jews in the last
centuries before Christ would not pronounce the word Yahweh even in
prayer. Instead they said Lord.
Blasphemy means any speech, thought or action that shows contempt for
God. It is very grave. The Old Testament called for the death penalty
When someone confesses cursing and swearing, it usually means neither
thing. He means using damn or hell, or vulgar four letter words dealing
with the results of elimination. These things are very rude, and mark a
person as low class. But, unless someone really wishes evil to another,
they are not sinful at all.
A vow is a promise made to God to do something better than what is
obligatory. A vow imposes a real obligation. Deuteronomy 23:22 warns us
not to make a vow and then not keep it. Whether or not mortal sin is
involved depends on the importance of the thing vowed.
To take an oath is to call God to witness that what one says is true.
It is lawful to do so, if there is sufficient reason.
To make a false oath is perjury. It offends against God's
truthfulness, since it calls Him to witness to a lie. Proverbs 19:9 says
one who does that will not go without punishment.
An adjuration is the solemn use of the name of God to strengthen a
command. This is permissible if done with the right intention, and in
cases where such a thing is really called for.
Third Commandment: "Remember to keep holy the Lord's day."
1. Sundays and Holy Days: Mass Obligation
In Old Testament times, this commandment required keeping the Sabbath
(Saturday), holy and a day of rest. The day was moved to Sunday by the
authority Christ gave to His Church, to commemorate the Resurrection of
Our Lord and Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came upon the
Apostles. The latest Code of Canon Law restates this obligation for us:
there are false reports there is no longer an obligation.
Our participation in the Mass must be most of all interior, joining
our obedience to the Father to that of Jesus. At the Last Supper He used
the seeming separation of body and bloody (by bread and wine) to stand
for death, and He thereby said to the Father that He would obey His
command to die. The Mass repeats hat He did through the ministry of a
human priest. The obedience of the Heart of Jesus on our altars is a
continuation of the obedience in which He died. One way to carry out our
part would be to spend a few minutes before each Mass, to see what one
has done in obeying the Father since the last Mass. If well done, this
can be presented along with the obedience of Jesus at the double
consecration. If some things are not well done, regrets are called for.
One can also look ahead to the time soon to come to see: is something
coming soon in which I know the will of the Father? Then: Do I mean to
do it? This too can be joined to the obedience of Christ. The external
things, making responses, singing etc. are very good, but not the
essentials of participation.
Of course, grave reason can excuse one from Sunday Mass, e.g.,
physical impossibility, sufficient sickness, great difficulty of getting
to Mass, or the need to care for the baby or sick relatives, when no one
else can take these duties over at the time.
Besides Sunday, we must take part in Mass on Holy Days of obligation.
In the United States these are:
January 1 (Solemnity of Mary the Mother
Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter),
All Saints Day (November 1),
Immaculate Conception (December 8),
Christmas (December 25).
Sunday as a Day of Rest
In the New Code of Canon Law, the Church has revised this obligation,
in Canon 1247: "They must also keep from such work or business as
would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the
Lord's day, and the due relaxation of mind and body."
There is much latitude given, but to merely do all day on Sunday the
same job one does all week would surely be wrong. Sunday ought to be a
day that is special and different to a considerable extent.
PART SEVEN: Commandments IV and V.
Fourth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother."
God commands us to honor parents because we owe them our very being.
Jesus Himself gave us the example, for He went down to Nazareth and was
subject to them , even though He was God Himself. He also wanted to
shows us how God values a good family life, and fulfilling the duties of
our state in life. To mould a new child in the image of Christ is a
greater work of sculpture than the highest art of Michaelangelo.
The word "honor" means especially financial support, though
it also includes obedience. This obedience binds only until the child is
of legal age. After that he/she is still bound to respect them, and, if
they fall into need in their old age, to provide financial support. This
is the divine social security system: when we were little they did
everything for us; at the other end, it is our turn. If they do not need
finances, they surely need psychological support. It is very wrong to
put a parent into a nursing home and then seldom visit.
Obedience of course does not bind if a command would be contrary to
God's law. Nor does it apply to one's choice of a state of life.
Especially sad and sinful is the conduct of some teenagers who come to
have contempt for their parents, thinking they do not know much of
anything, and showing that attitude. The teenagers should try to see
that their judgment is seriously upset by the bodily changes taking
place at that age (psychologists would say the somatic resonance to
their judgment is damaged by these changes). When they emerge from that
period, they will not have such a temptation.
After the death of parents, there remains, indefinitely, the
obligation to pray for their souls. St. Augustine in his Confessions,
written 10 to 15 years after the death of his mother St. Monica, still
asked for prayers for her soul.
Fifth Commandment: "You shall not kill"
1. Justice and charity
The Old Testament taught us to respect life by saying (Genesis 9:6):
"He who sheds another's blood, his blood shall be shed, for God
made man in His own image." This penalty of course must not be
private. The state has been given that prerogative by God. Thus St. Paul
wrote to the Romans (13:4):"If you do evil, be afraid. For not
without cause does he (the civil authority) carry the sword. He is the
minister of God, to carry out wrath against him who does wrong." In
the Roman system, the ius gladii, the right of the sword, meant the
right to inflict capital punishment. So one who calls it unchristian
contradicts Scripture. We may, however, argue whether or not it is a
Our Lord perfected the old law by warning even against anger, since
it may lead in the direction of murder. In itself, anger is a feeling,
and is neither good nor bad: it depends on how we use it. If we keep it
in proportion to what the case calls for, there is no sin; but our human
weakness commonly leads us to go beyond that measure. Ordinarily, anger
will be a venial sin. However if a desire for revenge is added, the sin
easily becomes mortal.
Our Lord further perfected this law by calling for love of neighbor,
that is, of everyone, and even of enemies. Now of course we are not
likely to have warm feelings towards all, especially enemies. But love
is not a feeling, it is the will, wish, desire for the well-being and
happiness of another for the other's sake. We can will good, especially
eternal life, to all, even to enemies. At times we may have this love in
our will, and still find ourselves inclined to averse feelings towards
the other. We need only avoid cultivating or dwelling on those feelings.
A silent prayer for the other insures there is no lack of love.
He also gave advice for greater happiness and perfection by the
Beatitudes and other parts of the Sermon on the Mount, which we shall
2. The Double Effect Principle
There are times when we perform one action, and it has two effects,
both equally direct, i.e., both branching in a Y pattern from the stem.
If only the good effect is intended, and the evil effect is not
intended, and if the good and evil at least balance, such an action may
If the good comes only through the evil effect, the action will be
immoral, since then one would automatically will the evil action as the
means to the good. If the evil came only through the good, if only the
good is intended, and there is at least a balance, the action will be
This principle has many applications in the material that follows.
3. Ordinary and Extraordinary Means of Preserving Life
Since we are not our own, we are God's property, we must take
ordinary care of our health with proper food, sleep, clothing, and
shelter, plus ordinary medical care.
Even on a single occasion, to take enough alcohol or drugs to
seriously damage one's ability to think and make judgments is mortally
sinful. As to smoking, we consider whether the gravity of the evil
risked (considering also percentages of chances) is balanced by real
Not all means to cure illness are required. On May 5, 1980 the
Vatican Doctrinal Congregation told us that to decide what treatment is
required we should consider: the type of treatment, its complexity or
risk, its cost, both in money and in physical suffering and compare
these things with the result that can be hoped for, considering the
state of the sick person and his/her physical and moral resources. Risky
experimental means may be used with the patient's consent if there are
no safer and sufficient remedies. In this way the patient may benefit
both himself and humanity.
Of course euthanasia in the sense of direct, intended killing is
An organ transplant can be permitted if the loss of the organ does
not kill the donor or cause a disproportionate risk. In this respect, we
note that some surgeons are in a great hurry to take an organ, and do
not always check with sufficient care to be sure the patient is truly
Direct abortion is, as Vatican II said (Constitution on Church in the
Modern World # 51) "an abominable crime."
Surgery to correct imminent danger to the mother's life from a
pathological condition in an organ which will also result in death to
the fetus, can be permitted under the double effect principle, if there
is no other way. A condition that is merely the result of pregnancy
would not justify this indirect abortion. However, with modern medical
skill, such a case is hardly to be seen in developed countries.
Direct sterilization is gravely wrong; if one repents and is able
without excessive expense and/or risk, he/she ought to have the
sterilization reversed. Medical possibilities for that are improving
today. Indirect sterilization, done to correct a pathological condition,
can be permitted.
Suicide is gravely sinful. However, some actions which may result in
death, may be done under the double effect principle. And taking great
risks out of charity can be permitted, e.g., to enter a burning building
with grave risk to save another's life.
4. War and Peace
War can be permitted only under some conditions:
1)It must be done to
correct a grave evil, when all other means fail,
2) the good effects
must at least balance the evil effects; this can hardly
happen unless there is a well-founded hope of winning.
3)It must be carried out by
4)There must be no direct killing of noncombatants
except where the double
effect principle warrants it.
Some voices at Vatican II wanted the Council to say that in modern
conditions, the good can never balance the evil. The council refused to
say this (cf. Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ## 77-82).
In fact, Pope John Paul II, in a message to a special session of the
United Nations for Disarmament said that nuclear deterrence based on
balance, not as an end itself or as a permanent condition, could be
morally justified (LOsservatore Romano, June 21, 1982). This is to be
understood thus: 1) The actual use of mass destruction weapons, more
than what the double effect principle can warrant, is surely wrong. 2)
to have these in place, so as to say in effect, "If you do this, I
will do that" is permitted. It is not a lie, since all statements
get much of their meaning from the whole context in which they are
spoken. But, a statement of a nation in the context of war should be
understood to have no definite meaning: it would be foolish to expect a
nation to show its hand in that context. Citizens have a duty to aid
their country unless the cause is manifestly unjust. St. Augustine (Epistle
189) told a soldier, Boniface: "Do not think that no one
can please God who is a soldier.... Holy David was among these.... So
think first of this, when you arm yourself for battle, that even your
bodily strength is a gift of God." This can be even a heroic
exercise of virtue in fulfilling duty. Of course, only one side can be
just in any war.
PART EIGHT: Commandments VI - X
Sixth and Ninth Commandments: "You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife."
1. Sins against Chastity
The sixth and ninth commandments forbid us to try to seek out sexual
pleasure or to accept it when temptation offers it, outside of marriage.
St. Paul told the licentious Corinthians (1 Cor 6. 19-20: "Do you
not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have
from God, and you are not your own. For you have been bought at a price
[the price of redemption]."
Not only external acts which by nature are apt to arouse sexual
pleasure themselves are forbidden outside of marriage; also thoughts and
desires deliberately aroused, or accepted when they come unbidden are
sinful. But a good person may have a long siege of such thoughts: as
long as he/she tries to get rid of them each time he/she notices them
(there can be distractions), there will at least be no mortal sin.
Sometimes when one is occupied with something else, such a thought may
slip into the brain and unroll itself like a movie. It may run some time
until a sort of wake-up point where the person says to self: I must not
have this" and then gets busy against it. Up to that point there is
never mortal sin.
Masturbation turns one back into the shell of self in which one
started life, and so makes real love difficult, gives a poor forecast
for success in marriage.
Homosexual acts are most gravely wrong, and the more so if the sinner
asserts they are good. St. Paul painted a sad picture of the vices of
the gentiles in Romans chapter 1, and made homosexuality the
centerpiece. He added (1:32) that the lowest depth is to not only sin,
but to call sin good.
It is not a sin to have homosexual temptations, provided one does not
give into them.
Contraception is really only mutual masturbation. For the use of sex
is divinely ordained first of all to propagate the race. To deliberately
rule that out is to fly directly into the face of God's plan. Experience
shows that where contraception is common, abortion tends to follow as a
sort of backup.
The same is not to be said of Natural Family Planning: it makes
legitimate use of the characteristics God Himself has built into our
nature. Its reliability is over 99%, as high as that of artificial
methods. And there are no bad side effects.
Experience shows that to use it strengthens marriage. The reason is
this: any pleasure, even sex, can grow dull if we take it very
constantly. Some small abstention, as needed for NFP, helps to revive
the pleasure of lawful sex.
Fornication is having sex outside marriage when both parties are
unmarried. Adultery is the same except that one or both are married to
someone else. It is a violation not only of chastity but of justice
towards the spouse.
2. True Conjugal Love
Vatican II has taught (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World
#49): "The actions by which the spouses are intimately and chastely
united are honorable and worthy, and if done in true human fashion,
signify and promote the self-giving by which the couple gladly and
gratefully enrich each other." They can even be meritorious if done
in accordance with God's plan. The same document added (#50):
"Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained to the
procreation and education of offspring." We notice there are two
purposes, procreation, and mutual love. Both are intended by God, yet in
such a way that the procreation is primary, since the promotion of love
"is by nature ordained to" procreation, i.e., is secondary to
It is only in marriage that children can receive the formation, love
and care that they need. This is why sex outside of marriage is so
To separate the two functions, procreative and unitive is wrong,
e.g., in test-tube babies.
Carried out according to Our Father's plan, marriage can lead to real
growth in holiness, as we shall explain later on.
3. The Means to Chastity
Much prayer, especially to the Blessed Mother (particularly her
Rosary) is needed along with keeping watch over what one sees, reads,
dreams about. The thought of death and judgment helps greatly, and
frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist are
Mortification of the body, by giving up legitimate things is
practically indispensable as a help. At a time when temptation is
strong, it helps to get into the company of others (unless it be the
person of the opposite sex who is the cause of temptation). If that is
not possible, getting occupied with something that readily holds one's
interest, such as absorbing reading is important. The more we get our
attention onto anything else, the less power the temptation has. Many
find it helpful to say to themselves: "I will keep pure just this
one time." They do not mean to fall the next time, but this is a
way of lightening the psychological difficulty.
It is important to realize and to talk it through with a prospective
mate, that since love is the desire for the well-being and happiness of
another for the other's sake, to use the other for sensory gratification
is not love. It is closer to the opposite, for it puts both into such a
state that if death should come, the person would never be happy again,
would be eternally wretched. That is the opposite of willing well-being
to another. And real love is rather unlikely to develop when two indulge
in much premarital sex. It will feel like love, but will only be
Commandments VII, X and VIII
Seventh and Tenth Commandments: "You shall not steal. You shall
not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor."
1. Justice and Private Property
The seventh and tenth commandments imply the right to private
property, by forbidding taking what belongs to others or even desiring
to do so.
The experience of "communist" countries shows that without
this right, incentive to work hard enough to keep the country operating
well is lacking.
There is, however a social aspect to private property, of which we
shall speak soon.
2. Stealing, Theft, Robbery, Dishonesty, Gambling
Theft is the secret taking of an object against the reasonable wishes
of the owner. If it is taken openly instead of secretly, it is called
robbery; if something is stolen by the use of deception or fraud it is
It is not only those who do these things that are guilty, but also
those who advise or help them, those who buy, sell or keep stolen goods
knowing that they are such, those who do not return what they have found
(when it is possible) or borrowed, those who do not pay their just
debts, and those who beg when they have no need, for in that way they
are defrauding those who really are in need.
Cheating is a form of fraud. To give false weights or measures or
practice any other deceit is also cheating. Those who take pay and do
not give the proper measure of the work for which they have contracted
are also guilty of cheating or fraud. For we should not look down on
honest work. Our Lord Himself worked as a carpenter for most of His
If an employee or servant disposes of the property of the employer
without his/her approval he/she is guilty of fraud. It is also fraud for
them to waste time, equipment, or material.
All these forms of stealing, robbing, etc. can be mortally sinful if
the amount or value taken is equal to the day's wages of the person from
whom it is taken. If it is taken from an extremely rich person even if
it is not more than what that person makes in a day, if extremely large,
there can be grave sin. The same is to be said of stealing etc. from a
Stealing etc. require restitution, for to retain the stolen goods is
to continue the sin. It can never be forgiven until the person either
actually gives back or prepares to do so.
Gambling is sinful if one risks more than he/she can really afford,
or money needed for the support of the family. Gambling is also sinful
if dishonest means are used by the gambler, or by the one who offers
Betting is similar: it is an agreement in which two or more agree to
give a prize to whichever one makes the right guess on some future
thing. It would be wrong if not all parties understood the agreement in
the same way, or if one is not really uncertain about the outcome.
Gambling and betting can become an addiction.
3. Social justice
The right of private property is not without limits imposed by social
justice, e.g. it would be wrong if an employer were to offer an
inadequate wage and say: "If you do not like it, go elsewhere"
when actually there is nowhere to go to get proper pay.
Outside of unusual conditions, an employer is bound to offer a family
living wage for full time employment.
All have an obligation to help the poor. There is a sort of scale: in
one column we list the various degrees of need, from the desperate need
which if not met at once means death, to minor degrees of want. In the
other column we list the various degrees of difficulty in meeting the
needs of the other. If one would otherwise actually starve, he may even
take what food is strictly necessary without permission, and it would
not be sinful. At the other end of the scale, where there is merely
ordinary need, we cannot normally specify that a particular person must
help, when there are others who could also help.
However what we have just said concerns the minimum that is demanded
to avoid sin. For real Christian charity and for real happiness in this
life, Our Lord advises us to go much farther, as we shall see in
treating the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
Greed is excessive desire to get material things; it leads to setting
one's heart on material things. Instead, St. Paul in First Corinthians
7:29-35 urges us to "hang loose", to be detached from material
things, to not let them get a hold on us. This is the way to true
happiness even in this life. Our Lord Himself (Luke 18:25) said,
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." Of course there is
some Semitic exaggeration here, yet the solid truth is evident: riches
are a great danger spiritually, unless there is true detachment
which is possible, as we see in the example of King St. Louis of France
but very difficult. The Gospel explanation of the parable of the
sower says that the thorns stand for the riches and pleasures of this
life, which can choke off the good seed (Matthew 13:22).
Commandment: "You shall not bear false witness against your
1. Telling the Truth
Human society can hardly operate if people do not tell the truth, for
we are social beings, and need to be able to trust others. Truth telling
is in a way a basis for love, for we cannot love what we do not know, or
cannot trust. The Book of Proverbs (12:19) says: "Truthful lips
endure forever, but a lying tongue does not last."
A lie is any action or statement, which when properly
interpreted is known by the speaker to be false. The underlined
words help us to see that the real meaning of a sentence comes not only
from the meaning of each word taken alone, but from the whole context.
For example, in Psalm 114:1, if we remove the context we find:
"There is no God." But the words ahead of it: "The fool
says in his heart" change the sense greatly. So if the mother sends
the child to tell the salesman at the door that she is not home, the
proper interpretation, which the salesman should know is: "Maybe
she is here, maybe not. But if she is here, she does not want to see
you." A statement issued by a nation at war should be understood to
have no meaning. No one expects the government to give away its plans
Some authors prefer to speak of broad or a strict mental reservation.
In both, one mentally limits the meaning of the words used. In strict
reservation, no clue is given to what the speaker means; in broad
reservation, such a clue is given. The strict mental reservation would
be a lie, not the broad.
These things however should be used sparingly and with great
prudence. Otherwise mistrust will come.
A lie normally is a venial sin. But a lie under oath, or a denial of
the faith would be serious sin.
Hypocrisy is acting out a lie. Flattery is insincere praise of
another in the hope of gaining something. Boasting is another form of
deceit, in which the speaker claims to have fine qualities which he
2. The Modern Media
They have great power of communication, and should be used honestly.
If a news broadcast on TV shows Senator A, and lets him present his
reasons fully, but merely mentions the reasons given by Senator B, there
is a deceptive slanting. Unfortunately, this is not rare.
Advertising is normally exaggerated, and since we expect that a
moderate exaggeration is not a lie. Yet it is unfortunate, for it makes
it hard to know what is really true. Advertising is harmful when it
entices people to spend beyond their means, or to be too attached to
things of this world.
Some advertisers are ruthless, they employ commercials that create
stress in the listener, to force attention to their product. This is at
least against charity, for there is enough stress in the world without
adding to it in this way.
There are four levels of secrets, with the obligation increasing for
1)Natural secrets are things which by nature should not be
deal with things someone would be reasonably unwilling to
have known or
things that would be harmful to reputation. In this latter
case, justice may
be involved, for people have a right to their
2) Promised secrets are those that are made known first, and
promise of secrecy is called for and given,
(entrusted) secrets are those that are revealed only after an
promise of secrecy. The promise may be explicit or implicit and
from the nature of the case, as in professional secrets. The
requires that these be kept.
4)The seal of Confession is the most
absolute secret of all. No reason
whatsoever can justify revelation.
With the first three kinds of secrets, a proportional reason can
justify revelation for the public good, that of the civil society or the
Church, or even the individual whose secret is revealed. As was said,
each of the first three grow in strictness of obligation.
4. "Uncharitable speech"
This term covers three very different things:
attributing a fault to another when it is not true. This is a violation
of justice as well as truth, and demands that it be retracted. It is
2)Detraction consists in making known the true fault
of another without proportionate reason. Here we need to consider both
the reason, and how much damage is done and we add that most people
tend to underestimate the seriousness of this fault. We consider other
factors too, for example if someone said he saw a sailor drunk, it would
be much less than saying he say the Archbishop drunk. Then too, if the
truth is soon to be made known anyway in the same place, little or no
reason may be needed to speak of it.
3)Uncharitable speech happens when
two persons talk about the faults of another but no new information is
given: both already know.
Then we ask: is there some respectable reason
for the talk? Rash judgment may be involved in any of the above things.
The words of Christ "Judge not" (Matthew 7:1) do not prohibit
reporting the objective fault of another, if there is sufficient reason,
according to the rules just given. The command tells us to avoid saying
we know the interior dispositions of the other person which normally
we cannot know. So to say someone has robbed a bank is not wrong, if
true, and if there is sufficient reason for telling. For to rob a bank
is objectively gravely wrong, no matter what the interior dispositions
of the robber. But to say we would know the interior of the robbers
that would be wrong. Some false teachers confuse the two things, and
even say, for example: "I cannot say that a homosexual act is wrong
unless I know the dispositions of the one who indulges". We can and
should say the homosexual act is gravely wrong; we should not claim to
know the interior of the sinner.
PART NINE: The Sermon on the Mount and
Jesus said He had come not to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).
It is chiefly in Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, that He
1. The Beatitudes: In these Jesus reverses many of the currently held
opinions, and promises happiness even here to those who would have been
thought not very fortunate at best.
The First Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Poverty was often thought of as merely misfortune. Jesus does not
call mere physical poverty blessed. He speaks of a poverty in spirit,
that is, in detachment from the things of this world, so one does not
allow them to get a hold with their pulls.
The Second Beatitude: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall
inherit the land"
The meek are those who are unassuming, considerate, and far from the
spirit of revenge, which desires evil to another so it may be evil to
him: the very opposite of love. The land in God's ancient promises meant
the land of Israel; it had been reinterpreted by this time to mean
Heaven. Even in this life, meekness often brings returns.
The Third Beatitude: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they
shall be comforted".
Jesus opens a new perspective on sorrow and pain: if accepted as part
of following after Him, it is not only not a punishment for sin, as many
Jews thought (cf. John 9:2), but a means of greater likeness to Christ,
and brings even here divine consolation, of which St. Paul spoke in 2
The Fourth Beatitude: "Happy are those who hunger and thirst for
the right; they will get their fill."
God's supreme Holiness loves everything that is right; in this
beatitude a soul imitates Him in this. Hence Matthew 6:33 adds:
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and the rightness He loves, and all
these things will be added to you."
The Fifth Beatitude: "Happy are the merciful; they will have
mercy shown to them."
The merciful here mean those who help in all sorts of need, and
forgive those who offend against them. God who loves all that is right,
will do the same for them. But if one does not forgive, he would be
asking, in the Our Father, that God not forgive him! Matthew 7:2
adds:" Whatever measure you use [in treating others], the same
measure will be used on you."
The Sixth Beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God."
The purity spoken of here is complete moral purity not merely
purity in sexual matters. Psalm 24. 3-4 asks who may stand in His holy
place and answers: "The clean in hands, and pure in heart."
Just as much sin dims one's perception of spiritual things, so constant
adherence to what is morally right makes spiritual eyesight grow
The Seventh Beatitude: "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall
be called children of God."
Hebrew shalom means not only peace, but well-being in general. The
angels at the birth of Christ announced peace. After His resurrection He
told the Apostles: "Peace be with you." This includes our
right relation with God, and with one another. Those who work for this,
cooperate in the work of Christ, and so are His brothers, children of
The Eighth Beatitude: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for
the sake of what is right: theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
St. Paul told the Romans (8:17): "We are heirs together with
Christ, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with
Him." The Church from the beginning has seen the special
application of this verse to the martyrs. Many in the first centuries
thought only martyrs would reach the vision of God at once, others would
wait until the end of time. We know others need not wait till then, if
they have been purified and paid their debts. But the beatitude applies
not only to martyrs, but to all who suffer for Christ, for what is
2. Special ideals in the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus gives many striking ideals in this sermon, e.g., in 5:25-26,
39-42 He urges us to settle peacefully with an opponent, to give no
resistance to injury, to even turn the other cheek, to give even one's
coat in addition to the shirt, to go two miles when asked for one. It is
important to notice that these are not outright commands, but ideals,
such that we should be inclined in these directions. But at times it is
best to do otherwise, e.g., Jesus Himself in the Jewish court, when
struck on the face, did not turn the other cheek, but rebuked the
servant (John 18:22-23). St. Augustine, as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas
(II-II. 40. 1 ad 1) explains: "These things are always to be
observed in readiness of soul. But at other times, one must act
otherwise for the sake of the common good", or to restrain
PART TEN: The Seven Sacraments in General
Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John
10:10). The life He speaks of is that of grace; sanctifying grace makes
us "sharers in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). That is it
gives us the basic ability to take part in the infinite knowledge and
love that flow within the Holy Trinity. We call that life supernatural,
since it is above and beyond the natural possibilities of any creature.
He won this life for us by His sacrificial death; He imparts it to us
chiefly through the Sacraments.
Sacramentum in pagan Latin meant an oath of allegiance to the
military commander; Christians soon referred this to Christ, but also
broadened the word to mean anything religious and mysterious. But it was
good for precision to speak more exactly. So eventually, by the 12th
century, an agreement arose to use Sacrament to mean a sacred sign or
rite established by Christ to give grace. In this light, it is an
inexact use of the word to call the Church a Sacrament. Rather, the
Church is the institution where we find these Sacraments and the
fulfillment of all our spiritual needs.
For this reason, "God wills all to be saved, and to come to the
knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). The second half of the
line shows He wants all to have the special favor of full membership in
the Church. Yet, as we saw in our treatment of the necessity of the
Church in Part Five, He has also made provision for those who achieve
something less than full membership, if they fulfill certain minimum
The power of the Sacraments is such that they confer grace by the
very fact that they are rightly conferred, if only the recipient does
not put up an obstacle.
Only baptized persons can receive the other Sacraments. To receive
validly so that it counts an adult needs to have the intention
to receive: God does not go against our free will which He has given.
For valid and also profitable reception of Baptism, Penance, and the
Anointing, there are also required faith, hope, and at last imperfect
sorrow for sin. (In the case of infants, the intention is supplied by
the Church). The state of grace is not needed for Baptism and Penance,
but is needed for the other Sacraments, though the Last Anointing, in
emergency, can make up for even that lack. The Sacraments give
sanctifying grace, which means, the basic ability of the soul to take
part in the vision of God in the next life. If one already has this
grace, they can increase the souls' capacity, for that vision is
infinite. They also give sacramental grace, that is, the special help to
carry out the obligations imposed by each Sacrament. This includes a
special claim to such helps in the future, when needed. We should
remember that, and call on that claim with confidence.
Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders in addition produce the
sacramental character, a permanent, indelible spiritual sign conforming
them to Christ in the various ways signified by those Sacraments. Since
this character is indelible, these three Sacraments cannot be repeated,
though there are as it were degrees of Holy Orders.
PART ELEVEN: Baptism and Confirmation
1. Meaning and Conferral
Baptism is the Sacrament that makes us members of Christ. It is given
in a rite of washing to signify spiritual cleansing and rebirth.
The matter used for Baptism must be natural water, not milk or some
other liquid. If there are some natural impurities, as there would be in
a running stream, these do not impede the effect. The candidate can be
completely immersed, or water can be poured on the head, in such a way
that the water flows, to signify cleansing. At the same time the one
baptizing must say the words "I baptize you in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In case of necessity,
anyone can baptize; however, outside of necessity the minister should be
a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon.
2. Spiritual Effects
Baptism removes all guilt of every sin, original and personal, and
cancels all punishment due to sin. The Sacrament of Penance can also
forgive all sins committed after Baptism, but there may be a liability
of temporal punishment remaining.
The infused virtues of faith, hope, and love are infused along with
grace at Baptism. There is also a beginning of the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit, making possible the practice of the Beatitudes. There is some
debate among theologians, which the Church has not settled about these
Gifts, chiefly: are they really the same as the infused virtues? The
best view is this: These Gifts could be compared to receptors, fitted
onto the structure of infused virtues, that make it possible to receive
inspirations and movements on the wavelength used by the Holy Spirit.
One of the things we can receive through these Gifts is a high form
of guidance. The lowest kind of guidance a person may follow much
different from that of the Gifts is the whim of the moment.
Aristotle says to follow that is "a life fit for cattle" (Ethics 1. 5). On the much higher, second level, the guide is human
reason which as a matter of fact will be aided by actual graces,
even if the person does not know about them. On that second level we
often move from step to step to decide something. But on the third
level, that of the Gifts, the answer is given by the Holy Spirit at
once, without any step by step process. Of course, this needs great care
to avoid imagination, or autosuggestion. Usually the guidance leaves one
slightly uncertain: a signal to consult a superior or director. In
special cases where that is not possible, certitude may be given. There
is a also a question about the number of the Gifts: The Hebrew original
of the Old Testament in Isaiah 1:1-3 gives six; the ancient Greek
version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) gives seven. Really, there
are very many kinds of Gifts God gives us.
The complete list of the seven Gifts is this: wisdom, understanding,
counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. The high form of
guidance just described, and infused contemplation, are unlikely to
appear until souls are well advanced spiritually. Some other helps, such
as understanding, fear of the Lord, and fortitude, may make their
effects felt earlier.
Wisdom makes a soul responsive to the Spirit in the contemplation of
divine things, through a sort of affinity to them. Understanding is the
gift for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly, and gives
insight into truths. Counsel perfects prudence, and is the channel for
the special guidance of which we spoke. Fortitude strengthens one to
carry out what faith suggests in spite of great difficulties. The gift
of knowledge helps us to see how little things of the world are compared
to eternity. . Piety leads to being devoted to God as our Father, in a
reverential way. It also leads the soul to recognize Christ in others.
Fear of the Lord is a deep reverence, not a servile fear.
Baptism gives an indelible character, of conformity to Christ. The
Gifts provide that conformity especially in accord with the same gifts
in Jesus Himself, of which Isaiah the prophet spoke in 11:1-3.
Not even mortal sin removes this character; hence a person remains
Christian even if he falls away from the faith. Hence too Baptism cannot
3. Necessity for salvation
Baptism is necessary in the sense that one who knows of the
obligation imposed by Christ and refuses to accept it could not be
saved. However those who through no fault of their own do not know the
Church, but yet keep the moral law as they know it, with the help of the
grace God freely provides, can be saved (cf. Vatican II, LG #16). We
call this situation that of baptism of desire, since the will to do what
God wills implicitly includes the desire for Baptism and the Church.
The Church has never decided what happens to unbaptized infants who
die without baptism. It is certain they do not suffer hell, from the
teaching of Pius IX: "God in His supreme goodness and clemency, by
no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishment who does
not have the guilt of voluntary fault" (Quanto conficiamur moerore,
August 10, 1863). Sadly, some today deny this teaching, and want to say
God eternally punishes these infants, and also adults who never had a
chance to hear of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas held (De malo q. 5, a.
3, ad 4) that these infants can never reach the vision of God since
grace is needed to make their souls capable of it but that they have
a natural happiness, and do not know what they have missed. Some
theologians today think God will find a way to go even beyond this. The
Church has not pronounced on the matter. So there is a grave duty to
baptize an adult in danger of death, if the adult wants it, and to
baptize a dying infant if the parents do not interfere.
If someone is baptized with only the essential rite, in emergency,
and then survives, the solemn ceremonies should be supplied later.
Baptism should be received as soon as reasonably possible after
birth, to fulfill the command of Christ. And also today we know there is
such a thing as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, in which the baby dies
abruptly and without any warning.
4. Ceremonies, Ritual, Sponsors
The ceremonies are largely the same for infant baptism and for
adults, except that the adult baptisms are usually done during Mass, and
especially in the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
The chief elements are:
1)The reception, in which the sponsors and
parents declare they want the
2) readings from the New
Testament and intercessions;
3) Exorcism and first anointing;
baptismal promises: a renunciation of satan, and profession of faith;
the Baptism proper;
6)anointing with chrism, clothing with a white
garment, giving of the lighted
candle, the prayers over ears and mouth.
If a person is baptized after reaching the use of reason, he/she must
believe the basic truths of the faith, have sorrow for sins (at least
out of fear of God's just punishments) and a desire to receive the
There should be at least one sponsor, or godparent, even though that
is not needed for the validity of the Baptism. Sponsors take on the
obligation to watch over the child in case the parents fail to provide
for its religious training.
The child should receive the name of a Saint, for Baptism symbolizes
a new life in Christ. That Saint becomes a heavenly protector.
Commonly today for adults there is a period of preparation in which
they are first admitted to the catechumenate, and then go through a
period of learning and spiritual formation, in several stages, before
the solemn Baptism in the Easter vigil.
1. Meaning and Conferral
The Old Testament prophets, even without a clear idea of the Holy
Spirit, had foretold that the Spirit would be poured out over all
mankind (cf. Joel 3:1, Isaiah 44:3-5, Ezekiel 39:29). Jesus Himself
promised the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17 & 26; John 16:13; Luke
24:49; Acts 1:5). This promise He fulfilled on the first Pentecost (Acts
2). On that day, the Holy Spirit coming down in the form of tongues of
fire, gave them the gift of speaking in strange tongues so that those
present could understand, and He gave also the seven Gifts, especially
the gift of fortitude, which transformed the once timid Apostles into
fearless messengers of Christ.
In the first age of the Church, many received the Gift of tongues and
other charismatic Gifts at Baptism or at Confirmation. Later these gifts
became rare in the mainline Church; But the seven Gifts are still given,
routinely, by this Sacrament.
Confirmation is the second stage of initiation, Baptism the first.
Confirmation is especially intended to give strength to hold firm in the
difficulties of life. Part of this is the grace to be able to testify to
Christ in a world that does not accept His principles. And in time of
persecution, it is from this gift of fortitude that martyrs gain their
strength and courage and also a the strong faith needed for endurance.
This special strength and light comes from the sacramental grace of
Confirmation. It is not given all at once, but as it were a book of
tickets is given, to be used to call for help at many times of need.
Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual character of
conformity to Christ.
Like Baptism, Confirmation makes one like to Christ especially in
1)being able to bear suffering like Christ the priest;
2) in witnessing
to the truth like Christ the teacher,
3)in leadership like Christ the
King, to draw others to follow Him and spread
His kingdom on earth,
which the Church.
Confirmation also increases sanctifying grace, that is, increases the
capacity of the soul to take in the vision of God in the life to come.
The minister of confirmation is normally the Bishop, who does so by
virtue of his office. However in the East, priests also have this right,
In the West, it is often given today to priests.
Confirmation can and should be received by any baptized person who
has not already received it. In the East, it is given right after
Baptism, in the West, sometime after the use of reason is reached.
Since Confirmation imprints a spiritual character, it cannot be
repeated. To receive the full effects of confirmation, one must be in
the state of grace; if not, when that state of grace is regained, the
effects of Confirmation follow.
2. The Rites
Vatican II changed the rites, making them more like what the Eastern
Church has been using. The renewal of baptismal promises comes before
the Sacrament; it is given during the Sacrifice of the Mass, and a new
formula of words is now used, taken from ancient Eastern liturgy, to
help bring out that the Holy Spirit who is received comes through
apostolic succession going back to the first Pentecost, through the
consecration which the minister received through the imposition of
The present rite, modified by Paul VI in 1971, includes a first
imposition of hands with a prayer (this is not essential but valuable)
and then the Sacrament is conferred by the anointing on the forehead
with chrism while the Bishop or priest says: "Receive the seal of
the Gift of the Holy Spirit." Chrism is olive oil mixed with balsam
and consecrated by the Bishop on Holy Thursday. The laying on of hands
shows that the one passes on something to the other.
PART TWELVE: The Eucharist and Mass
1. The Real Presence
The other Sacraments give us grace, the Holy Eucharist gives us not
only grace but the Author of all grace, Jesus, God and Man. It is the
center of all else the Church has and does.
As St. Mark records it, at the Last Supper, Jesus "took bread,
blessed and broke it and gave it to them: "Take this, this is my
Body" (Mk 14:22). That word blessed in Greek is eucharistesas, from
which the Eucharist derives its name.
Three of the four Gospels record the institution of the Holy
Eucharist: Matthew 26:25-29; Mark 14:22=25; Luke 22:19-23. St. Paul also
records it in First Corinthians 11:23-25. St. John's Gospels does not
report this, presumably because he intended chiefly to fill in what the
others had not written, for he wrote probably between 90 and 100 A.D.
There are small variations in the words, but the essentials are the
same in all accounts: This is my body... this is my blood. St. Luke and
St. Paul tell us that Jesus also said: "Do this in memory of
me." The others do not give those words. Two of the four, Matthew
and Mark, speak of His blood as shed for many. Some people today, having
little faith, say that now that the fact that our translations say
"for all" instead of "for many" makes the Mass
invalid, i.e., it is no longer a Mass. But the Church has decided the
text is correct, for the Pope himself when He uses English or Italian,
does say "for all... per tutti." It is a tragic lack of faith
not to believe the Pope and the Church. Further, that word many is
polloi in Greek, which normally means many. But it is used to try to
give the thought of Hebrew rabbim which means the all who are many
(could not be used of an all that would be few). Thus St. Paul in Romans
5:19 speaks of polloi as receiving Original Sin of course he means
all. Every time St. Paul uses polloi as a noun he always means all.
(Jesus probably spoke Hebrew at the Last Supper, for solemnity; if He
spoke Aramaic, the word would have been saggi'in. Jesus Himself in Mk
10. 45 (= Mt 20:28) when probably speaking Aramaic, would have used
saggi'in, where the Greek in the Gospel has polloi. The sense in any
case is clearly all. Also, the Targum on Isaiah 53:11 & 12 has
Aramaic saggi'in to render the Hebrew rabbim). In John 6:53 Jesus said:
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you
will not have life in you." Of course, He did not mean to cut off
salvation from those who through no fault of their own do not know or
grasp this truth. It is like the case of Baptism: one must receive it if
The form, that is the words required for the Eucharist are of course
the words of institution. The matter is wheat bread (white or whole
wheat) for the host, and natural wine (mixed with a very little water)
for the chalice. Addition of a notable amount of other matter would make
the material invalid.
Jesus is present wherever the appearances (species) of bread and wine
are found after the consecration. Hence He is found even when the host
is divided. The substance of bread and wine is gone, only the
appearances remain. The Church calls this change transubstantiation:
change of substance.
In John 6:47-67 Jesus did not soften His words about His presence
even when so many no longer went with Him: had He meant only that bread
and wine would signify Him, He could have so easily explained that, and
they would not have left.
The Church has always understood a Real Presence. For example, St.
Ignatius of Antioch, who was eaten by the beasts in Rome around 107
A.D., wrote: "The Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus
Christ" (To Smyrna 7:1). St. Justin the martyr wrote around 145 A.
D: "We have been taught that the food is the flesh and blood of
that Jesus who was made flesh" (Apology 1. 66. 2). The Council of
Trent in 1551 defined that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist,
body and blood, soul and divinity.
Obviously, this divine presence deserves our worship. Really, someone
who believes in it should be much inclined to come before the tabernacle
often. Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament seems to have started in
the 15th century. The Church also promotes Forty Hours devotion. In some
places there is perpetual adoration.
We can correctly speak of other kinds of presence of Jesus. (On this
see our discussion on the Ascension in the sixth article of the Creed,
and Vatican II, On the Liturgy #7). But none of them compare to that in
the Holy Eucharist.
2. The Mass
The Council of Trent taught that the Mass is the same as Calvary,
"only the manner of offering being changed" from bloody to
unbloody. Similarly Vatican II (On the Liturgy #10) said that the Mass
is the renewal of the new covenant.
A sacrifice as Catholics understand it (in contrast to some pagan
concepts) has two elements: the outward sign and the interior
dispositions. The outward sign is there to express and perhaps promote
the interior. Without the interior it would be worthless. Hence God once
complained through Isaiah 29:13: "This people honors me with their
lips, but their heart is far from me." We need to take care that we
too do not descend into mere externalism, thinking it enough to just
make the responses and sing etc.
At the Last Supper, the outward sign was the seeming separation of
body and blood, with the two species. This was a dramatized way of
saying to the Father: "I know the command you have given me, I am
to die tomorrow. Very good, I turn myself over to death expressed by
the seeming separation I accept, I obey." On the next day He
did as He pledged, but then the outward sign was the physical separation
of body and blood, while the interior remained the same. In the Mass, by
the agency of a human priest who acts "in the person of
Christ" (Vatican II, LG # 10) Christ continues and repeats His
offering. The external sign is multiplied as many times as there are
Masses. But the interior disposition of Christ is not multiplied, it is
continued from that with which He died. For death makes permanent the
attitude of will with which one leaves this world. Since the Mass has
the same external sign, and the same interior dispositions on the part
of Christ, we rightly call it a sacrifice, the continuation of Calvary.
It does not need to earn redemption all over that was done once for
all (Hebrews 9:28) by His death. But since the Holiness of God loves
everything that is good, and in good order, it pleases Him to have
titles or reasons in place for what He will give (cf. Summa I. 19. 5.
c). So it pleases Him to have the Mass provide the title for the
distribution of what was once for all earned on Calvary. Catechists
often like to use a memory word ACTS to express the dispositions: adoration,
contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. This is not
wrong, but it leaves out the essential disposition, obedience to the
Father (Cf. Romans 5:19 and LG #3).
At the Last Supper He ordered, "Do this in memory of me".
Since we were not there, He wants us to join our dispositions to His.
The great Liturgy Encyclical of Pius XII, Mediator Dei, explains well
that the people can be said to exercise their royal priesthood, to offer
the Mass with the priest: first, "from the fact that the priest at
the altar in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, does
so in the person of Christ," whose members they are. (Since only
the ordained priest acts "in the person of Christ" Vatican II
says [LG #10] that the ordained priesthood differs from that of the
laity in essence, and not only in degree).
Secondly the people can be said to offer since: "The people join
their hearts in praise, petition, expiation and thanksgiving with the
prayers or intention of the priest, in fact, of the High Priest Himself,
so that in the one and same of offering of the Victim... they may be
presented to God the Father "(Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 39:556).
Vatican II explains (LG # 10) that this is what it means for them to
"offer spiritual sacrifices".
These spiritual sacrifices consist of their obedience to the will of
the Father, already carried out, and planned for the future (Cf. LG
#34). This includes their works, their bearing the troubles of life,
their prayers, their apostolic efforts, their living out the duties of
their state in life, even their relaxation of body and mind if all these
things are done as part of the Father's plan, to enable them to serve
Him better. Jesus Himself spent about 30 out of 33 years in family life,
to show how greatly the Father values this if done precisely because it
part of His plan. No wonder Paul VI, on Feb. 12, 1966, told the 13th
National Congress of the Italian Feminine Center that "marriage is
a long road towards sanctification", that is, if one takes
everything in it as part of the Father's plan. (To be explained more
fully in our section on the Sacrament of Matrimony).
We can call this a royal priesthood, since to live this way is to
reign, instead of being a slave to vices ( 2 Peter 2:19). St. Augustine
explains this well in his exegesis of Revelation/Apocalypse 20:5-6 (City
of God 20:7-9) which tells how the holy ones rise from sin which is
the first resurrection, and reign, by being their own masters, by not
consenting to the works of the Beast, the Antichrist and his minions,
"but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with
Him for that thousand years", i.e., all the time from His ascension
to His return at the end. It would be good to take a moment before each
Mass to see what one has to join with the obedience of Christ, soon to
be offered on the altar. Then Mass cannot be without meaning; rather, it
dominates all of life, for we should bring our past obediences, and look
ahead to the obedience of the near future.
We can see easily how Vatican II could call the Mass the renewal of
the new covenant: in the making of that new covenant, the essential
condition which gave it all its value was obedience, the obedience of
Jesus, which is to be re-presented again on the altar, so we may join
It is good to recall too that His Mother shared in this sacrifice by
her obedience (cf. our comments on the Third Article of the Creed) on
Calvary, and now, as John Paul II taught (Angelus Homily of Feb. 12,
1984) she "is at every altar" because "she was present at
the original sacrifice", sharing in it, and now from heaven, she
still joins her will to His, as He offers the flesh and blood He
received from her.
The graces of the Mass are communicated in accord with how often the
Mass is offered for a certain intention, the dispositions of the priest,
the dispositions of the faithful who join with him, the dispositions of
those for whom it is offered, and God's Providence.
We say we offer the Mass in honor of Our Lady, the angels, particular
Saints. In it we thank God for what He has done for them, and for us
through them. But we offer the Mass to God alone.
The chief liturgical divisions of the Mass are: the penitential rite,
the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of the eucharist, the communion
rite, and the concluding rite. For the sacrifice as such, only the
double consecration is essential. Hence Pius XII taught, "When the
consecration of the bread and wine is validly brought about, the whole
action of Christ is actually accomplished. Even if all that remains
could not be completed, still, nothing essential would be lacking to the
Lord's offering" (Vous nous avez, To the Liturgical Conference of
Assisi Sept 22, 1956). Hence the Great Amen is not the offering, it is a
sort of extension, to give us further opportunity to join with Christ.
The Communion follows up, giving us a share in the Divine Victim as He
The Mass brings forgiveness for venial sins for which there is
sorrow, and for temporal punishment commonly left over after forgiveness
Mass may be offered for the living or the dead. Its general benefits
go to the whole Church, living and dead. Special benefits are for the
priest who offers, and those for whom a Mass is specially offered, and
for those who actively participate at the Mass.
In it we recall not only His death, but also His Resurrection, as the
Eucharistic Prayer I reminds us.
Even with the changes in the laws, Mass on Sundays and Holyday of
Obligation remains an obligation binding under grave sin each time.
3. Holy Communion
In the ancient sacrifices, both Jewish and pagan, those who took part
were given part of the meat of the sacrificed animal, in the hope of a
sort of communion with the divinity. In the Mass, after the sacrifice
itself is completed, we have the unspeakable privilege of receiving the
flesh and blood of the Divine Victim, who is not dead, but living, and
comes to give life in abundance to our souls.
This Holy Communion, if we are rightly disposed, produces an increase
in sanctifying grace the ability to take in the vision of God in the
life to come plus a special claim to actual graces as needed,
forgiveness of venial sin for which one is repentant, help to keep from
mortal sin, and an increase in the virtue of love. But dispositions are
needed, for even though the Eucharist contains the very Author of all
grace, it does not operate like magic: we must do what we can.
We must of course have the state of grace. Without it it would be
sacrilege, and an added mortal sin to receive. Right intention is also
needed, i.e., to please God, to be more closely united with Him, to gain
a remedy for our weaknesses.
It is not required to be free from all venial sin. The reception
itself may forgive venial sins for which one is sorry. But the fruits of
receiving are reduced. It is especially needed that one be free from all
deliberate venial sin in contrast to sins of weakness, sins when one
is taken off guard. For fullest benefits, we should be free from all
attachment to anything sinful. Some have as it were a gap in their
purpose of amendment, as if they said, for example: "I do not
intend to commit mortal sins, nor all venial sins. But there are some
reservations: if it is hard to stick to the truth, I will not do so, or
if it is hard to keep a conversation going without a bit of detraction,
that is all right too." These dispositions, sometimes called
"affection to venial sin" impose as it were a clamp on one's
heart, for he/she has decided to go so far and no farther. So they
effectively prevent spiritual growth beyond a certain point. How sad
that many who could grow much, block growth by this means.
But mere carelessness, lack of preparation, or lack of thanksgiving
can be harmful. Pope John Paul II, in his very first Encyclical,
Redemptor hominis #20, said that if one does not constantly try to grow
spiritually, receiving the Eucharist would "lack its full redeeming
effectiveness" and there could even be a spiritual loss. To receive
out of mere routine, with no special care, no thanksgiving, is more apt
to cause spiritual loss than gain.
To prepare, one should think in advance about what he/she is going to
do, especially during the Mass. After receiving, it is valuable to try
for recollection, in humility to adore the Lord present we adore the
Lord present within us, to give thanks, to express sorrow for
deficiencies, to ask for helps to do better. It is very good to stay a
few minutes after the end of the Mass to continue this thanksgiving.
Of course one should be decently dressed to receive. Some give
scandal and lead others into sin in the very act of coming.
The Eucharistic fast has now been reduced to one hour abstaining
from food and drink (except water). The time is computed up to the
actual time of reception. The sick, even if not confined to bed, and
those actually engaged in caring for them at the time, need not observe
any period of fasting. The same applies to the elderly, according to the
new Code of Canon Law # 919. 3. Children should begin to receive when
they have reached the use of reason, but not before they have made their
first confession. Once one has begun to receive, there is the obligation
of receiving at least once a year, at Easter time, unless there is a
reasonable cause for using a different time.
Pastors should see to it that the sick can receive at times. Those
who are in danger of death are obliged to receive the Sacred Host as
Viaticum, which means provision for the journey into the next life.
The present law allows quite a few occasions when the Holy Eucharist may
be received under both species. However, Christ is received whole and
entire under one form only, for He dies no more: body and blood are
never separated. (Cf. First Corinthians 11. 26-27, noting that in v. 26,
the word and shows that both species are needed to express the death of
the Lord, but for Holy Communion, only one species is needed. Hence the
word or is used in v. 27).
When actual reception is not possible, one may profitably make a
spiritual communion, by a fervent desire to receive sacramentally. This
keeps the soul united with Jesus during the day, and prepares better for
the actual reception.
PART THIRTEEN: The Sacrament of Penance
1. Institution, and History of the Sacrament
The first gift Jesus gave to His Apostles assembled on the first
Easter evening was this great Sacrament. He gave it so soon, as if eager
to provide so great a means of giving out the forgiveness He had just so
painfully earned for all: "Jesus came and stood in their midst and
said: 'Peace be to you'. And saying this He showed them His hands and
His side... 'as the Father has sent me, I also send you'. And saying
this He breathed on them and said to them: 'Receive the Holy Spirit:
Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; whose sins you
shall retain, they are retained'" (John 20:19-23).
All Bishops and Priests have this power. Since the absolution has the
nature of a juridical act, the Church can reserve the right to determine
when a priest may have jurisdiction to use this power. But today the
Church gives this jurisdiction to all priests who have received
"faculties", i.e., jurisdiction, from their own Bishop, to be
used anywhere in the world.
Since our Lord gave the power to both forgive and to retain sins, it
is evident the Bishop or Priest must know what sins there are: hence the
obligation of confession of all mortal sins committed since Baptism or
since the last confession. The Council of Trent in 1551 defined (Canon 7
on Penance) this need of confession. If the penitent were to
deliberately hold back even one mortal sin, there would be no
forgiveness, but instead, a sacrilege, another mortal sin.
At the Last Supper, Our Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead
the Church into all truth (John 16:13; 14:26).
As a result not all things were perfectly clear at the start: some,
such as the Immaculate Conception, had to slowly mature in the
understanding of the Church, as guided by that Holy Spirit.
The first clear mention of the use of the Sacrament of Penance comes
in The Shepherd, by Hermas, brother of Pope St. Pius I (140-150). This
work seems to have been started in the 90s, finished only during the
time of Pius I. Of course the Sacrament was in use before that and
we do have less clear earlier mentions that may refer to it, e. g, Pope
Clement I, writing to Corinth in about 95 AD says (6:8): "It is
good for one to confess his sins, rather than to harden his heart."
The first mentions of the Sacrament seem to view a public use of it.
This does not mean a person confessed his sins in public, but the
penance, long and severe, was publicly known. But a private use of the
Sacrament for lesser things probably anything but the "big
three", murder, apostasy adultery seems to have been in use
very early. In his work On Modesty (18:8), Tertullian, writing between
213 and 223, speaks of a penitence "which can obtain pardon for
lesser faults from the bishop." In the next chapter (19:24-26) he
mentions some of the lesser faults: unjust anger, cursing or swearing
rashly, violating a contract, lying etc. Similarly St. Cyprian of
Carthage in his Epistle 10, written about 150 AD, mentions that "in
lesser sins, sinners do penance for a fixed time, and... come to
confession, and through the imposition of the hands of the bishop and
clergy receive the right of communion." In his work On the Lapsed
(28) he speaks of mere sins of thinking of denying Christ, and then
"confessing this very thing before the priests of God." People
then seem to have grasped the need of much penance to insure sincerity
of change of heart , and to really make up for sins. They seem not to
have realized the possible use of the Sacrament for spiritual growth, by
frequent confession. Today things seem reversed, we understand the
former less, the latter more.
In the first centuries, Baptism was often called the seal (cf. 2
Corinthians 1:22), which meant that God by Baptism marked a soul as His
property the seal should never be broken, by any sin at all. Hence
the ideal of not even needing the Sacrament of Penance. Thus in The
Shepherd of Hermas the vision says (Mandates 4. 3. 2): "He who has
received forgiveness of sins [in Baptism] should never sin again, but
remain in purity." 2. Requirements for the penitent
All mortal sins committed after Baptism must be confessed, giving the
number of times and circumstances that substantially alter the matter.
It is not required to confess venial sins, yet it is to be encouraged.
For the sacramental grace of this Sacrament gives a special claim to
helps, at times when they are needed, to stay out of the sins that were
However, doubtful mortal sins need not be confessed, though it is
strongly recommended that lax persons confess them. It is good for
anyone to confess them, as doubtful, unless one is scrupulous.
It is a very good practice especially when one has not much to
confess, to add at the end something like this: I wish to include also
the sins of the past against commandment X or virtue X. This tells God
we still wish we had not offended Him, and gives us a special title to
graces to help keep out of the same things in the future.
The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that children should
receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist when they reached
the age of reason.
Because of the great reverence due to the Holy Eucharist, the Church
requires that if one has sinned mortally, the state of grace must be
regained through the Sacrament of Penance, even though perfect
contrition can actually restore it. Perfect contrition means one looks
back on the sin, sees it differently, sees that it is really wrong, says
he wishes he had not done that against God who is so good in Himself
not just that He is good to us, though that is of course also true.
There is an emergency case, which happens more readily today than in the
past, if someone by social pressure must go to Mass and Holy Communion
for everyone seems to go at every Mass but yet has committed a
mortal sin, perhaps during the night, and has no opportunity for
confession before receiving. That one may receive on the strength of
such an act of perfect contrition, but with the obligation of getting to
confession as soon as reasonably possible. Even the old theologians
before Vatican II admitted this, and would say that if a person would
spend a bit of time, perhaps even as little as 5 clock minutes, in quiet
and trying to think of the motives for perfect contrition, it would be
legitimate to assume the effort was successful. Attrition, that is a
sorrow based on something less than what was described for perfect
contrition, can suffice for the Sacrament. This means sorrow out of fear
of His just punishment not just out of servile fear of hell and
because God is good to us. Outside of very special cases confession must
be individual. However before battle in war, and at times when there is
real need to absolve a large group, and there is no time to hear each
one separately, general absolution may be given. But the obligation to
confess individually later remains for those persons.
After absolution, the penitent must say or do the penance given. To
omit it deliberately after a mortal sin is gravely wrong. If one
forgets, he should ask again if possible. If not possible, it would be
sufficient to do what was most likely the penance given.
Even after doing the penance, usually there will be temporal
punishment left over. It is good for the person to voluntarily try to do
something for this. We recall that in the early centuries the Church
made really large penances mandatory. Now the Church leaves it up to us
to do enough. Many probably do not do much. When the dispensation for
Friday abstinence was given, the document reminded us that the Church
cannot dispense from the divine obligation of penance, and therefore
said, that if one uses that dispensation, he/she must do something
The priest who hears a confession and anyone who by chance
happens to overhear is bound by the seal of confession, the most
stringent kind of obligation. No reason whatsoever would ever justify
revealing anything covered by it. 3. Indulgences
As we said earlier, the Church is led by the Holy Spirit over the
centuries to an ever deepening penetration of the original deposit of
faith. It is quite clear in the New Testament that, in view of the union
of the Mystical Body, one can make up for another. St. Paul in
Colossians 1:24 says he is filling up in his own body that which is
lacking to the sufferings of Christ for His body, the Church. Of course,
Christ the Head lacked nothing in suffering; but His members may fail to
do their part. Paul, and others, can make up.
But it seems it took the Church some time to go further , so as to
see that the Church has the keys to a great treasury, as it were, of
merits and satisfactions from Christ and our Lady and the Saints, which
can be given out by what we call indulgences. Of course, these are not
permission to sin, as the Protestants used to charge (in spite of
Luther's famed dictum in Epistle 501: "Even if you sin greatly
believe still more greatly.")
Around 250 A.D. when the Church's requirements for penances for sins
were still great, many were in prison who had confessed their faith in
the Roman courts while their friends outside were under the obligation
of long penances. Some of those in prison began to write letters to St.
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, saying in effect: I wish to offer my
sufferings for the sins of this friend of mine. Please relax his
penance. St. Cyprian began to realize this could be done, and so helped
the whole Church to see the possibilities.
A plenary indulgence if fully gained gives complete freedom from the
penalties left over from sins. A partial indulgences does less.
The conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence are very great. One
requirement is that the one who does the good work be free from all
attachment to any sin at all, even venial sin. Then the person must
confess and receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the
Holy Father. Confession might be made within about a week before or
after the time the prescribed work is done. Holy Communion should be on
the same day as the good work.
The prayers for the Holy Father should be at very least one Our
Father and Hail Mary, or equivalents. If the good work called for is a
visit to a church, one must say at least an Our Father and the Apostles'
or Nicene Creed in addition.
If a plenary indulgence is not gained fully, there will still be a
Plenary indulgences can be gained only once a day, except for the
plenary indulgence at the moment of death.
The Church grants a plenary indulgence at the moment of death even if
a priest is not available if the person is in the state of grace, has
been in the habit of reciting some prayers during his life, and has the
intention of gaining it.
However, the authority of the Church over souls ends with death, and
so plenary indulgences gained for particular souls in purgatory are left
to God's decision.
In a partial indulgence instead of mentioning so many years etc. as
formerly, the Church now says in effect: Whatever value your good work
would have without an indulgence, we now double, by giving an indulgence
PART FOURTEEN: Marriage
Marriage was instituted in paradise by God Himself, for Adam and Eve.
But Jesus raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, as the Council of
Trent taught us. It is not clear when He did that: perhaps at the
wedding at Cana, perhaps when, in Matthew 19:9, He made it indissoluble,
perhaps just before His ascension, when as Acts 1:3 tells us, He spoke
to them about the kingdom of God. However, for it to be sacramental, it
is necessary that both parties be baptized. Even if they are not
Catholic, if baptized, it will be a sacrament. However, only a
sacramental and consummated marriage is indissoluble.
The ministers of the Sacrament are not the priest or deacon, but the
two contracting parties. It is given when they pledge their consent, and
contract to remain together until death. However, unless the Bishop
dispenses, Catholics must marry before a priest or deacon, under pain of
Since marriage is a Sacrament, it gives an increase in sanctifying
grace, and also the special sacramental grace that is needed to carry
out its obligations. Really, the sacramental grace is a title, on which
one can call as many times as needed during the rest of life, to obtain
Marriage is in the form of a contract, as St. Paul makes clear in
First Corinthians 7: 1:3-4: "Let the husband pay the debt to his
wife, and similarly, the wife to the husband. The wife does not have
power over her own body, but the husband does. Similarly the husband
does not have the power over his own body but the wife does." They
are, then both fully equal in rights to the lawful use of marriage.
Vatican II adds (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World #49:
"The actions by which the spouses are intimately and chastely
united with each other are honorable and worthy." In fact, under
the suitable conditions, easily had, this use of marriage can be
meritorious, for it is part of our Father's plan, if only the spouses
look upon it as such. (It is meritorious if they are in the state of
grace, and act under actual grace, which is always present if they
intend thereby to carry out our Father's plan). In fact, everything
about married life is part of His plan and therefore holy, if only the
partners see that fact and intend it: cf. First Timothy 2:15.
The indissolubility of marriage is needed in the nature of things for
the sake of the children, who need the stable shelter and support of the
Father and Mother.
Since marriage by its nature must be a permanent commitment, it is
obviously necessary that both partners be capable of such a permanent
commitment. Sadly, some grow up today doing only what feels good, only
as long as it feels good, and so are not at all ready for, perhaps not
even capable of, the permanent commitment that marriage must be. Even
with an ideal pair, male and female psychology are so different that
each one can honestly say: "I need to give in more than half of the
time to make this work." We can see here the need of Christian
mortification to give the needed training and development.
It used to be usual to say that the primary end or purpose of
marriage was the procreation and rearing of the offspring, and the
secondary end was mutual love and support. Vatican II did not use the
same language, but it did clearly teach the same (Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World # 48, repeated in #50): "By its very
nature, the institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordered to the
procreation and education of the offspring." Now if one thing is
"ordered to" another, it is subordinated to it.
Ephesians 5:32 says that marriage is an image of the union of Christ
with the Church. First Corinthians also says (7:7) that marriage is a
charism or a grace.
Both parties have pledged mutual love, even in worse times, until
death. The husband must provide for his family, and love his wife as
Christ loves the Church. Colossians 3:18 says: "Wives subject
yourselves to your husbands, as is right in the Lord." (Ephesians
5:22-23 has the same thought). They are both equal in their rights to
the use of marriage (1 Cor 7 2-4) and in seeking eternal salvation (Gal
3:28). We must avoid extremes here. Pius XI, in his Encyclical on
marriage, Casti Connubii balances things well:
does not deny or take away the freedom which fully belongs to the wife
both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most
noble position as wife and mother and companion. Nor does it tell her to
obey every request of her husband, if not in accord with right reason,
or with the dignity due a wife. Nor does it imply she should be on the
level of those who are legally minors... . . If the husband is the head,
the wife is the heart.
Experience, and studies show that in the
care of young children (especially under 3) the role of the Mother is
indispensable, cannot be supplied by anyone else. Ephesians 5:28 says:
"For a man to love his wife is to love himself." Yet, common
sense tells us that a committee of two with both entirely equal is
hardly workable. But a striving for loving consensus is splendid.
Pope Paul VI, in an address to the Congress of the Italian Feminine
Center, on Feb. 12, 1966 said that, "Marriage is a long road to
sanctification." It is indeed that, beautifully so, if only the
partners understand everything in it as part of our Father's plan.
Our Father has designed a marvelous process, if only we use it
according to His designs. For we all begin life completely enclosed in a
shell of self, as babies. How can we get from there to the point of
being able to be sincerely concerned with the well-being and happiness
of another for the other's sake for that is the definition of love?
As we said, baby begins in a state of complete selfishness. But soon
baby begins to play with other babies, and discovers the other baby
claims to have rights, so they quarrel over a toy. Many such incidents
help to teach. Around age 9 little boys and girls dislike each other.
This is providential: they avoid each other and so develop their own
characteristics to prepare for the next stage, which comes when
chemistry/hormones develop. Then a boy will suddenly think a certain
girl is "wonderful" a magic rosy light coming from the
chemistry shines about her. Similarly for the girl toward a boy. Love
develops when we see something good in another and so hope they are well
off. But if the other seems "wonderful" this is a real starter
for love. But it only tends to produce love. Further at same time, the
feelings/chemistry that come naturally are a normal counterpart
(psychologists call it somatic resonance) to love, which they tend to
bring in the spiritual will: willing good to the other for the other's
sake. We said "tends" because this great plan of God can be
wrecked in two ways: (1) If a person uses sex for private pleasure,
masturbation this puts one back into the shell of self, gives a poor
forecast for success in marriage. (2) If a two people use each other for
sensory gratification it will feel like love, closeness, and warmth,
but real love can hardly develop. For real love means willing good to
the other for the other's sake. This premarital sex instead puts each
into a state such that if they died in it, they would be miserable
forever. They are only using each other, not being really concerned for
the well-being of the other. Sadly, they can in this way think they have
real love, when all they have is chemistry. When emotions subside in a
year or two after marriage, they may find they have no love, and so, a
wrecked marriage. But if they play the game the way our Father designed
it, love will develop, and they are far out of the shell of self, are
mature, can really enjoy life. Then if babies come this generosity
spills over onto them, concern for their well-being even when it means
many sacrifices. If baby fusses in the small hours of the morning, a
parent may have to make a different kind of holy hour. The monk in his
monastery knows he can go back to bed in 60 minutes: the parents know
not when. One insurance commercial said: "When you have children,
their goals become your goals." This is splendid generosity, real
There will be sacrifices in properly rearing and educating a child.
The parents have both the obligation, and the primary right to do this,
more so than any outside authority. This too is sanctifying.
Male and female psychology, as we said, are extremely different. So
each one, even in an ideal pair, can honestly say: "I need to give
in most of the time to make this work". To adjust to this means
real solid growth in spirituality, giving up one's own will for the good
of the other, as part of our Father's plans.
Our Father so loves this generosity and maturity that He as it were
sugar coats it, by the use of feelings. But it is none the less
Even in the best marriages, disagreements are apt to occur. St. Paul
offers a bit of advice worth more than its weight in gold: "Love
does not keep a record of injuries" (1 Corinthians 13:5 other
translations are possible). When two people quarrel, at first they will
use the arguments bearing directly on the current issue. But when one or
both find they are not winning, there will be a temptation to enlarge
the war, as it were, either by generalizing: "You are a nasty
person in general", or by reciting a list of past offenses. To do
that makes us wonder if the injured party had really forgiven. If not,
it is dangerous to recite the Our Father and the hurt is so deep
that it is hard to heal. Nothing short of an outright apology is apt to
2. Impediments to marriage
Some things besides the inability to make a permanent commitment
which we mentioned can make a marriage invalid from the start. The
chief ones are: lack of age (under 16 for the man, under 14 for the
girl); or lack of freedom (while in captivity by abduction or detention
with a view to marriage the girl cannot marry the captor); the bond
still present from a previous marriage; natural relationship within
certain degrees; spiritual relationships which sponsors contract with
the person baptized; affinity or relationship that husband and wife each
contract with brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts of the other;
differences of religion such that one party is not baptized (unless the
Bishop dispenses); lack of the proper witness (Bishop, Priest, or
Deacon) for the marriage. A husband who kills his own wife, or the
husband of another woman, to clear the way for marriage, cannot validly
marry that party. The same applies to a wife. A marriage in which both
parties are baptized, but one is not Catholic, requires special
permission, given only under careful circumstances. Really, the danger
to the faith of the Catholic party and to the children is very great.
Even if a civil court grants a divorce, the marriage still stands,
unless of course some impediment, mentioned above, makes it invalid. The
Church can and does at times permit couples to separate, sometimes even
permanently, for serious reasons, especially great danger to soul or
body, or certainty that one of the parties has committed adultery. Such
separation does not give a right to remarry.
It is required that the bans be published before a marriage, that is,
that an announcement be made to that if someone knows of a reason that
would make the marriage wrong, it should be reported.
PART FIFTEEN: Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick
1. Institution, Reception and Effects: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
The Council of Trent defined that at the Last Supper, when Our Lord
said to the Apostles, "Do this in memory of me," (Luke 22:19)
He ordained them Priests, with the power to consecrate the Eucharist and
celebrate Mass. But more was still to come: On Easter Sunday night He
gave them the power to forgive sins: "Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you
shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).
So we gather that historically, Jesus gave them the Sacrament of
Orders not all at once, but in parts. Against this background, we note
that the Apostles imposed hands on some men and ordained them deacons
So there are three degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. The Council of Trent defined:
"If anyone says that the Holy Spirit is not given by sacred
ordination, and so that Bishops say in vain, "Receive the Holy
Spirit' or that no character is imprinted by it... let him be
anathema." Therefore in all three degrees of Orders, Diaconate,
Priesthood, and Episcopate, the Holy Spirit is received, and the sacred
character to conform them to Christ, is imprinted, which is indelible.
In the ordination of each of the three degrees of the hierarchy for
the word hierarchy includes all three there is the imposition of the
hands of the Bishop, along with the consecratory prayer. For deacons,
that prayer is: "Lord, we pray, send forth upon them the Holy
Spirit, so that by the grace of your seven gifts, they may be
strengthened by Him to carry out faithfully the work of the
ministry." For priests it is: "We ask you, all-powerful
Father, give these servants of yours the dignity of the presbyterate.
Renew the Spirit of holiness within them. By your divine gift, may they
attain the second order in the hierarchy and exemplify right conduct in
their lives." For Bishops it is: "Now pour out upon this
chosen one that power which flows from you, the perfect Spirit whom you
gave to the apostles, who established the Church in every place as the
sanctuary where your name would always be praised and glorified."
Deacons are dedicated to the people of God, in cooperation with the
Bishops and their body of Priests, in the service of the liturgy, of the
Gospel, and of works of Christian charity. In First Timothy 3:13 we read
of them: "Those who serve well as Deacons earn a high standing for
themselves, and great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
The principal functions of the Deacon are these: to give solemn
baptism; to be the ordinary minister of distributing the Holy Eucharist;
to assist at and bless Christian marriage in the name of the Church; to
bring Viaticum to the dying; to read the Gospel to the people; to
instruct and exhort the people; to preach; to preside over the worship
and prayer of the faithful, under the Priest; to administer sacramentals
and blessings; to officiate at funeral and burial services.
In the Roman rite there are two forms of the diaconate now. One is a
permanent diaconate, such that the Deacons remain in that order for
life; the other is a transitional diaconate which is on the road to
ordination to the priesthood. The candidate must make a formal statement
of which form he wishes to enter, and must testify he is doing this
freely. He also makes his choice between a celibate or married diaconate.
Transitional Deacons must be celibate; those who are already married can
be ordained permanent Deacons, but Deacons who are celibate may not
marry after ordination without giving up the right to exercise their
diaconate. If the wife of a married Deacon dies, he may not marry again.
The chief functions of a Priest are to baptize, to consecrate and to
offer the Holy Sacrifice, to forgive sins, and to confer the Sacrament
of the Anointing of the Sick, as well as to be the official witness at
The Sacrament of Holy Orders confers a character, on all three
degrees, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, to conform the recipient to
Christ the priest, the prophet, the king. The ordained Bishop or Priest
is conformed to Christ the Priest to such an extent that he can act
"in the person of Christ" in saying, "This is my body...
This is my blood" (LG # 10).
Vatican II (On the Liturgy # 7, citing St. Augustine, On John 6. 17)
says that Christ "is present by His power in the Sacraments, so
that when someone baptizes, Christ Himself baptizes." We notice St.
Augustine speaks of Christ baptizing when "someone" baptizes.
True, in that everyone can baptize in cases of necessity. But when the
Bishop, Priest or Deacon baptizes, he does so by virtue of the character
conforming him to Christ. When they preach, they are acting for Christ,
since the character conforms them to Christ the Prophet. When they lead
the people of God, they do so since the character conforms them to
Christ the King, the divine leader. So, although the Church has not yet
pronounced on the point (except for the Eucharist, cited above), it
seems we could say that all three, Bishop, Priest, and Deacon can act
"in the person of Christ", to the extent that they are
conformed to Him, represent Him, and do what he does through them. And
when they pray the Divine Office, it is not a private prayer, such as it
is when a layman prays the office. They are acting in the name of the
Church. Vatican II wrote (On The Liturgy #7):"When the Church prays
and sings psalms, He is present."
Since all three, Deacons, Priests, and Bishops receive the Sacrament
of Holy Orders, are given the Holy Spirit, and the sacred character
conforming them to Christ, clearly, they are not only members of the
clergy, but also of the hierarchy, a word that means not "higher-archy"
but "sacred government or rule."
But it is important to remember that the official conformity is far
less than the conformity in holiness that their very character calls
for. Our Lord Himself, in a dramatic teaching, compared the dignity of
the Divine Motherhood, which Pius XI called "the highest dignity
next to God" and "'a sort of infinite dignity from the
infinite good that God is'" (Lux veritatis, Dec. 25, 1931, citing
St. Thomas I. 25. 6 ad 4) with that of hearing the word of God and
keeping it. He declared the second greater than the first (Mk 3. 31-35:
cf. LG # 58. ) Of course, His Mother was at the peak in both categories.
So the recipient of Holy Orders must have a strong enlightened faith
himself, strengthened by prayer, mortification, and study. He must
communicate the faith to others, by his preaching and example. Indeed,
St. Paul seems to consider preaching his chief function (1 Corinthians
Their close association with the Most Holy Eucharist means all three
should be specially devoted to that surpassing Sacrament, even outside
the time of liturgical functions.
In addition to the Mass and the Sacraments, there are added means of
holiness for all three ranks, the Divine Office (which may not be
required in its completeness of permanent Deacons) and celibacy (as we
said, married Deacons may be ordained permanent Deacons, but may not
remarry if the wife dies). The Church esteems the value of celibacy so
highly that even in a time of shortage of priests, celibacy must still
be maintained (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35). It helps free men from the
very powerful pulls of even the legitimate use of sex (cf. 1 Corinthians
7:5 and 7:35).
The chief additional power of Orders a Bishop receives is that of
ordaining other Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Also, in the Latin rite,
only Bishops are the ordinary ministers of Confirmation.
In virtue of his divine commission to rule and teach and sanctify,
the Bishop takes on responsibility for every soul in his diocese, for
which he must one day give an account to the Divine Judge. An awesome
responsibility as well as a marvelous privilege!
The Bishop too, in virtue of collegiality the fact that the
Bishops and the Pope form a body somewhat like the body formed by Peter
and the Apostles(cf. LG ## 22-23) have a responsibility for the
universal Church as well as for their own dioceses. The Pope does not
have a still higher degree of the Sacrament of Orders. But he does, at
his election, obtain by divine right as the successor of St. Peter,
supreme and immediate jurisdiction over the whole Church even over the
Bishops (LG #22), and he can even define a doctrine without consulting
the Bishops though he normally does consult (LG # 25). Bishops,
Priests, and Deacons have the right to teach and exercise authority only
insofar as they are themselves subject to the teaching and authority of
2. The Ministries: Lector and Acolyte
Those formally installed in the ministries of Lector and Acolyte may
be laymen. The Lector, or reader is to read the Word of God in the
liturgy, except for the Gospel. The Lector may also recite the psalm
between the readings, and present the intentions during the prayer of
the faith. The Lector may also direct singing, and instruct the faithful
for worthy reception of the Sacraments.
The Acolyte is assigned to help the Deacon, and to minister to the
Priest especially during Mass. He may when needed, and if installed in
the ministry by the Bishop, distribute Holy Communion as an auxiliary
minister, and take Holy Communion to the sick. In unusual circumstances
the Acolyte may be assigned to publicly expose the Blessed Sacrament for
adoration and afterwards replace it. But he is not allowed to give the
These two ministries are conferred by the Bishop of the diocese, or
by the Major Superior in clerical religious institutes, according to the
prescribed liturgical rites. Only men are eligible.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK
We know this Sacrament was instituted by Christ, as the Council of
Trent defined. The same Council said that this Sacrament was insinuated
in Mark 6:13, but promulgated in James 5:14-15: "Is anyone sick
among you? Let him call the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray
over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer
of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and
if he be in sins, they will be remitted for him." Mark 6:13 tells
of the Apostles on their trial mission anointing the sick with oil and
healing them. Some object that they had not yet been ordained priests,
(until the Last Supper) and so this could not be the Sacrament. However,
Jesus did give them powers of the priesthood in installments, as we saw.
So this could be it. But, on the other hand, Mark 6:13 makes no mention
of forgiving sins of which James speaks.
The anointing with oil stands for strengthening the one anointed, for
athletes in those days did use olive oil to strengthen muscles. So this
Sacrament is to strengthen the sick person in what may be his last
sickness, and to give help in bearing the sufferings. It need not and
should not be put off until almost the very end). Especially aid is
needed against the special assaults of satan that are apt to come then.
For this reason it can give added confidence in God's mercy. If there is
need, and if the sick one cannot confess, this anointing can remit even
mortal sins, provided that the sick person had, in faith, been sorry for
sins with at least attrition. It can also remit to a certain extent the
temporal punishment remaining after sins are forgiven. Sometimes it
gives a physical improvement, if God so wills. These effects remain with
the person as long as the physical condition that called for the
It can be conferred by a Bishop or Priest. The essential words are
(while anointing the forehead): "Through this holy anointing may
the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy
Spirit". (Sick person answers: Amen). (While anointing the hands):
"May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you
up". (Sick person answers: Amen)
In case of necessity, one anointing, on the forehead, suffices.
It may be received by anyone who is in danger of death from illness,
or who is aged enough to be gravely weakened. It should not be put off
until near the end. It can be given even when the person is unconscious
or when the sick one has lost the use of reason, provided that he/she
would likely have asked for it while in possession of their faculties
and probably had at least attrition.
If there is doubt whether the person is still alive, it may be given
conditionally if there is any respectable chance he is still alive.
There is sometimes an interval between seeming and real death,
especially in sudden death.
It can be given before surgery if the illness in itself is serious.
If the person gets better, and then falls again into danger, the
Sacrament may be repeated. It may also be repeated if the illness gets
The oil to be used should be olive oil, blessed by the Bishop on Holy
Thursday. However in case of need, any priest can bless just enough oil
for the occasion. What is left over in such a case should be burned. If
olive oil is not obtainable, any vegetable oil may be used.
The sick person who has received this Sacrament should be encouraged
to offer his/her sufferings in reparation for sins, in union with those
of Jesus and His Mother. We should help those who are dying by being at
their side, and by whispering aspirations with or to them, and by
helping them to make acts of faith, hope, love and contrition. It is
good to offer them the crucifix to hold and venerate if they can do so.
PART SIXTEEN Prayer In general and the Our Father
1. Prayer in General
In prayer, we lift minds and hearts to God, to adore Him, that is, to
acknowledge that all we are and have comes from Him, to express sorrow
for our sins, to thank Him for everything He has given us which is
everything we are and have and do and to beg His help for many
things, especially for help to obey His will. Obedience is the most
essential disposition, for to really love God is, in practice, to obey
Him, since our obedience gives Him the pleasure of being able to give to
us (cf. John 14:21). Prayer may be either vocal, or silent. An important
kind of silent prayer is meditation, of which there are several kinds,
and several methods.
Not all of our prayers should be prayers of petition, asking for
something. We need to remember the other purposes outlined above. But
when we do make prayers of petition, we think at once of the remarkable
promises Our Lord made, such as: "Ask and you shall receive, seek
and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you" (Matthew
7:7-8); and: "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do"
These promises seem absolute, seem to promise an infallible result.
That will come true, if the proper conditions are met. St. Thomas
Aquinas enumerates four conditions (II-II, 83, 15, ad 2):
1) One must pray for him/herself.
At first sight this might seem to
be selfish, for we should pray for others, really, for all human beings.
But the reason for the qualification is that if I pray for myself, I am
not likely to be closed to receiving; if I pray for another, the other
may not be open to receive.
To be infallible, a prayer must be for something needed for
salvation, for in comparison to that, other things are of small account.
In that spirit St. Paul wrote: "The things that were gain to me
[the privileges he once prized of being a Jew] these I consider loss,
for the sake of Christ. Further, I consider everything [not just Jewish
privileges] loss because of the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ my
Lord, for whose sake I have taken the loss of all things, and consider
them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ " (Philippians 3:7-8).
And yet, God often does grant other things other than what is needed
for salvation. It is just that we do not have the infallible guarantee
about them. Here there is room for confidence, which greatly helps the
chances of obtaining things.
2) One must pray devoutly, that is, with humility, confidence,
attention, and in the name of Jesus.
The First Epistle of St. Peter says
(5:5): "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble".
Humility is not the greatest virtue that is love but it is
indispensable to such an extent that if we do not have it, we cannot
have love, nor can we have a high degree of love unless we have a
corresponding degree of humility. Humble prayer includes a respectful
posture of body. Yes, it is true, we can pray in any position; but a
slouchy or careless position neither expresses nor promotes interior
In regard to prayer with confidence we distinguish two kinds of
confidence: ordinary faith, and charismatic faith. When Jesus said:
"If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would say to
this mountain: Move from here to there and it would move"
(Matthew 17:20). He was speaking of a charismatic faith, not of ordinary
faith. Charismatic faith is a special gift in which God as it were
infuses the confidence into someone that if he asks, he will get a
miracle. Of course, if God infuses that special confidence, the miracle
will come. Some who have not understood this have erred greatly, have
tried to work themselves into an emotional state of confidence, thinking
that will bring a miracle. It will not work unless it is God, not
ourselves, who works up that confidence. In noncharismatic or ordinary
confidence, we do believe God will keep His promise, if only we fulfill
the needed conditions. But we need to notice the first condition just
mentioned: He has not promised an infallible result to prayers for just
everything. Thus if two teams in a sports event both pray for victory,
clearly, both cannot have it.
Can we say that if a person has confidence he will never worry, e.g.,
while awaiting the result of a test for cancer? Confidence, which grows
with holiness and resultant experiences of help, can go a long ways. But
it cannot cover all cases. For Jesus has made no promise that He will
preserve a particular person from cancer. Further, even Jesus Himself
suffered long-running anxiety, since by means of the vision of God which
His human soul had from the first moment of conception, He knew, in
merciless detail and with absolute certainty, all He would suffer. He
let us see this stress when He said: "I have a baptism to be
baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished".
This means: "I must be plunged into deep suffering, and I cannot be
comfortable until I get it over with" (Luke 12:50 cf. also another
similar text in John 12:27). So if one who is not deficient in
confidence still suffers anxiety, he/she can accept even the anxiety as
a means of likeness to Christ, for it may really be the will of the
Father to send or permit a given suffering.
May we, even without the charismatic faith, pray for a miracle? Yes
we may, especially with persevering, strong, intense prayer, but we have
not the absolute assurance of getting it. We need to be resigned to the
will of God, saying with Jesus Himself in Gethsemani: "Not my will
but yours be done."
We know too that if we were to ask for something that would be
harmful to us, then God would not give it.
As to praying with attention, we distinguish voluntary from
involuntary distractions. The latter are inevitable. If only we try to
dismiss them as soon as we notice them, they do not spoil, but enrich a
prayer, because of the added effort needed in trying to please God.
3)We must pray with perseverance.
We think of the words of Our Lord
Himself: "There was a judge in a certain city who did not fear God,
nor respected people. There was a widow in that city who kept coming to
him saying: 'Vindicate me from my opponent. ' And the judge was
unwilling for a long time. But after some time he said to himself: Even
though I do not fear God, nor respect people, yet because this widow is
a nuisance to me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her
continuous coming" (Luke 18:2-5; cf. 11:5-8).
An objection is sometimes made to prayer: God knows in advance what I
will pray for, so there is no need to pray, and His decrees are eternal.
But we reply: In making up His decrees, He does take into account our
prayers. Further, prayer helps to dispose us to receive what He so much
wants to give.
2. The Our Father:
This of course is the greatest prayer, since it was composed by Jesus
We notice that in the Gospels He carefully distinguishes: He often
says "Your Father" or "My Father". But He never
includes Himself in the same group. But in this prayer He teaches His
followers to say our Father. He wants to say that we should not pray
selfishly, but should pray for all people.
The expression, "Our Father who art in heaven" is found
often enough in rabbinic texts. But the Jews had a scant if any
perception that God was the Father of all people. They tended to think
of Him as only their Father. One introduction to prayer sometimes used
in ancient times was Avinu malkenu: "Our Father, Our King".
This was very good to bring out the two great aspects of our
relationship to Him: love and closeness on the one hand, and a sense of
majesty, infinite greatness on the other.
"Hallowed be thy name". Of course the verse does not mean
that we want God to be made holy: He is the very source of Holiness, is
Holiness itself. The key is found in such texts as Isaiah 5:15-16:
"Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, but the Lord of Hosts
will be exalted in right judgment [mishpat], and the God, the Holy One,
will show himself holy [niqdesh] by moral rightness [i.e. by doing what
moral rightness calls for: sedaqah]". Similarly in Ezekiel 28:22:
"They shall know that I am the Lord when I inflict punishments on
her [Sidon], and I shall show myself holy in her [niqdashti]." Of
course this righteousness/holiness is exercised not only in punishing,
but in giving benefits: the covenant provides for both as Moses told the
people in Deuteronomy 11:26: "Behold, today I am putting before you
a blessing and a curse. The blessing, if you obey... and the curse if
you do not... ." (on blessings cf. Isaiah 52:1; 61:10; and Psalm
24:5. He owes it to Himself to confer benefits if the people fulfill
what is asked of them in the covenant).
So this petition asks that the rightness of God may be recognized by
all. Romans 3. 24-26 says that God has actually shown Himself righteous
by fully rebalancing the scale of the objective order through the death
of Jesus. In this prayer we ask that all may come to see his rightness
(explained in our comments on the fourth article of the Creed).
"Thy kingdom come". The phrase "kingdom of God"
in the Gospels often means the Church. And so the petition can ask for
the expansion of His Church, the kingdom of the Messiah. It also at
times means His rule: then the petition would ask that His rule be
obeyed everywhere. Both senses seem to be intended here.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In heaven
all wills are perfectly in accord with His. Not always so on this earth.
So this petition asks that all may obey His will even here. In praying
that His will be done here, we implicitly confess that we need His grace
in order to obey His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: "It is God who
works [produces] in you both the will and the doing").
The first part of the Our Father has asked for things for God's
glory. Next we ask for our own needs.
"Give us this day our daily bread". Bread in Hebrew means
not just bread in the narrow sense, but all the means of sustenance. We
know we depend on our Father in heaven for everything.
The Greek word usually translated "daily" is epiousion. It
has several possible meanings and it is hard to be sure which one is
intended for the word never occurs in the Septuagint, the Greek
version of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, only in this
prayer. It is hardly found in other Greek writings. Hence the
uncertainty. Some proposals are these: "necessary for existence,
for the current day, for the following day, for the future." The
usual translation, "daily" is most likely the correct one.
Some Fathers, such as Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and St.
Augustine made the daily bread refer to the Eucharist. But this is only
an extended or accommodated sense. Jesus surely would not have expected
the crowds who heard Him to think of the Eucharist when He had not yet
foretold it. Nor would they think of it as daily reception. On the other
hand, since His human soul had the vision of God, He would have foreseen
that in the liturgy this prayer would come shortly before the reception
of Holy Communion.
"And forgives us our trespasses." The Greek of St. Matthew
here is opheilemata, which means debt. The concept that sin is a debt
that needs to be paid is found abundantly in the Old Testament, in the
Intertestamental Literature (where Hebrew and Aramaic hobah meaning debt
is sometimes used to mean sin), and in the Rabbinic and Patristic
writings. Pope Paul VI endorsed this concept in the doctrinal
introduction to his Indulgentiarum doctrina of Jan 9, 1966 cited and
explained in our comments on the fourth article of the Creed). "As
we forgive those who trespass against us." If we will not forgive
others what they owe us, when they repent, neither will the Father
forgive us. It is frightening to think we here ask not to be forgiven if
we do not forgive others. In Luke 17:4 we read: "And if seven times
in a day he turns to you saying: I repent, you shall forgive him"
(Cf. Mt. 18. 22 which speaks of 70 times 7 times, i. e, as often as the
"And lead us not into temptation." Of course, God Himself
does not lead us into temptation. This is a Hebrew way of speaking in
which they said God directly does things which He really only permits.
Cf. 1 Samuel 4:3 (in literal translation from the Hebrew): "Why did
God strike us today before the face of the Philistines?" But God
does permit us to be tempted, for that leads to merit and spiritual
strength. As St. Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 12:9, God told him
when he was hard pressed: "My grace is sufficient for you; for
power is made perfect in weakness." Cf. First Corinthians 10:13.
"But deliver us from evil." The Greek here could equally
mean evil in general or the evil one.
The final "Amen" of the Latin Vulgate is not in the Greek
manuscripts. It comes from the liturgy.
"For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory
forever." It is certain these words were not originally part of the
Our Father, as even Protestant scholars admit today. It is probably
based on First Chronicles 29:11. It probably was first written on the
margin of some manuscripts, and then crept into the text of Matthew, and
then into the liturgy of some Eastern churches. It appears in the early
work called the Didache (8:2) dated usually 100-150 AD. So it is far
older than Protestantism. Today a form of it is found in the Roman rite
Mass, but not immediately at the end of the Our Father.
3. The Hail Mary
Next to the Our Father itself, this is the greatest prayer. The first
half comes entirely from the words of the Gospel; the second is a
beautiful petition composed by the Church. The thought is so easily
grasped we do not need to explain it, except that we should recall what
was said about the translation "full of grace" in our comments
on the third article of the Creed. (More about the Rosary in the chapter
Pope Benedict XV (Decessorem nostrum, April 19, 1915) called her:
"Suppliant Omnipotence." That is, everything God can do by His
own inherent power, she can obtain by her intercession. Naturally, for
she shared at such immense cost, as we saw, in earning every grace.
First Timothy 2:5 says there is one Mediator between God and humans.
But it speaks of one who is by very nature Mediator, having both divine
and human natures, and one whose work is indispensable and depends on no
other. Her power, her very ability to do anything comes from her Divine
Pope Leo XIII taught: "Every grace that is communicated to this
world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed
from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to
us." (Encyclical Iucunda semper, Sept 8, 1884, citing St.
Bernardine of Siena). St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII and
John XXIII have all said substantially the same thing in varied
We notice that Leo XIII spoke of "excellent order". St.
Thomas Aquinas explains (Summa I. 19. 5. c) that in His love of good
order, God wills that one thing be in place to serve as a title or
reason for giving the next thing, even though these things do not really
move Him. So The Father needed Mary only if He willed an Incarnation, in
the sense that some Mother was needed. But for all her additional
prerogatives she was not needed at all. Yet He freely, in view of this
principle, and to make all as rich as possible for us, chose to put her
everywhere in His approach to us, as Vatican II taught (LG chapter 8:
explained in our comments on the third article of the Creed). Similarly,
the Father would not have needed the other Saints, but yet, in His love
of good order, and wanting to make all things as rich as possible for
us, chose to add their intercession as well.
PART SEVENTEEN: The Sacramentals
The generosity of Our Father is so great that it seems He never can
do enough for us. He made the Redemption itself as rich as possible, by
going beyond infinity an Incarnation in a palace, without death,
would have been infinite. He added to that the cooperation of Our Lady.
He gave us the Mass and the Sacraments. In addition, He gives us a real
wealth of what we call sacramentals. Sacraments were instituted by
Christ; sacramentals were instituted by His Church. Sacraments have the
power within them to as it were automatically give grace, if only the
one who receives does not place an obstacle. Sacramentals do not do
that. Yet they have great power, from a twofold source, from the prayer
of the Church, which is His Mystical Body, and from the good
dispositions of the one who receives. It is evident that we need to work
at receiving the sacramentals. (We need also to work to get the best
from the Sacraments. Pope John Paul II (Redemptor hominis # 20) said if
one does not try hard, he could even take a loss from frequent Holy
There are many kinds of sacramentals: they may be actions, words, or
objects to which the Church either gives a ritual blessing, or by which
the Church teaches we can obtain certain graces.
Examples of sacramental actions are the gestures, postures, bodily
movements that are officially associated with the Eucharist and the
other sacraments. Genuflecting and kneeling, folding hands, making the
sign of the cross, bowing the head or the whole body these are all
examples. There are also sacred words, such as indulgenced prayers. We
notice too there is a difference between private prayers, and those
which are said in the name of the Church, by those appointed to do so,
the Liturgy of the Hours. Vatican II spoke of the Divine Office as
"the voice of the Church, or of the whole Mystical Body publicly
praising God."(On Liturgy # 99)
Objects that are sacramentals can include buildings, blessed food or
drink, clothing, medals, vestments, religious habits, rings for
marriage, Rosaries, medals and Scapulars. Holy Water is found at the
entrance to our Churches, and is used by the faithful entering and
leaving. It is also good to have a bottle of it in the home, as an aid
against the temptations of satan, and for other purposes.
Of course we cannot take up every kind of sacramental, the list is
much too long. But we can comment on some specially important
Fast and abstinence are sacramentals of great importance, yet they
are often neglected today, since the Church no longer specifies very
much in this category. In the early Church there were two days of fast
each week with very little or no food. In 1966, Pope Paul VI greatly
mitigated the law of fasting. The Bishops of many nations have dispensed
from Friday abstinence. However not even the Pope can dispense from the
basic obligation of penance for sins. Hence the U. S. Bishops in their
document on Fridays, pointed out that if one eats meat on Fridays, he
must do something equivalent instead. Many err today saying: Let us just
be positive, do nice things and forget the negative. However, the
negative has a special kind of value. If someone were to eat only one
food element, even the best, there would soon be deficiency diseases.
Similarly, even though love is the greatest virtue, it is not enough to
just be nice to people: negative mortification is indispensable for
spiritual eyesight, which is improved when we cut down the pulls of
creatures upon us, by giving up things. Those pulls, if we let ourselves
be strongly gripped by them, make it just so much less easy for our
hearts and thoughts to rise to the divine level (cf. Matthew 6. 21:
"Where your treasure is, there is your heart also").
A specially great sacramental is the Rosary. There is an ancient
tradition that St. Dominic received the Rosary from Our Lady in an
apparition at Prouille in 1206 A.D. as a weapon against the Albigensian
heresy. What is entirely certain is that in one way or another, numerous
Popes have spoken of St. Dominic as author of the Rosary, without
pronouncing on the authenticity of the Prouille vision. They have
strongly recommended the Rosary. Vatican II in its Constitution on the
Church # 67 wrote that whatever the Church has ever recommended in
Marian devotion should still in spite of updating be considered
of great importance. Not long after, Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical
Christi Matris Rosarii pointed out that that statement obviously
included the Rosary. Countless are the favors individuals have
experienced through the Rosary. The whole Church benefitted especially
when in October 1571, Pope St. Pius V announced that the Christian fleet
had won a decisive victory over the Muslim fleet at Lepanto in the Gulf
of Corinth. The Muslims were trying to take over all Europe. The Pope
explicitly attributed that victory to Rosary processions being held the
day of the victory. Our Lady at Lourdes and at Fatima called for a great
increase in the prayer of the Rosary, declaring it one of the conditions
needed for world peace and the conversion of Russia. High on the list of
sacramentals is also the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
There are many Scapulars, all valuable, but this one is eminent among
them. There is a very ancient tradition that St. Simon Stock, Superior
of the Carmelite Order in England in 1251, after imploring the help of
Our Lady, was favored with a vision in which she gave him the Scapular,
saying: "This will be a privilege for you and for all Carmelites,
that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire." The
historical evidence for this vision is very impressive, and gives at
least some degree of moral certitude that the vision really did take
place. To gain this promise one must be enrolled in the Confraternity of
the Scapular. Pope Pius XII, on the 700th anniversary of this vision,
wrote to the Major Superiors of the Carmelites, clearly showing his
belief in it: "For not with a light or passing matter are we here
concerned, but with the obtaining of eternal life itself, which is the
substance of the Promise of the Most Blessed Virgin which has been
handed down to us." However, the Pope warned that the mere physical
wearing of the Scapular is not enough: "May it be to them a sign of
their Consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of the Immaculate Virgin,
which in recent times we have so strongly recommended." If one then
uses the Scapular as the outward sign of living such a Marian
consecration, then faith in the fulfillment of the promise is well
justified. In fact, Pope Pius XI said (Explorata res. Feb. 2, 1923):
Nor would he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed virgin
assists, especially at his last hour. This opinion of the Doctors of the
Church, in harmony with the sentiments of the Christian people, and
supported by the experience of all times, depends especially on this
reason: the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of the
Redemption with Jesus Christ.
In other words, a solid Marian
devotion will assure one of reaching salvation, even if the vision to
St. Simon Stock might not be authentic. Also, when Vatican II said that
all things recommended by the Magisterium of the Church towards her
should still be considered matters of great importance, the Scapular was
clearly included, for numerous Popes have recommended it strongly.
There are many religious medals that are sacramentals. One of these
is the Scapular medal. It may be used in place of the cloth scapular,
although the cloth is to be preferred. It needs to be blessed before
use, while the cloth Scapulars that replace the original one blessed in
the enrollment need not be blessed.
It is important to notice that some Scapular medals are incorrect. On
one side there must be the image of Our Lord, pointing at His Heart
(this Heart is sometimes omitted), on the other side, any image of Our
Specially well known is the Miraculous Medal. In 1820 The Blessed
Virgin appeared three times in the chapel of the motherhouse of the
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, to Catherine Laboure, then
a novice. It is a medal in honor of the Immaculate Conception. St.
Catherine was canonized in 1947. Her body was found incorrupt, and
attracts many pilgrims to the original shrine.
Sacred places are also sacramentals. Especially important of course
is the church building itself, in which the Mass and Divine Office are
celebrated and in which the Real Presence in the Eucharist is found.
The sites of important things in the history of salvation in the Holy
Land, are of course preeminent.
Countless shrines throughout the world are also sacred places, and
numerous miracles are reported to take place at many of these locations.
Specially famous among these are Montserrat in Spain, Assisi in Italy,
St. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, the North American Martyrs Shrines in
both the United States and Canada, Knock in Ireland, Banneux in Belgium,
Czestochowa in Poland.
In our own day, Lourdes and Fatima attract pilgrims by the thousands.
Our Lady appeared 18 times at Lourdes, in the Pyrenees mountains in
southern France, in 1858, to Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen year old
peasant girl. A spring appeared there which feeds the baths at the
shrine today. Many miraculous healings are reported from bathing in the
waters. The fact that there is no spread of infection, even though no
sanitary precautions are taken when people with all sorts of diseases
take baths there, is a marvel in itself. Many miracles take place when
the Blessed Sacrament passes in procession during the great pilgrimages.
In passing, we notice that this fact testifies to the Real Presence
there, a Presence which only the Catholic Church has, and only the
Catholic Church teaches. There is a medical bureau there, to which any
qualified M. D. can come to check alleged cures. Early in this century,
Dr. Alexis Carrel came to scoff, was converted instead. The Church's
demands for checking and proof of alleged miracles are so stringent that
in the more than a century since 1858 only a few more than 60 miracles
have been approved. Madame Bire in 1908 came there, blind because her
optic nerve was withered, regained her sight when the Blessed Sacrament
passed. But when the Doctors inspected her eyes, they found she was able
to see even though the nerve was still withered arranged, doubtless,
to keep anyone from saying it was a case of suggestion. The nerve did
recover within a few weeks. On December 9, 1531 an Aztec Indian, Juan
Diego, saw the Virgin Mary near Mexico City. She put her image on his
cloak, a cloak still to be seen in the great shrine of Guadalupe. The
fiber of the cloak should have disintegrated in about 30 years, is still
sound. Scientific checks find that the process of impressing the image
is nothing known to science. And there are images in the eyes of the
picture of several persons, who probably were present there. The images
are threefold, just as they would be found in a living eye (following
the Purkinje Sanson Law).
The little town of Lanciano, Italy, is a most remarkable shrine.
Around the year 700 A.D. a priest saying Mass there began to doubt the
Real Presence: then the outer part of the host changed to flesh, the
wine changed to 5 clots of blood. In November 1970 the Church
authorities gave permission for a team of biologists and medical
scientists to take small samples of both the flesh and the blood. They
found the flesh is human heart tissue, with type AB blood in it, the
same as in the clots of blood at the base of the monstrance in which the
relics are preserved. There is no trace of any preservative in either
the flesh or the blood. Hence they should have decayed centuries ago.
They are still to be seen in the church there. A further investigation
was made in 1980, revealing even nerves and blood vessels in the flesh.
Momentous for our own times is the shrine of Fatima, where Our Lady
appeared 6 times to three small children, each less than 10 years of
age. She asked for penance, the Rosary, and Immaculate Heart devotion,
saying that on these conditions, God would keep Russia from spreading
her errors throughout the world this was said at a time when Russia
was still greatly religious, under the Czar. The great miracle of the
sun dancing on Oct 13, 1917 was seen by thousands, including
nonbelievers. The clothing of all had been drenched from heavy rain, yet
when the sun settled down again, all clothing was found to be dry.
Hallucinations do not dry clothing.
APPENDIX: Additional Material on
SCRIPTURE: TO SEARCH FOR TRUTH
We want to find the truth, especially the truth about what this life
really means, and how we can reach life forever, with happiness forever.
Should we begin with Holy Scripture, the Word of God? Scripture is
the Word of God, but before we can start with it, we have to find out
which writings or books really are the Word of God, which are inspired
by the Holy Spirit. For inspiration really means that God Himself is the
chief author of the Scriptures. He uses a human agent, in so marvelous a
way that the human writes what the Holy Spirit wants him to write, does
so without error, yet the human writer is free, and keeps his own style
of language. It is only because God is transcendent that He can do this
insure freedom from error, while leaving the human free. To say He
is transcendent means that He is above and beyond all our human
classifications and categories. A poetic Portuguese proverb says: God
can write straight with crooked lines! In the early centuries, there
were many books in circulation that called themselves Gospels the
Gospel of James, of Peter, of Thomas, and others. Today we do not look
on these as part of the Word of God. How then can we know what books are
part of the Word of God?
We are going to start with the Gospels but we must be very
careful. For we could have a vicious circle, like a dog chasing its
tail. That is, we might say: Believe the Gospels because the Church
tells us to do it believe the Church because the Gospels tell us to
believe it. That would get us nowhere except chasing our tails.
But there is a way out. We are still going to start with the Gospels
we know, but at the start we will not take it for granted that they are
sacred or inspired. We will look at them, for the time being, as just
books that came down to us from ancient times. No one could doubt that
they are ancient books.
We will have to check them, the same way we check other ancient
works. We must look to see if our copies are at least basically the same
as the original copies. That is easy with the Gospels our copies of
them are much closer to the originals than are, for example, the copies
of Caesar or other ancient works. There is a whole science called
Textual Criticism that knows how to do this work. And what does it say?
It says the Gospels pass this first test better than Caesar's works
could. Then we would like to know what kind of literature the Gospels
are supposed to be. Are they poetry? Or science fiction? Or an
historical novel? Or what? Which kind we find they are tells us a lot
about how to take them. For example, a modern historical novel about the
war between the states is supposed to be part history, part fiction. The
main line is history, the background pictures fit (can have steam trains
and telegraphs, but not planes or TV). But there is a lot of fiction in
the fill-ins perhaps conversations, word for word, of Lincoln and
Grant. But we know how to take such a work; we know what we might call
the rules. The name for one of these patterns is genre. We have many
patterns in English, and there are many in the ancient Semitic culture
to which Scripture belongs. So we need to look to see which pattern we
have on hand in the Gospels, and what are, as it were, the rules by
which we know how to take them. Otherwise we could misunderstand.
Do We Mean by "Literal Sense"?
In passing: If we try to get the sense the author intended taking
into account the things we have just said this will be the literal
sense. But we need to be careful. When some people speak of literal
sense they really mean something else. They mean the sense we would take
from the text if we ignored all these things about patterns of writing
if instead, we took things just as if they had been written by a
modern American. But that is foolish; someone who does that is not
really trying to find what the author meant to say instead, he is
imposing his own ideas on the text. So what are the Gospels supposed to
be? We find they are accounts of a great man called Jesus. They mean to
tell us the facts about what He taught, for He claimed what He taught
was the way to everlasting life. That alone would make the writers extra
careful to get at least the basic things right. They give us the facts,
plus interpretations for faith.
Written When and By Whom?
But could the writers really get at the truth about that man Jesus?
Jesus, according to the latest research, was born about 3 B.C., and died
30 or 33 years later. When were the Gospels written? People give
different dates. Most of those who have studied the case think that Mark
was written a bit before Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 A.D. and
that Matthew and Luke came in the period 80 to 90 A.D. Really, the
reasons they give for making Matthew and Luke that late are not strong.
Chiefly, they think they are too clear in reporting predictions by Jesus
of the fall of Jerusalem. Luke even says there was an army surrounding
Jerusalem. But every ancient siege had that. The critics are not being
very sharp. The trouble is such critics have the preconceived notion
that there can be no real prophecies of the future, no real miracles
even though there are many even today, checked to the hilt by modern
science. But even if we let them pick those dates, 80-90, we have no
problem. For example, Pope Clement I of Rome who wrote a letter
which we have to Corinth, around 95 A.D., said Peter and Paul were
from his own generation. That figures out well. Peter and Paul died
around 66 A.D. Clement became Pope in 92 A.D. So unless he were a
teenager when elected Pope not credible he would have been
around at the time of the preaching of Peter and Paul. Peter was with
Jesus so much. Paul tells us that he learned the facts from a vision of
Jesus, on the road to Damascus to arrest some Christians. So Clement
would have an easy time getting the facts in 92 A.D. which is after
the time many think Matthew and Luke wrote. Also, Quadratus, who wrote
to defend the Christian Church against pagan attacks, around 123 A.D.,
says that in his day, some were still alive who had been cured or even
raised from the dead by Jesus. That would not have to be 123 A.D., but
it would surely cover the period 80-90 A.D. So it would not be hard to
get the facts. And the writers depended on getting the facts about
Jesus. Of course, then they would write them up carefully.
The Six Basic Facts
After seeing that the writers of the Gospels could get the facts, and
wanted them eagerly, we look for a few very simple facts in the Gospels
we mean things that are not tangled up with an ancient culture,
which we might find hard to understand.
1) First, we see there was a man
That is very obvious. Even a pagan historian, Tacitus,
writes about him, says he was executed by Pontius Pilate. And we already
mentioned Clement I and Quadratus.
2) Second, Jesus claimed He was sent by God, as sort of a messenger.
3) He did enough to prove He was that by working miracles.
just any miracle will do it must be a case where there is a
connection between the miracle and His claim. For example, when a
paralytic was let down through the roof, Jesus told him his sins were
forgiven. Then He asked: "What is easier to say: 'Your sins are
forgiven,' or 'Take your bed and walk?'" He meant that nobody could
check to see if sins were forgiven, but they could see the cure. He
would do the cure to prove He had forgiven the sins. Since that power to
cure came from God, God would not give it if Jesus used it to prove a
lie. So Jesus was a messenger from God, greater than any older prophet,
for they did not dare to forgive sins.
4) Besides, Jesus spoke more to a
smaller group who followed Him we would expect that.
5) He told them
to continue His work, His teaching we would expect that, too.
also, He said God would protect their teaching: "He who hears you
Once we reach this point, what is in front of us? A group, with a
commission to teach, from a man sent by God, and promised God's
protection on their teaching. Now that group or Church can tell us which
books are written with divine inspiration. And they can also tell us
many other things, e.g., that the messenger, Jesus, is God Himself.
Relation of Scripture and Tradition
Let us take a minute to see how the Gospels developed. Then we can
see better what is the relation of Scripture and Tradition.
First came the teaching and acts of Jesus. Of course, He, like any
good speaker, would adjust His wording to the audience. Second, the men
Jesus sent out, the Apostles, would preach what He had said and done.
They too would adjust their wording to the audience, but of course would
be careful to keep the same meaning. Third, some individuals, inspired
by the Holy Spirit, would write down part of this basic preaching; that
became the Gospels.
So the Gospels are really part of the original ongoing teaching of
those commissioned to teach by Jesus. So the Church has something more
basic than even the Gospels its own ongoing teaching! This living,
ongoing teaching is really what we mean by Tradition. (We notice it is
Tradition with a capital "T" with a small "t" it
would mean just various customs, which can and do shift. ) Vatican II,
in its Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum, hereinafter
#9, tells us:
Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are closely connected
with each other. For both coming from the same divine font, in a way
coalesce into one, and tend to the same goal. For Sacred Scripture is
the word of God inasmuch as it is set down in writing, under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit; Sacred Tradition takes the word of God
entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and
hands it on to their successors to be transmitted in full purity.
Hence, the Council added, "It is not only from Sacred Scripture
alone that the Church draws its certainty about all revealed
things." Its own ongoing teaching, Tradition, is also a place where
revelation is to be found, and also interpreted, since the Gospels are
really part of that Tradition, written down under inspiration. Section
10 of the same Dei Verbum adds, logically: "The task of
authoritatively interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed
on [Scripture or Tradition] has been entrusted exclusively to the living
teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name
of Jesus Christ."
The Protestant Way vs. the Catholic Way
This, then is the critical difference between Protestant and
Catholic. Both will start with the sources of revelation. In them there
are some things whose meaning is quite obvious, such as we saw in our
six points. But there are other things not so obvious. The Yellow Pages
in the telephone book prove it, if we look under the word,
"Churches." Each of numerous churches claim to know the
meaning. Clearly, not all can be right. Further, the second epistle of
St. Peter warned us (2 Peter 3:16), speaking of the Epistles of St.
Paul, "In them there are many things hard to understand, which the
unlearned and the unstable twist to their own destruction."
Sadly, not a few Catholics today are doing their thinking in a
Protestant way: they look to their own opinion, not to the teaching of
Further Plans of Our Father
Dei Verbum #7 explains how God made provision for us: First,
Christ Jesus, in whom the whole revelation of the supreme God
is made perfect, gave a command to the Apostles that they preach to all,
the Gospel promised long ago through the Prophets and fulfilled and
promulgated by His own mouth, as the source of all saving truth and
moral teaching. He gave them divine gifts to do this properly. The
Apostles, faithfully did this; in oral teaching; example and
institutions they handed on the things they had received from the mouth
and works of Christ, and from living together with Him, and things which
they had learned by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and
apostolic men under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, set down in
writing the message of salvation."
Further (in DV #7), "so that the Gospel might be kept whole and
living constantly in the Church, the Apostles left behind Bishops as
their successors, giving them the authority to teach in their
The Deposit of Faith and Development
Hence there is a deposit of faith which is not to be changed for
"the Christian regime, as the new and definitive covenant, will
never pass away, and now no new public revelation is to be expected
before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" at the
end (DV 4).
This does not mean there should be no progress in the doctrine of the
Church: At the Last Supper, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to
lead the Church into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13). He did not mean
there would be new public revelations. He did mean the Church would be
led over the centuries to an ever deeper understanding of the truths
contained in the original deposit of faith (which was complete when the
last Apostle died and the New Testament was finished).
Hence it happened, for example, that the Immaculate Conception, which
was not explicitly mentioned in the fist centuries, and was even denied
by some great theologians in the Middle Ages, finally, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, emerged to be defined by Pope Pius IX in
Gradual Understanding of Which Books are Inspired: The Canon
So it is not strange that the process of developing a complete formal
list of all inspired books stretched over some time. (There was rather
general informal agreement even earlier.) On February 20, 405 A.D., Pope
Innocent I wrote to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse, and sent him at his
request, a list of the books that are part of the Bible (DS 213). The
Ecumenical Council of Florence, on February 4, 1441, for the sake of
reconciliation of Copts and Ethiopians, gave a complete list (DS
1334-35). The Council of Trent made the matter entirely final, giving
the same list as Pope Innocent I had given centuries before.
When Luther and others broke with the Church, they tried to find a
base from which to stand up against the Church. They chose Scripture.
But at once they had a severe problem: Which books are Scripture? Luther
said that if a book preached justification by faith strongly, it is
inspired. But he never proved that was the standard.
This failure was pointed out keenly when a Baptist professor, Gerald
Birney Smith, gave a talk at a national Baptist convention in 1910. In
it he went through all possible ways to know which books are inspired.
He found only one way that could work: if there would be a teaching
authority to assure us. He did not believe there was such an authoritywhich
left him not knowing which books are part of the Bible! How then could
he appeal to the Bible as a divine source? Very illogical of him!
Professor Birney Smith admitted that Luther "never applied this
test applied this test [preaching justification by faith] minutely or
critically." It could not be done. Really, Luther could have
written a book to preach justification by faith or so could this
writer but those would not be inspired. So Luther failed. Calvin (Institutes I. vii) said: "The word will never gain credit [belief]
in the hearts of men till it be confirmed by the internal testimony of
the Spirit." But this is sadly subjective. So Calvin, too, failed.
What Professor Birney Smith thought did not exist really does exist. For
we have just proved that there is a group, a Church, commissioned to
teach by the Divine Messenger, and promised protection. That Church has
told us which books are part of the Bible, are inspired.
So we see a most astounding fact: Those who want to contradict the
Catholic Church cannot even know what Scripture is unless they lean on
the authority of the Catholic Church to tell them what books are
Scripture! Small wonder many Protestants have given up trying to solve
the question of which books are inspired.
Much more recently, a Lutheran professor, Gerhard Maier (The End of
the Historical Critical Method, Concordia, 1977, pp. 61 and 63), wrote:
"Only Scripture can say in a binding way what authority it claims
and has.... Scripture considers itself as revelation." That is a
most blatant vicious circle.
Suppose someone asks you: Where do you find the Immaculate Conception
in the Bible? The best answer would be: How do you know what books are
part of the Bible? Only by the authority of the Church, which it
received from Jesus, can anyone know. So the questioner would, without
realizing it, be leaning on the teaching authority of the Catholic
Church. As we said, the Church has something more basic than the Gospels
its own ongoing teaching. It is that ongoing teaching that can
assure us of such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception.
The Analogy of
The Church has not made a definite statement on many texts of
Scripture. However, the analogy of faith helps us very much in addition.
It means this: we should compare any interpretations of Scripture we
think up with her own teaching; we can tell definitely which teachings
are false. So, as we saw above, the Vatican II Council wrote: "The
work of interpreting, with authority, the word of God whether
written or handed on has been entrusted exclusively to the living
teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name
of Jesus Christ." If we think over each group of words in that
sentence, we find it is just the logical windup of our six points.
Claims of Errors in Scripture
Some people today say there are a lot of errors in the Bible. But the
Church says there are not. On the authority of Christ, we believe what
But even working on our own we can see for ourselves there are no
errors. We mentioned just in passing a while ago that it is important to
check and see what kind of writing we have on hand in each of the
ancient works. We used the example of an historical novel to illustrate
Working this way helps us to solve a lot of problems in Scripture,
cases in which there seems to be an error or contradiction. Of course
there are no errors or contradictions in Scripture, since the Holy
Spirit is the chief author. But we like even so to see how to handle
For example, when we consider the pattern or genre, we are rescued
from some crude interpretations of Genesis 1-11. Pope Pius XII, in
Humani generis, 1950, said that the genre of these chapters is not the
same as the way we write history today, or the way ancient Greeks and
Romans wrote it but yet they "pertain to history" in some
way, which needs further study. If we follow up on that here is what we
could find: The inspired author made use of a story form, to convey
certain things that really happened, and so do pertain to the pattern of
history writing. For example, the story makes clear that God created all
things and that He in some special way created the first humans (the
Church does not mind if we consider bodily evolution as a possibility,
if only we do not make it atheistic, or claim more for it than the
evidence shows). We see that He gave them some kind of a command it
may or may not have been about a fruit tree. We see that whatever the
command was, they violated it and fell from His favor. As a result,
their children were born without His favor or grace, which is what we
mean by original sin. We do not have to take crudely the 6 days of
creation, so as to say that they must mean 6 times 24 hours. Nor do we
say God acted like a sculptor, and made a statue, and then breathed on
it. Nor do we have to say God physically took a rib from Adam, and built
it up into Eve. Pope John Paul, using this genre approach, said that
when Genesis says God put Adam to sleep, it stands for a sort of return
to the moment before creation, so Adam could reemerge in his double
unity, male and female. In other words, that episode is just a way of
teaching the unity of the human race. Again, some of the years given in
the book of Daniel do not seem to fit with what we know of secular
history. But no problem, we know there was a pattern of writing in use
in those early centuries in the ancient Near East in which they used a
story (like the Assyrian story of Ahiqar) to give a spiritual life
so not all details in Daniel would have to be factual. The story would
have the same relation to strict history as science fiction has to
science. And so on for countless other cases. We now can solve problems
that were insoluble to people even as close as the start of this
century. Those early scholars were men of faith. They could not always
find the answer to a problem in Scripture, but they said to themselves:
Even if we cannot find it, we know there must be an answer, for
Scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit, cannot be in error. They were
quite right. Today, we are privileged to know how to solve numerous
problems earlier times could not handle.
Something very strange is going on today just at the very time
when we have discovered how to solve these problems by the approach
through genres, and other new discoveries, some scholars, who know the
right methods, are throwing up their hands, saying they cannot find the
answer, and even saying Scripture is full of errors. Instead of being
men of faith, they have a sort of faith in reverse that Scripture must
be wrong! We should thank God for giving us Scripture, and His Church to
interpret it for us.
The Sweep of Our Father's Plans for Us
Our Father began to plan to give us this revelation of which we have
been speaking at the very beginning of the human race. Hence DV 3 says:
"After their fall, by promising the redemption, He lifted them up
into the hope of salvation (cf. Genesis 3:15)." In the Constitution
on the Church (hereinafter LG) #55, the Council said:
These primeval documents [Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14] as they
are read in the Church and are understood in the light of later and full
revelation, gradually bring more clearly to light the figure of the
woman, the Mother of the Redeemer. She, in this light, is already
prophetically foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents...
of victory over the serpent (cf. Genesis 3:15).
In passing we notice that the Council said that it is clear now,
thanks to later and full light of the Holy Spirit, that the woman of
Genesis 3:15 is Mary. It does not say the human writer of Genesis saw
that much; we simply do not know what he saw. But for certain, the Holy
Spirit, the Chief Author of Scripture, could see more in the words than
the human writer may have perceived.
Even the ancient Jews, in their Targums (Aramaic versions, usually
free, with added interpretations of the Old Testament) knew that in some
way Genesis 3:15 was Messianic.
Centuries passed, and God began His clearer revelation through and to
Abraham, the Father of the Chosen People. He gave Abraham a promise of a
great progeny, and of the land of Canaan. Abraham believed God (Genesis
15:1-6) and "it was credited to him as righteousness," that
is, as St. Paul insistently points out (Galatians 3:6-9; Romans 4:1-23),
God gave this without asking Abraham to earn it (Romans 4:4-5); he got
it by faith. St. Paul, by that word faith, means not just mental belief,
but also confidence in the promises of God, and also obedience to His
commands, all to be done in love. All these were surely found in
Abraham. And God promised that all nations would be blessed in him
(Genesis 12:3 and 18:18, cf. Galatians 3:7 and Romans 4:11 and 16-18).
St. Paul takes this to mean that those who imitate the faith of Abraham
are made just.
God had promised Abraham to make him the father of a great nation.
But then, when his son, Isaac, was still a little boy, before the
process could begin, God told him to sacrifice Isaac on a certain
mountain (Genesis 22:1- 18). Abraham, in magnificent faith, did not ask
questions, he just started out, in the obedience of faith (cf. Romans
1:5). He had Isaac bound on the altar, was ready to plunge the sword
into him, when an angel of God told him to stop. He offered a ram
instead. The Fathers of the Church see in Isaac carrying the wood for
his own sacrifice, a foreshadowing of Jesus carrying His cross.
About that word foreshadowing: God can and did give prophecies in two
ways in words, and in actions or the very existence of a person or
situation. So the sacrifice of Isaac was a prophecy in action of the
sacrifice of Jesus.
God gave us again a type or hint of the Eucharist to come when
Melchizedek, King of Salem (Genesis 14:18), offered bread and wine after
Abraham's victory and rescue of Lot.
When Jacob was dying in Egypt, he gave a great prophecy (Genesis
49:10): "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's
staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes," that is, the one
who was to be sent. This prophecy was most dramatically fulfilled. For
the Jews did always in spite of the overlordship of Assyria,
Babylonia, and Persia have their own rulers of some sort from that
tribe of Judah until 41 B.C., when Rome imposed a foreigner on them as
Tetrarch (later, in 37 as king), Herod, who was not of the tribe of
Judah, but was by birth, half-Idumean, half-Arab. Had they not been
unfaithful so many times, the fulfillment doubtless would have been more
glorious, in greater rulers of the tribe of Judah and the line of David.
Later, Jacob, the son of Isaac, and his twelve sons, went down into
Egypt because of a famine, and were still later enslaved by the Pharaoh.
This is parallel to our own enslavement to sin and satan. The Jews were
delivered through Moses; we are delivered by Jesus, the New Moses.
On the very night of their deliverance from Egypt, Moses told them to
smear the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorposts, so that the
destroying angel would pass over their houses. Thus began the Passover,
foreshadowing the eternal Passover in which Jesus, within the same
ritual that the ancient Hebrews had used, and bringing to our minds
again the sacrifice of Melchizedek, as the true High Priest, offered the
sacrifice of His own body and blood, before physically giving up that
body and blood on the next day.
St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, points out all the foreshadowings
that the ancient people had of our sacraments:
"Our Fathers... were under the cloud, and all went through the
sea, and all were baptized in Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all
ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For
they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, but the rock was
Obviously, St. Paul sees in these events a forecast of baptism and
When the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert a type of
our own life in this exile in the desert of Sinai, God did sustain
them by that food, manna, like the Eucharist. During that time He
prescribed a ritual of sacrifices, and a tabernacle and priestly
vestments we could look at their sacrifice, their temple, the
vestments of their priests, and could almost think ourselves in our own
Church with its sacred rites, in which the true Lamb is offered. After
the 40 years, the people crossed the Jordan, into the promised land, as
we cross over into the eternal Jerusalem in the next life at our deaths.
The people of Israel were unfaithful so many times and so are we
but God forgave them when they repented, as He also forgives us in
the Sacrament of Penance. Moses even, at one point, when they were being
afflicted by saraph serpents because of their complaining, was ordered
by God to put up a bronze serpent on a pole, so that whoever would look
at it would be healed (Numbers 21:5-6) a forecast of Jesus on the
Cross. After they were established in the promised land, God sent them
kings, the greatest of whom was David, from whose line Jesus was to
Our Father announced that coming of Jesus more than once, in much
detail. Thanks again to those Targums of which we spoke, we can see how
the Jews, even without seeing things fulfilled in Christ, understood the
prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah, Jesus.
Thus Isaiah (7:14), prophesied: "Behold the virgin shall
conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel." At the time
of Christ, the great teacher Hillel said that this meant the Messiah,
though he thought that Hezekiah, son of King Achaz, to whom Isaiah
spoke, was the Messiah. Really, it seems many Old Testament prophecies
have more than one fulfillment not surprising, since they are divine
words. Thus we could see in Isaiah 7:14 both Hezekiah and Jesus, for the
wording partly fits one, partly the other. The same Isaiah, a bit
further on, speaking of the same child as in 7:14, added (9:5-6): "A child is born to us, a Son is give us, and the government
shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called: Wonderful
counsellor, God the Mighty, Father forever, the Prince of Peace."
The Targums did know this child was the Messiah (and so must have
thought the child of 7:14 was the Messiah too, for the child is the same
in both verses), though they probably had trouble with his title of God
the Mighty (that is really the correct translation of Hebrew El Gibbor),
since it had been hammered into the Jews that there is only one God. But
we today can see and His Blessed Mother must have seen all that the
Jews saw, and far more, being full of grace. Isaiah even foresaw, in
prophetic light, that the line of David which at his time was
reigning in power would be reduced to a stump, which later could put
forth a shoot (11:1-3): "There will come a shoot from the stump of
Jesse, and a branch will grown from his roots. And the Spirit of the
Lord will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the
spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of
Later, in his wonderful chapter 53, Isaiah spoke vividly of the death
and even the resurrection of Jesus for in verses 10-13, after
describing His suffering and death, we read: "If he makes himself a
sin-offering, He shall see his offspring, He shall prolong His days. He
shall see the fruit of the labor of His soul and be satisfied." The
Targums did know this chapter 53 referred to the Messiah, though after
the Christians began to see Jesus in the passage, they (as several
prominent Jewish scholars today admit) deliberately distorted it, making
the meek lamb led to the slaughter into an arrogant conqueror. Finally,
they knew, from Micah 5:1-4, that He would be born in Bethlehem the
Jewish scholars had no hesitation in saying that, when Herod sought the
information for the Magi. At that very time, there was great Messianic
expectation among the people, for they could not help seeing that for
the first time they lacked a ruler from Judah, so that the time
announced in Genesis 49:10 was at hand: "The scepter shall not
depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he
comes who is to be sent." Yes, at last He was at hand, to bring the
full revelation of the Father to us, to offer Himself as the lamb so
long foreshadowed, to give us His Gospels, and to found on Peter the
Rock, a Church to teach us all truth, and to assure we would not err in
understanding them. Truly did the Psalmist say (90:4): "In your
sight, a thousand years are like yesterday when it is past." From
all eternity He had planned, and in many and various ways had spoken
"of old to our Fathers through the prophets. But in these last days
He spoke to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all
things" (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2).
(c)Copyright 1990 by William G. Most