Eucharist: the grace & virtue of love – St Julian Emyard

St Julian Emyard

“Not only does Communion enlighten our mind by a special grace, revealing to us, by impression rather than by reason, all that our Lord is, but it is also, and above all, the revelation to our heart of the law of love.

The Eucharist is the sacrament of love par excellence. Certainly the other sacraments are proofs of God’s love for us; they are gifts of God. But in the Eucharist, we receive the Author of every gift, God Himself. So it is in Communion especially that we learn to know the law of love that our Lord came to reveal. There we receive the special grace of love. There, finally, more than anywhere else, we acquire the practice, the virtue, of love.

First of all, what is love? It is a gift. That is why the Holy Spirit, who, as love, proceeds from the First and Second Per­sons of the Most Holy Trinity, is truly the Gift.

How do we recognize love? By what it gives. See what our Lord gives us in the Eucharist: all His graces and all His possessions are for us; His gift is Himself, the source of every gift. Communion gives us participation in the merits of all His life and obliges us to recognize the love that God has for us, because, in Communion, we receive the whole and perfect gift.

How did you begin to love your mother? Sleeping within you, without sign of life, was a seed, an instinct, of love. Your mother’s love awakened it; she cared for you, suffered for you, fed you with her body. By this generous gift you recognized her love. Well then! Our Lord, by giving Himself entirely to you, and to you in particular, proves to you invincibly that He loves you personally with an infinite love. He is in the Eucharist for you and entirely for you. Others enjoy Him also, to be sure, but in the same way that they benefit from the sun without preventing you from enjoying its rays as much as you wish.

Ah, such is this law of love engraved in our hearts by God Himself in Communion! In olden times, God wrote His law on tables of stone, but the New Law He has written in our hearts, with letters of fire. Oh, whoever does not know the Eucharist does not know the love of God! At most, he knows certain effects of it, as the beggar recognizes the generosity of the rich man from the few coins he receives from him. But in Communion, the Christian sees himself loved with all of God’s power to love, with all of Himself. Therefore, if you would really know God’s love for you, receive the Eucharist, and then look within you. You have no need to seek elsewhere for further proofs.

Communion gives us the grace of love. In order to love Jesus Christ as a Friend we need a special grace. Jesus, in coming to us, brings this grace at the same time that He places the object of it — that is, Himself — in our soul. Our Lord did not ask His disciples before the Last Supper to love Him as He had loved them; He did not yet say to them, “Abide in my love.” That was too hard for them then; they would not have understood. But after the Last Supper, He no longer says simply, “Love God; love your neighbor,” but, “Love me as a brother, intimately, with a love that is your life and the law of your life.” “I will not now call you servants . . . but friends.”

If you do not receive Communion, you can love our Lord as your Creator, your Redeemer, and your Rewarder, but you will never see in Him your Friend. Friendship is based on union, on a certain equality, two things that are found with God only in the Eucharist. Who, I ask you, would dare call himself the friend of God and believe himself worthy of His particular affection? A servant would insult his master in presuming to treat him as a friend; he must wait until his master grants him the right by first calling him by that name.

But when God Himself has come under our roof; when He has come to share with us His life, His possessions, and His mer­its; when He has thus made the first advances, we no longer presume, but with reason call Him our Friend. So, after the Last Supper, our Lord tells His Apostles, “I will not now call you servants. I call you friends. You are my friends, because all things whatsoever I have received of my Father I have given to you; you are my friends, because to you I have confided the secret of my majesty.”

He will do even more; He will appear to Mary Magdalene and say to her, “Go to my brethren.” What? His brethren? Can there be a higher title? Yet the Apostles had received Communion only once! What will it be for those who, like us, have received Him so often?

Will anyone be afraid now to love our Lord with the tenderest affection? It is well to tremble before Communion, thinking of what you are and of Him you are about to receive; you need His mercy then. But afterward, rejoice! There is no longer room for fear; even humility must make way for gladness. See how joyous Zacchaeus is when our Lord accepts his hospitality! But see, too, how his devotion is fired by this kind reception; he is ready to make every sacrifice and to atone over and over for all his sins.

The more you receive Communion, the more will your love be enkindled, your heart enlarged; your affection will become more ardent and tender as the intensity of this divine fire increases. Jesus bestows upon us the grace of His love. He comes Himself to kindle this flame of love in our hearts. He feeds it by His frequent visits until it becomes a consuming fire. This is in truth the “live coal which sets us on fire.” And if we so will, this fire will never go out, for it is fed not by us but by Jesus Christ Himself, who gives to it His force and action. Do not extinguish it by willful sin, and it will burn on forever.

Come often, every day if necessary, to this divine Furnace to increase the tiny flame in your hearts! Do you think your fire will continue to burn if you do not feed it?

Communion makes us practice the virtue of love. True and perfect love finds its full expression only in Communion. If a fire cannot spread, it goes out. So our Lord, wishing us to love Him and knowing how incapable of it we are of ourselves, fills us with His own love; He Himself comes and loves in us. We, then, work on a divine object. There is no gradual passage or transition; we are simultaneously in the grace and in the object of love. That is why our best and most fervent acts of love are made during our thanksgiving; we are nearer then to Him who forms them. Pour out your heart to our Lord at this time. Love Him tenderly.

Do not try so hard to make this or that act of virtue. Let our Lord grow within you. Enter into partnership with Him; let Him be the capital in your soul’s traffic, and your gains will be doubled with the doubling of your spiritual funds. Working with and by our Lord, you will gain a greater benefit than if you tried to increase your virtues simply by multiplied acts.

Receive our Lord, and keep Him as long as you can. Make plenty of room for Him within you. To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love. Certainly, penitent and suffering love is good and meritorious; but the heart is re­pressed by it, weighed down beneath the thought of the con­tinual sacrifices it must bear. This way, on the contrary, the heart expands, opens fully and freely; it shows its happiness.

For one who does not receive Communion, these words have no meaning; but let him plunge into this divine fire, and he will understand.

No, it is not enough simply to believe in the Holy Eucharist; we must also obey the laws it prescribes. Since the Eucharist is above all the Sacrament of love, our Lord desires us to share in that love and draw inspiration therefrom. So come to Jesus out of love for Him! We must come humbly, to be sure; but let love, or at least the longing to love, be our ruling motive. Let us desire to pour out our heart in His Heart; let us give evidence to Him of our tenderness and affection. Then we shall know what depths of love are in the adorable Eucharist.”

Love & the JOY only He can bring!
Matthew

Barriers to Faith

Q. Who is this book for, and what will the reader walk away with?

A. The book is primarily for Catholics who are looking for ways to answer those common objections that unbelievers and skeptics have to truth, God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Church. However, Christians of all denominations can benefit from the sections on truth, God, Jesus, and Christianity, since these topics transcend denominational boundaries.

Ultimately, my hope is that the reader will walk away from reading the book with a greater confidence in knowing that there are effective ways to address the concerns of unbelievers and skeptics, and to feel equipped to engage them in dialogue and prepare a way for the Lord.

Q. What are the three most common roadblocks you see in people when it comes to acceptance of Catholic teaching?

A. Well, if we’re talking about Protestants, the answer would be the Catholic teaching on Mary. But since the book is directed toward the concerns of unbelievers, I’d have to say the problem of evil is the greatest roadblock. “How can I believe in a God who is all-good and all-loving,” they say, “when he allows so much sin and suffering in the world?” That’s why I devote three chapters to this one topic.

Related to the problem of evil are the problems of divine hiddenness and the doctrine of hell. Concerning the problem of divine hiddenness, unbelievers argue that if God exists, and He desires a relationship with us, then He would ensure that every honest atheist knows that He exists. Since He doesn’t do this, they argue, He must not exist.

The doctrine of hell serves as an obstacle because many unbelievers can’t reconcile it with an all-good and all-loving God. They assume that hell is some arbitrary torture chamber to which God sends people on a whim for petty crimes.

Finally, I’d have to say a third major roadblock are the Church’s moral teachings, particularly its teachings on abortion and same-sex sexual activity. Many perceive the Church’s teaching on these issues as oppressive of women and those who have same-sex attraction.

But, as I show in my book, nothing could be further from the truth. The Church’s opposition to abortion is due to its stand for protecting all innocent life, which includes not only the unborn but also women.

The Church’s condemnation of same-sex sexual activity in no way oppresses those who experience same-sex attraction. The Church says no to same-sex sexual activity because it says yes to human happiness, which same-sex sexual activity militates against. As to how we are to prepare that way, I spell it out in my book.

I guess that’s more than three.

Q. When it comes to types of objections to the Faith, which do you think are most common—intellectual, personal, moral, or emotional, and why?

A. It really depends on whom you’re talking too. Among the intelligentsia, it’s intellectual. For the average Joe on the street, it’s more emotional.

Intellectuals tend to look at everything as a puzzle to be solved. As such, their obstacles are going to be intellectual in nature.

For example, the problem of evil for such folks is a matter of trying to figure out how to reconcile the existence of an all-good and all-loving God with sin and suffering in the world. When it comes to sexual ethics, they may argue with sophistication that same-sex sexual activity is just as much an expression of love as sexual activity between members of the opposite sex.

By contrast, when the average Joe on the street is faced with the evils of the world, he simply wants help to deal with them in a way that keeps him from despairing. He just wants the pain to go away, or at least to figure out how to deal with it.

Concerning the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, the average Joe’s negative response is normally based on emotion. He doesn’t think through the reasons why the Church opposes certain sexual behaviors. Consequently, he sees the Church’s opposition as oppressive and discriminatory.

We encounter both types of audience in our evangelistic endeavors. This is why in my book I provide strategies that deal with both intellectual and emotional obstacles.

Q. It seems a lot of people think of faith as a panacea—that once they accept Christ, everything will be all right in their lives. Has that been your experience, and how close to the authentic Christian life is that perception?

A.  If the question is, “Does Christian faith transform one’s experience of life for the better?”, then the answer is yes. I actually address this question in my chapter on removing the obstacle of hypocrites among Christians.

But if the question is, “Does Christian faith make all problems and suffering go away?”, then the answer is no. This brings us right back to the mystery of God’s permission of evil in our lives.

But as I point out in my book, particularly in the chapter on suffering, God provides us a means by which we can transform our suffering into acts of love for God and neighbor, thereby giving us a means by which we can attain our final salvation.”

Love,
Matthew

Mysterium fidei

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and I adore You. Increase my faith.

MEDITATION

In the Canon [Eucharistic Prayer] of the Mass, the Eucharist is called “Mysterium fidei,” the Mystery of faith; indeed, only faith can make us see God present under the appearances of bread. Here, as St. Thomas says, the senses do not help at all—sight, touch, and taste are deceived, finding in the consecrated Host only a little bread. But what matters? We have the word of the Son of God; the word of Christ, who declared: “This is My Body … This is My Blood” and we firmly believe in His word. “Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius, nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.” I believe everything the Son of God has said; nothing can be truer than this word of Truth (Adoro Te Devote). We firmly believe in the Eucharist, we have no doubts about it; unfortunately, however, we must admit that our faith is often weak and dull. Although we may not live far from a church, although we may perhaps dwell under the same roof with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is easy to become rather indifferent, or even cold, in the presence of this great reality. Alas, our coarse nature gradually grows accustomed to even the most sublime and beautiful realities, so that they no longer impress us and have no power to move us, especially when they are near at hand. Thus it happens that while we believe in the ineffable presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we pay little or no attention to the greatness of this reality, and we fail to have the lively, concrete appreciation of it which the saints had. Let us then repeat, very humbly and confidently, the Apostles’ beautiful prayer: “Domine, adauge nobis fidem,” Lord, increase our faith! (Luke 17:5).

COLLOQUY

“Praise and thanks to you, O blessed faith! You tell me with certitude that the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the heavenly Manna, is no longer bread, but my Lord Jesus Christ Who is wholly present there for love of me.

“One day, O Jesus, full of love and of goodness, You sat beside the well to await the Samaritan woman, that You might convert and save her. Now, You dwell on our altars, hidden in the consecrated Host, where You wait and sweetly invite souls, to win them to Your love. From the tabernacle you seem to say to us all: ‘O men, why do you not come to Me, Who love you so much? I am not come to judge you! I have hidden myself in this Sacrament of love only to do good and to console all who have recourse to Me’; I understand, O Lord; love has made You our prisoner; the passionate love You have for us has so bound You that it does not permit You to leave us.

“O Lord, You find Your delight in being with us, but do we find ours in being with You? Especially do we, who have the privilege of dwelling so near Your altar, perhaps even in Your very own house, find our delight in being with You? Oh! how much coldness, indifference, and even insults You have to endure in this Sacrament, while You remain there to help us by Your presence!

“O God, present in the Eucharist, O Bread of Angels, O heavenly Food, I love You; but You are not, nor am I, satisfied with my love. I love You, but I love You too little! Banish from my heart, O Jesus, all earthly affections and give place, or better, give the whole place to Your divine love. To fill me with Yourself, and to unite Yourself entirely to me, You come down from heaven upon the altar every day; justly then, should I think of nothing else but of loving, adoring, and pleasing You. I love You with my whole soul, with all my strength. If You want to make a return for my love, increase it and make it always more ardent!” (St. Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew

“By their fruits…” Mt 7:16-20, the role of works in salvation


Karl Keating

Faith & Salvation are gifts

“Fr. William G. Most (1914-1997) will not end up numbered among first-rank apologists, but his book Catholic Apologetics Today (now out of print) came to my attention just when I could profit from it. It appeared as I was putting together the newspaper columns that, when collected and revised, became my first book.

Every Fundamentalist I have dealt with—or so it has seemed—has faulted the Catholic Church for teaching, supposedly, that we are saved through good works. We earn our salvation by what we do.

Although I took the usual route of referring Fundamentalists to James 2:17 (“faith without works is dead”), I learned early on that that scriptural verse failed to make much of an impress on them.  A few seemed to be wholly unfamiliar with that book. That might seem unlikely, given that Fundamentalists style themselves “Bible Christians,” but many of them read (or study) only those parts of the Bible recommended to them by their preachers. Those who read the whole of the Bible often have little appreciation of the import of some passages, such as John 6, in which the Eucharist is promised and described. James’s comment on works is another. “Faith without works is dead” either is passed over or, at most, is interpreted to mean that good works have no significance higher than public affirmation of having “accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” Doing good works is a good thing—but not a necessary thing.

It was through reading Most that I adopted a formulation that helped clarify the discussion. It came from his making a distinction between the way James wrote about faith and the way Paul wrote about it. They used the same word but in differing senses.

“Is it true that there is salvation in faith alone?” asks Most. “Definitely, yes!” It is “the chief theme of Galatians and Romans.” Yet James could write that “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)—a seeming contradiction.

Either salvation is by “faith alone,” as Luther so imperiously insisted, or it is not; either it comes through faith and nothing else or through faith plus something else. Which is it?

Most made the obvious point that the issue here is with the meaning of the word faith as used by the two apostles. The word was not used univocally. James “clearly uses faith to mean, narrowly, just intellectual acceptance of a revealed truth.” To faith in that restricted sense one needs to add good works. We see this confirmed by Paul himself in Romans 2:6: “He will repay to man according to his works.”

Here comes the crucial part. Most says that “Paul does not mean that works can earn salvation—but violation of the law can earn eternal ruin.” (do good/avoid evil*.  how? by doing good!) Paul does not disagree with James, but he uses a broader sense of faith: “total adherence of a person to God in mind and will. This, in turn, implies certain things.” Chief among the implications is that works have a kind of negative role to play in salvation, this being the main takeaway I had from Most. We can affirm that salvation is through faith, but salvation can be forfeited through sin. Salvation is a gift, but any gift can be rejected or returned to the giver. Something taken on by compulsion (Ed. or forced on you, i.e. slavery, the “gift” of faith) is not a gift.

Once a Christian is in the state of grace (Ed. the “readiness/worthiness/ability to receive/having received” the gift), through baptism or through repentance followed by sacramental confession, s/he is, at that moment, “saved”: were s/he to die in that state (Ed. of grace, readiness/worthiness to receive/having received), he would end up in heaven, even if with a sojourn through purgatory. But his/her state is precarious. There is no adult Christian who has not fallen out of grace through sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Someone who has not fallen short of the glory of God, however transiently, is someone who is imbued with God’s grace (Ed. “O Mary conceived without sin…”; Hail Mary, full of grace…, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc.); to fall short is to fall into gracelessness.

The key, then, is not to fall out of grace. This where works come in (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!), both good works and bad works. Bad works are sins. Through mortal sins (Ed. those which are serious, intentional, which “kill” the life of grace within us, the symptom being, likely, a guilty conscience, if not scrupulous) we lose sanctifying grace and thus salvation. What about good works? (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) They don’t earn us salvation but they do something nearly as valuable: they keep us from throwing salvation away. (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) To persist in good works is to avoid evil works, sins (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!). Those who habitually perform good works habitually avoid (but they do not necessarily always avoid) sins that destroy grace.  (Ed. “The devil’s playground…”, Prov 16:27.)

This was, for me, Most’s most valuable point. The Fundamentalist, thinking about Catholicism’s insistence that good works are necessary, thinks we believe that we bring salvation to ourselves. (Pelagianism) The Catholic can answer by saying that good works are shields against bad works (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) (Prov 16:27.). Without good works, there is no prospect that a Christian can maintain grace in his soul, the opportunities to fall from grace being ubiquitous and, often enough, seemingly irresistible. Help is needed if they are to be resisted, and that help comes in the form of habitually performing good works, whether in the form of prayer, almsgiving, or something else.

It wasn’t that Most told me something I had not known, but he told it to me in a way that I had not seen before, at a time when I needed a clearer way to convey Catholic teaching to those who were sure the Church was teaching something contrary to Scripture.  Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering spectacles of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across spectacles that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision.”

-from https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/faith-and-works-0, this is GOOD!!!  You SHOULD read the WHOLE thing!!!  I didn’t say “easy”.  I just said GOOD!!!!

“Following the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church held an ecumenical council in the Italian city of Trent to deal with the theological questions that were being debated. The Council of Trent issued the Decree on Justification (DJ), which set forth the Catholic position on the subject…This is the case with the idea that we need to earn our place before God by doing works…According to Trent, “none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace (Ed. gift) of justification. ‘For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise,’ as the Apostle says, ‘grace is no more grace’” (DJ 8, quoting Rom. 11:6).

When we come to God and are justified, it happens WITHOUT ANY MERIT ON OUR PART (emphasis added). Neither our faith nor our works—nor anything else—merits justification...If you go through Trent’s Decree on Justification, or the section on justification in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1987-1995), you won’t find the phrase “faith and works.” And you won’t find the word works at all in the Catechism’s section on justification.

This may be surprising, but the fact that the magisterium does not express its teaching in this way is a signal that we need to look more closely at what it says….

…Earlier we mentioned that Protestants tend to conceive of justification as an event that occurs at the beginning of the Christian life (Ed.  “I accept Jesus Christ as my PERSONAL? (what about everybody else?) Lord & Savior! = saved) where we are forgiven and declared righteous by God, and we said that this understanding is true as far as it goes.

But in the Catholic view, there is more to justification than this.

In the first place, God doesn’t simply declare us righteous. He also makes us righteous in justification. Thus the Council of Trent defined justification as “not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inner man” (DJ 7).

So at the beginning of the Christian life (being “saved”), God forgives our sins and gives us the gift of righteousness.

But He’s not done with us!!!  (Ed. how is THIS NOT obvious?) He wants us to grow in righteousness over the course of the Christian life, and, if we cooperate with His grace, we will.

Catholic theology refers to this growth in righteousness using the term justification, so, in Catholic language, justification isn’t something that happens just at the beginning of the Christian life. It happens over the course of the Christian life. (Ed. Phil 2:12)

The Council of Trent harmonizes the necessity of grace and works: “If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or by the teaching of the Law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (Session 6; can. 1).


-stop screaming. it’s a JOKE!!!! 🙂

Love, and the JOY of DOING (Ps 40:8, Jn 4:34) His will, in faith, by grace.  ALL is grace.  ALL is gift.,
Matthew

* Many proponents and critics of Thomas Aquinas’s theory of natural law have understood it roughly as follows. The first principle of practical reason is a command: Do good and avoid evil. Man discovers this imperative in his conscience; it is like an inscription written there by the hand of God. Having become aware of this basic commandment, man consults his nature to see what is good and what is evil. Ps 37:27, 1 Pet 3:11

The devil made me do it


(One of my FAVORITE movies of all time! Kelly and I often quote it back & forth to each other, especially when Elliot is a wimpy, sunset loving, guitar playing, tuna-eating-dolphin-free marshmallow who lets bullies kick sand in his face, thinking, after reading Alison’s diary, and wishing from the devil, Elizabeth Hurley, to be a sensitive man. Of course, Satan being the father/mother of lies, so Elliot always gets Hell, instead, literally, never the heaven he thought he was bargaining for by offering his soul. How true. I made a custom ringtone from Alison’s final line in this scene. Ever since seeing the movie the first time, I said, out loud, if the devil REALLY looked like Elizabeth Hurley….we might have to talk….JUST KIDDING!!!! I think. 🙂 )


-by Br Albert Dempsey, OP

“One of the most influential and now forgotten historians of the 19th century was the Austrian Dominican Heinrich Denifle. Despite having many administrative responsibilities, Fr. Denifle found time to pour over thousands of medieval manuscripts, making significant contributions to the study of medieval mysticism, the rise of universities, the Hundred Years War, and the life of Martin Luther. During his lifetime, his work was lauded by Catholic, Protestant, and secular scholars throughout Europe.

In his later years, Fr. Denifle examined the general decline in observance among the clergy in the late Middle Ages, as well as the not infrequent counter-examples of heroically virtuous clerics. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Europe endured the threefold calamity of war, famine, and plague; Europe’s population would not fully recover until the industrial revolution. Death claimed the wicked and the pious alike, and the Church herself was rent with schism. Moreover, the prevailing intellectual trend of the age—Nominalism—posited an utterly arbitrary and terrifyingly vengeful God. These factors led many in the late Middle Ages—even priests and religious—to adopt either an extreme asceticism or a nihilistic hedonism. Fr. Denifle observed that the curious thing about many lax priests was that they continued to know right from wrong. Their error lay, rather, in thinking that they could not help but sin when confronted with temptation.

Sound familiar?  Many of our contemporaries still recognize the wrongness of sins like overeating, adultery, slander, and embezzlement. Yet so often we exonerate ourselves by protesting our own lack of freedom: “I just couldn’t help myself.”  Our society is quick to explain disordered actions by pointing to psychological or biological causes, whether traumatic experiences, psychological disorders, or simply being born a particular way. In attempting to alleviate moral guilt, this modern tendency strips the human agent of liberty, reducing him merely to reacting to stimuli rather than making free and creative choices. Yet the Scriptures are quite clear that men—in general—retain moral responsibility for their deeds.  While psychological and physiological disorders may influence human behavior negatively, they are not the only cause of disordered actions.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, the possibility for sin rests primarily in the freedom of our created natures. As creatures, we are finite and, therefore, defectable, able to go astray by not loving what we ought as we ought. Moreover, due to the stain of original sin, fallen man is less inclined to good actions. There is ignorance in the intellect and malice in the will, by which we love lesser goods more than we ought. Even our sense appetite is disordered by concupiscence and weakness: we are too desirous of sensual goods, and we are unwilling to strive after difficult goods. Thus, our senses and emotions can often overmaster our impaired intellects and wills, leading us to act unreasonably.

Yet original sin did not corrupt human nature entirely, as though Adam and Eve were transformed into some other sort of creature. Man remains created in the image and likeness of God, a rational creature possessed of intellect, will, and free choice. No matter how disinclined towards virtue he may be in his sinfulness, he retains the seeds of virtue, for the inclinations towards truth and goodness—the goals of virtuous actions—are inscribed in the very nature of his intellect and will. Moreover, the baser powers remain fundamentally subordinated to the higher, yearning to be directed well by free choices. Sin does not destroy our liberty, it merely makes it more difficult to exercise it—to act as we know we ought (see Rom 7:19). Yet God’s grace is capable of penetrating the depths of our fallen nature, healing and elevating it interiorly. Therefore, let us neither despair of ever being able to resist temptation nor protest our inability to act according to right reason. Rather, let us remember that our nature has not been utterly denuded of its freedom, and let us beseech God’s aid in exercising our liberty well despite our woundedness, remembering his teaching, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).”

Behold me, O my God, at Your feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which You have shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended You, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to You, I will place all my confidence in You. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to You. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to You in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be You, O Lord, my strength, and in this shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)” Amen.

Mary, Mother most pure, and Joseph, chaste guardian of the Virgin, to you I entrust the purity of my soul and body. I beg you to plead with God for me that I may never for the remainder of my life soil my soul by any sin of impurity. I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity. Obtain for me a deep sense of modesty, which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror only Christ-like purity. And when the “Bread of Angels” becomes my food in Holy Communion, seal my heart forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures. Finally, may I be among the number of those of whom Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)” Amen.

Love, and the peace that comes from His will,
Matthew

Jul 31 – St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, (1491-1556) – Priest & Founder of the Society of Jesus

“Long before he instructed his followers to, “go forth and set the world on fire,” Ignatius was under his own fire of spiritual and physical combat. His leg was broken, as was his spirit. Legs take us to our destination, but Ignatius no longer knew where that destination was. His whole life he had perfected the profession of a soldier: exercise, training, wielding armor and weapons, imagining the enemy and visualizing victory.

Because he would never be a soldier again, he was convinced that his twenty-three years of life were useless, and that the rest of his life would be spend in the humiliation of defeat and the embarrassment of not being able to resurrect his former skills. On that same bed where he wished for death more than once, he would consider a different sort of death: a death to self.

His physical exercises were about to become his famed Spiritual Exercises; he would put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11), wield his word as a sword (Eph. 6:17), and use his imagination to envision himself in victory for heaven.

In order to become this person God created him to be, he knew he must reform himself first, and in a saying often ascribed to him he instructs the same of us: “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.”

His Counter-Reformation labors started with himself, and although he accomplished much and his life can teach us copious lessons of Christian charity and virtue, he dominates in two principle areas: education and spirituality.

“The [Second Vatican Council] has considered with care how extremely important education is in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age.” —Gravissimum Educationis

Sacred art depicting Ignatius usually depicts him studying, reading, writing. It might surprise some to learn, then, that for the first half of his life Ignatius was not an educated man. Though his intellect was strong and aptitude was high, our saint had less than grammar-level education at the age of twenty-three, just a few years before he formed the Society of Jesus and founded colleges. He placed little emphasis on structured learning, perhaps because he was a soldier, yet still came to be one of the most respected educators of his time.

What caused such a change?

The answer is not so simple. To understand what he did, we need to understand his story.

After his leg was shattered in a cannon-ball blast, Ignatius’s dreams of soldiery were gone. But as he said of himself in his autobiography, “his special delight was in the military life,” so if he could not do these things he at least wanted to fill his mind with the thoughts of others doing them. So Ignatius requested books about valiant knights and heroes of war, but there were none.

Instead he was handed The Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian and a book about the lives of the saints. At first he was reluctant to read either but soon found himself engrossed in stories of the heroic virtue, if not quite of the kind he had sought.

After he was healed he continued to study and grow in devotion. He became a gifted street-teacher and built a small following. This drew the attention of the clergy. Around this time the Inquisition was rooting out any potential heresy or corrupted preaching, and without a degree or formal training Ignatius was looked at suspiciously. He was examined briefly by the Inquisition but they found no error in his interview and let him go—but did instruct him not to dress as if he were clergy. He was later summoned again, and again they found no error.

A last time he was examined by the Inquisition, whose verdict resulted in an interesting action by Ignatius. Each time prior, he had explained that he was not preaching or teaching novelties, but was simply conversing with small groups about holy and divine things, occasionally introducing his “exercises” still in development.

This time, he was questioned about his advice to others on faith and morals. In his own autobiographical words:

“So clear and exact was his explanation that his examiners could not find the least flaw in his doctrine. He was equally correct in the answer to the friar who proposed a difficulty in canon law. In every case he said that he did not know the decision of the professors.”

The tribunal’s final verdict was that Ignatius would be free to teach on matters of Christian doctrine, but not on sin or canon law. Not until the tribunal said, he completed four years of study.


-by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1600s

Love & Ignatian joy,
Matthew

Book of Revelation

When Was the Book of Revelation Written?

Most scholars today think that the book of Revelation was written around the year A.D. 95, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Historically, though, many thought it was written earlier than that, and there is a surprisingly strong case that the book was written in the late A.D. 60s or the early part of A.D. 70. Let’s take a quick look at the evidence . . .

“Five Are Fallen”

In Revelation 17, John sees a vision of the Whore of Babylon seated on the beast with seven heads, and he is told:
[9] This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;
[10] they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.

There’s pretty good evidence that the beast represents the Roman empire and that these seven kings represent the line of first century Roman emperors.

Assuming that identification is accurate, that gives us a pretty strong clue about when the book was written. If five of the kings (emperors) are fallen (dead) and one is (living/reigning) then that means Revelation was written during the reign of the sixth emperor. So which would that be?
Here are two possibilities . . .

The Reign of Nero?

If you start the count with Julius Caesar then the sixth emperor would be Nero:

Julius Caesar
Augustus
Tiberius
Caligula
Claudius
Nero

Nero certainly fits well with the description of the beast that is given in the book (see the two videos), but there is a possible problem: Julius Caesar was not technically an emperor. He was a dictator (meaning: the Roman Senate voted him the title “dictator”–which was an actual political office back then, before the term came to mean “tyrant”), but he wasn’t voted the title “emperor.”
Still, it’s possible that this might not have made a lot of difference from the perspective of first century Jews and Christians.

Technically, the Roman emperors weren’t kings at all (the Romans were very proud of the fact that they had ended the line of Roman kings and set up a republic), but they functioned as kings, and everybody understood that.
This is why the crowd cried “We have no king but Caesar!” during the trial of Jesus.

So if the count starts with Julius then we have reason to think Revelation was written in the reign of Nero, which was between October 13, A.D. 54 and June 9, A.D. 68.
But there’s another possibility that may be even more likely . . .

The Reign of Galba?

The first person to be voted the title “emperor” was Augustus, and he could well be regarded as the starting point of the count by people all across the empire, including Jews and Christians. If so, then this is what we would get:

Augustus
Tiberius
Caligula
Claudius
Nero
Galba

I know. You may be saying, “Who?”

Galba isn’t a very famous emperor, and one reason is that he didn’t reign very long. In fact, he reigned only a few months, during a disastrous period known as “the Year of Four Emperors,” in which Rome was torn apart by a series of bloody civil wars in which one emperor toppled another in rapid succession.
But if that’s the case then, since Galba reigned such a short time, we’d actually be able to date the writing of Revelation very precisely.

It would have to be between June 8, A.D. 68 and January 15, A.D. 69. (Galba actually began reigning the day before Nero died, because Nero had been declared an enemy of the state by the Senate and went on the lam before being coerced into committing suicide.)

So it could be that Revelation was written during a very short span in late 68 or (very) early 69.

Is there other evidence that has a bearing on this?

“He must remain only a little while”

You’ll recall that the seventh king was said to remain (reign) only a little while. Does that fit the situation?

Yes. In fact, it fits both of the possibilities we’ve mentioned.

If Nero was reigning then Nero’s successor, Galba, certainly reigned a short time–just barely over 7 months.

If Galba was reigning then, since he was reigning in the Year of Four Emperors, his own successor–Otho–lasted only a short time as well, just 3 months (from January 15 to April 16, A.D. 69).

“Do not measure the court outside the temple”

Back in Revelation 11, John was told:

[1] Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,
[2] but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months.

This passage speaks of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as if it is still standing.
The text speaks of the gentiles (or nations, same word in Greek) trampling the holy city (Jerusalem) and invading the temple courtyard.

They also invaded and destroyed the temple itself, but the text speaks of this as not having happened yet, since John is told to measure the temple, its altar, and those worshipping there. So it was still functioning.
Since the temple was destroyed on August 5, A.D. 70, that also suggests that Revelation was written before this date.

Want to know more about what is arguably the most misunderstood book in Scripture?

This DVD resource, $2.99 digital format, also addresses:

Why most of Revelation doesn’t deal with our future at all
Who the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” are
How to understand the book’s “cosmic catastrophe” symbolism
Who the Beast of Revelation really was
What the meanings of 666 and the “Mark of the Beast” are
What the Woman clothed in the sun refers to (more than you might think!)
How to understand the Whore of Babylon and her opposite, the Bride of Christ
When “the Millennium” takes place
What the little-known “Middle Coming” of Christ is”

Love, & the joy only He can give,
Matthew

Two Objectors to the Catholic faith: Mr. Certainty & Mr. Robot

Devin Rose

Two Protestants You Will Meet

Honestly, being a Catholic apologist has its downsides. One is that people feel they can email you out of the blue with a list of arguments against the Catholic Church and then demand you respond. Over the years I’ve received many such emails, some rudely written, others genuinely seeking answers. One upside to these messages, though, is that they give me insight into a broad swath of Protestant Christians and the varied obstacles that they face. I have noticed that many of those Protestants resemble one of two types: the Certain Guy and the Robot

The Holy Spirit Certainty Guy

Charles was a Protestant who emailed me, describing something of his history as a Christian: going from one denomination to another many times over the years as his beliefs changed and he decided his current church was in error.

His meanderings had finally made him wonder if, perhaps, Catholicism was what it claimed to be. “Maybe there is a true Church?” he asked. When a Protestant comes to this question on his own, it is a wonderful thing. It indicates an openness to the possibility that the whole Protestant paradigm may be mistaken; instead maybe God did preserve the Church from error.

In the second half of his email, however, Charles listed his chief objections to Catholicism, notably the Church’s beliefs about Mary. Charles ended by saying:

“I am a Christian struggling with the dilemma of where to gather among other Christians to worship God—but the issue of praying to Mary is a stumbling block, or should I rather say, heresy in my opinion, which I regard as equal to idolatry and which will keep me very far away from the Roman Catholic Church.”

Charles’s candor was refreshing. He said very directly that he could not imagine becoming Catholic due to what he saw as heresy. In my response, I gently nudged him with questions about how he knew what Christ and the apostles taught and how he knew that his interpretation of Scripture was accurate. I also gave evidence for the perpetual virginity of Mary and the intercession of the saints. I kept it to a few paragraphs and waited for his response.

Charles opened his reply thanking me for my email, but then he said “However, I am still completely unconvinced by your reasoning—and I know that I indeed do have the Holy Spirit who leads me into all truth and he is not leading me to believe what you have suggested.”

Ah, there it was! He believed that he had the Holy Spirit and read John 16:13 to mean that the Spirit will lead him individually into all truth. He was sure that the Holy Spirit was showing him that I was in error and that he was not.

Striking At the Root

When you encounter the Certainty Guy, you could respond to his impregnable certainty with an equally confident assertion, as I did: “I also have the Holy Spirit and am unconvinced by your reasoning, so we are at an impasse. Further, Martin Luther and John Calvin believed they had the Holy Spirit, and they rebutted other Protestants who held the same interpretation that you did about Mary’s perpetual virginity. So our impasse deepens.”

In this brief exchange we exposed the fundamental problem of Protestantism. He claims he’s right because he has the Holy Spirit. I claim that I’m right for the same reason.   And according to Protestantism, no person or church or institution can adjudicate our competing claims. In any dialogue with a Protestant it is important to reach this point, so that your friend can realize the unresolvable dilemma that his beliefs create.

Charles emailed back telling me that he “does not arrogantly pick and choose” his beliefs as I suggested. Of course, I never claimed that his choosing was done in arrogance, only that he was indeed picking and choosing: picking which issues were essential versus non-essential, and choosing what to believe on each of those issues. Even if he did not do it arrogantly, the fact remained that he was doing it, and that under Protestantism’s paradigm he had no choice but come up with an individual belief on every issue he came across.

It is instructive that even though I said nothing about him acting arrogantly or capriciously in choosing his beliefs, Charles inferred that I made such an accusation. Misunderstandings like this occur often in any discussion about beliefs. Faith abides deeply within us, and any perceived challenge to our beliefs can result in a defensive reaction, even if our discussion partner acts in a completely amiable way.

Our email exchange continued for a bit longer and wended toward the question of whether sola scriptura was true, but for our purposes here the main point has been shown. When you face Certainty Guy, who is absolutely confident in his interpretation of Scripture and of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, simply push back, without any rancor, that you can claim the same thing, and so reveal a conundrum.

The One-Way Street

About six months after my book The Protestant’s Dilemma was published, I received an email from a Protestant man (whom I’ll call Louis) directing me to his website where he was making a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal of my book. He was brief but respectful enough, so I went and checked it out. His was the first substantive attempt to rebut my arguments, so I was interested in what he had to say.

Unfortunately, his site had the look-and-feel of a Web 1.0, circa 1998 site hand-coded in basic html. Even though as a computer programmer I winced, I was able to ignore that, but since he was attempting a rebuttal one chapter at a time, I also had no way of knowing when he posted more updates for me to read.

I kindly emailed Louis and suggested he go with a standard blogging website, which would allow him to publish each of his rebuttal attempts as blog posts that I and others could subscribe to. He paid no attention to my suggestions and instead just kept sending me short emails, about once a day, that had a link in them to his argument web pages.

I figured that I would give him another chance to interact in a constructive way, so I went to one of his links, read his argument, then sent him an email rebutting the argument. In this particular case, he was denying that Mary was the mother of God. I explained why this title is valid, but he ignored my argument and sent me yet another link to his web page.

At that point I realized I was dealing with someone uninterested in interacting like a human being. Rather, like a machine he wanted to blast his arguments at me—whether they were sensible or not—and didn’t want to have a discussion. It was a one-way street. I called him out on this and said I would automatically filter his emails into the trash if he continued this robotic behavior. He immediately continued it, and I filtered his emails. The next day he emailed me from a different address!

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Most Protestants, thankfully, are not robots like Louis. But some are, and possibly you will encounter one, whether virtually or in person. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to respond to them or to play by their (lopsided) rules. In my experience, interacting with such people goes nowhere, as they are not truly open to discussion and honest analysis of the arguments.

Instead, they are locked into existing beliefs that see Catholicism as apostate or heretical, and have one goal: to disseminate attacks against the Church in rapid-fire fashion.

And remember, even when people act in such exasperating ways, seek to forgive them. Pray for them—the best thing and often the only thing that you can do—and leave them in our Lord’s hands. You hope to see them and be with them in heaven one day, in spite of their errors and your own faults and weaknesses.”

Love, and the love of neighbor it takes to explain, without being defensive, patiently, calmly, kindly, lovingly, which comes only from His grace,
Matthew

Invitations to demonic possession

“”Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -St Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Do People Become Possessed by Demons?

Exorcists are in general agreement as to how a person becomes possessed by demons. As one exorcist says, “The darkness is there, waiting to receive an invitation.

Exorcists identify three categories of activities and experiences that open a person to demonic possession. We can think of these categories as doors for demonic attacks: they invite demons in, but they do not always result in possession. In fact, as we shall see, full-fledged demonic possession may be extremely rare—depending upon whose opinion we accept.

The first category is referred to as patterns of sin. This does not mean simply being a sinner, since all of us are sinners. Rather, this refers to people who have a habit of serious sin that they like, are attached to, and have no desire or intention of stopping. There is a conscious decision to give one’s self over to the sin. Demons can see this as an invitation to their activity.

The second category of influences that invite demons into one’s life is the occult. Occult practices include Satanism, the use of tarot cards and the Ouija board, and consulting psychics and mediums. This also includes necromancy, the attempt to consult with spirits of the dead for the sake of learning hidden knowledge or future events.

Being a victim of trauma or abuse is a third category of experience that can open the door to demonic possession. The trauma may be witnessing a murder, suicide, or horrific accident; the abuse may be sexual, physical, or psychological.

One exorcist explains that those who go through these experiences can end up living in the dark emotions of anger, rage, resentment, and revenge. He stressed the importance of such victims getting the psychological and spiritual help that they need, in order to have some degree of healing. If they do not, those emotions can weaken their relationship with God, and simultaneously be an opening to a relationship with evil spirits.”

-from the rite of excorcism

Psalm 53

God, by Your name save me,
and by Your might defend my cause.
God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.

For haughty men have risen up against me,
and fierce men seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.
See, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.

Turn back the evil upon my foes;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
Freely will I offer You sacrifice;
I will praise Your name, Lord, for its goodness,

Because from all distress you have rescued me,
and my eyes look down upon my enemies.

======

Save your servant.
Who trusts in you, my God.

Let him/her find in You, Lord, a fortified tower.
In the face of the enemy.

Let the enemy have no power over him/her.
And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm him/her.

Lord, send him/her aid from your holy place.
And watch over him/her from Sion.

Lord, heed my prayer.
And let my cry be heard by You…

…I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions…

…I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus +Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God.+ For it is He Who commands you, He Who flung you headlong from the heights of heaven into the depths of hell. It is He Who commands you, He Who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomentor of discord, author of pain and sorrow. Why, then, do you stand and resist, knowing as you must that Christ the Lord brings your plans to nothing? Fear Him, who in Isaac was offered in sacrifice, in Joseph sold into bondage, slain as the paschal lamb, crucified as man, yet triumphed over the powers of hell. (The three signs of the cross which follow are traced on the brow of the possessed person). Begone, then, in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit. Give place to the Holy Spirit by this sign of the holy + cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever…

…I adjure you, ancient serpent, by the judge of the living and the dead, by your Creator, by the Creator of the whole universe, by Him Who has the power to consign you to hell, to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions, from this servant of God, N., who seeks refuge in the fold of the Church. I adjure you again, + (on the brow) not by my weakness but by the might of the Holy Spirit, to depart from this servant of God, N. , whom almighty God has made in His image. Yield, therefore, yield not to my own person but to the minister of Christ. For it is the power of Christ that compels you, Who brought you low by His cross. Tremble before that mighty arm that broke asunder the dark prison walls and led souls forth to light. May the trembling that afflicts this human frame, + (on the breast) the fear that afflicts this image + (on the brow) of God, descend on you. Make no resistance nor delay in departing from this man, for it has pleased Christ to dwell in man. Do not think of despising my command because you know me to be a great sinner. It is God + Himself who commands you; the majestic Christ + Who commands you. God the Father + commands you; God the Son + commands you; God the Holy + Spirit commands you. The mystery of the cross commands +you. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints commands + you. The blood of the martyrs commands + you. The continence of the confessors commands + you. The devout prayers of all holy men and women command + you. The saving mysteries of our Christian faith command + you.

Depart, then, transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent. Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way to Christ, in Whom you found none of your works. For He has already stripped you of your powers and laid waste your kingdom, bound you prisoner and plundered your weapons. He has cast you forth into the outer darkness, where everlasting ruin awaits you and your abettors. To what purpose do you insolently resist? To what purpose do you brazenly refuse? For you are guilty before almighty God, whose laws you have transgressed. You are guilty before His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom you presumed to tempt, Whom you dared to nail to the cross. You are guilty before the whole human race, to whom you proferred by your enticements the poisoned cup of death.

Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless + Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man (woman) + (on the brow), to depart from the Church of God + (signing the bystanders). Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to Whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries as they sing: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. The Word made flesh + commands you; the Virgin’s Son + commands you; Jesus + of Nazareth commands you, Who once, when you despised His disciples, forced you to flee in shameful defeat from a man; and when He had cast you out you did not even dare, except by His leave, to enter into a herd of swine. And now as I adjure you in His + name, begone from this man (woman) who is His creature. It is futile to resist His + will. It is hard for you to kick against the + goad. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him Who rules the living and the dead, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

…Therefore, I adjure you every unclean spirit, every spectre from hell, every satanic power, in the name of Jesus + Christ of Nazareth, Who was led into the desert after His baptism by John to vanquish you in your citadel, to cease your assaults against the creature whom He has formed from the slime of the earth for His own honor and glory; to quail before wretched man, seeing in him the image of almighty God, rather than his state of human frailty. Yield then to God, + Who by His servant, Moses, cast you and your malice, in the person of Pharaoh and his army, into the depths of the sea. Yield to God, + Who, by the singing of holy canticles on the part of David, His faithful servant, banished you from the heart of King Saul. Yield to God, + Who condemned you in the person of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. For He now flails you with His divine scourges, + He in whose sight you and your legions once cried out: “What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture us before the time?” Now He is driving you back into the everlasting fire, He who at the end of time will say to the wicked: “Depart from me, you accursed, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” For you, 0 evil one, and for your followers there will be worms that never die. An unquenchable fire stands ready for you and for your minions, you prince of accursed murderers, father of lechery, instigator of sacrileges, model of vileness, promoter of heresies, inventor of every obscenity.

Depart, then, + impious one, depart, + accursed one, depart with all your deceits, for God has willed that man should be His temple. Why do you still linger here? Give honor to God the Father + almighty, before Whom every knee must bow. Give place to the Lord Jesus + Christ, Who shed His most precious blood for man. Give place to the Holy + Spirit, Who by His blessed apostle Peter openly struck you down in the person of Simon Magus; Who cursed your lies in Annas and Saphira; Who smote you in King Herod because he had not given honor to God; Who by His apostle Paul afflicted you with the night of blindness in the magician Elyma, and by the mouth of the same apostle bade you to go out of Pythonissa, the soothsayer. Begone, + now! Begone, + seducer! Your place is in solitude; your abode is in the nest of serpents; get down and crawl with them. This matter brooks no delay; for see, the Lord, the ruler comes quickly, kindling fire before Him, and it will run on ahead of Him and encompass His enemies in flames. You might delude man, but God you cannot mock. It is He Who casts you out, from Whose sight nothing is hidden. It is He Who repels you, to Whose might all things are subject. It is He Who expels you, He Who has prepared everlasting hellfire for you and your angels, from Whose mouth shall come a sharp sword, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Love, and Divine protection,
Matthew

Baptism

Introducing the Church Fathers

Your Protestant friend has may have never heard of the Church Fathers (I certainly hadn’t when I was a Protestant). These were faithful and influential Christians teachers, pastors, and leaders who taught and defended the Faith from the late first century through the sixth. Many, though not all, are considered saints by the Catholic Church.

Given the impasse some Protestants face about how to interpret the Bible on baptism, it makes sense to start with that topic and bring in other evidence. And though your friend may not know much about the Fathers, he will likely be favorably disposed to hearing what the early Christians believed, since (especially with the Fathers of the first couple of centuries) there wouldn’t have been much time for the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to have been corrupted. So, what did these early Christians have to say about baptism?

The Church Fathers on Baptism

Start by sharing with your friend what St. Justin Martyr wrote about baptismal regeneration in the middle of the second century:

“I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them.

They then are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water….The reason for this we have received from the apostles.

And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”

Notice how Justin explains that baptismal regeneration remits our sins but also reveals that this teaching was received from the apostles. Justin was born around the time of the St. John’s death, so many Christians of his era still had living memories of the apostles themselves.

Another great Church Father from the second century who witnessed to the truth of baptismal regeneration was St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a disciple of St. Polycarp who himself was a disciple of St. John. Irenaeus pulls no punches in pointing out that to deny baptism’s regenerating effects is to renounce the entire Christian faith.

“And when we come to refute them [i.e. those heretics], we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.”

This is only a small selection. Both of these saints wrote even more about baptismal regeneration, as did other Church Fathers and early Christians in the second century. Once we get to the third century, the writings that support baptismal regeneration multiply. This early Christian witness to baptismal regeneration is unanimous. If this teaching were heretical and contradicted the apostles, you would expect at least a few leaders in the early Church to have stood up in protest of it, but not a single one does—or even offers an alternative interpretation for the relevant verses.

Present this historical evidence to your friend and give him time to respond. But be careful: the Church Fathers are Catholic to the core, and their writings contain many teachings that simply aren’t reconcilable with Protestant doctrine. You’ll want to introduce them to your friend gently and give him time to absorb the evidence they provide for the Catholic Church.

Some Protestants put little stock into what ancient Christians wrote, unless it is explicitly contained in the New Testament itself, so your friend may simply dismiss these writings. He may propose that they’re forgeries or that they represent a misleading sample of what the early Christians. You can patiently explain that even Protestant historians accept these works as genuine and as representative of what was being taught in the early Church. It’s not totally impossible that they represent a minority view, that other early Christians were teaching doctrines in agreement with modern Protestantism, but the simple fact is there’s no existing evidence that there were.”

Love, and new life & joy through baptism,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3