The Mormon Christ


“I’ve heard Mormons say they worship the same Jesus we do and so they are Christians. After all, their church is “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.””


“Just because someone says he’s a Christian doesn’t make him a Christian, because a Christian must be validly baptized and believe in the God of Christianity. The Catholic Church holds Mormon baptisms invalid because, even though the baptismal formula they use is correct, the meaning of the words “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are so alien to Christian belief that they essentially belong to another religion.

When it comes to Jesus, Christians believe he is fully human and fully divine, and he has always been divine given that he is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. Mormons, however, believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” such as us who existed from eternity. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “firstborn” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body. In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that read, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”

Instead of being completely different in kind from human beings, this counterfeit Christ is different from us only in degree (hence the term “eldest brother”). He is just a more exalted spirit-child of God the Father, which reduces him from being the eternal creator of the universe to being merely one highly praised part of it, which is antithetical to true Christian belief.”

Our Eldest Brother

“Once a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane noticed I was reading a book about Mormonism. She said she had recently joined the Mormon Church (the official name for Mormons is “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which some people abbreviate to “LDS”)164 and so we struck up a conversation. She said she didn’t like it when people held ignorant views toward Mormons and I agreed that bigoted attitudes are unacceptable.

“I mean, we all believe in Jesus, so isn’t that what matters?” she asked.

I gently explained to her that Christians and Mormons don’t mean the same thing when they refer to the person of Jesus. Gordon Hinkley, the former president of the Mormon Church, even said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”165

Christians believe there is one God who exists as three divine, eternal persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that only God is eternal (see Psalm 90:2). Mormons, on the other hand, believe there are an infinite number of “intelligences” that have existed for all eternity. God, whom Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” transforms these intelligences into human beings and the faithful Mormons among them will become gods in the next life, going on to create more human beings who will continue this cycle of “exaltation.”166

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” like us who existed from eternity past. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “firstborn” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body.167 In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that read, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”168

Instead of being completely different in kind from human beings, this counterfeit Christ is only different from us in degree (hence the term “eldest brother”). He is just a more exalted spirit-child of God the Father, which reduces him from being the eternal creator of the universe to being merely one highly praised part of it.

But how can that be true if . . . . . . There Is Only One God?

Mormonism can best be described as a kind of henotheism, or belief in the existence of many gods (in this case, infinitely many), only one of whom deserves our worship. Mormons strive to become “exalted” and develop into a god just like Heavenly Father, who was once a man like us. Joseph Smith even said at a funeral for Mormon elder King Follett, “You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”169

Christians, on the other hand, are monotheists who believe there is one God, though he exists as a Trinity of three persons, each of whom equally possesses the divine nature.170 And although Mormons will tell you that they, too, believe in “one God,” what they mean is that they believe in one collection of gods. For Mormons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or “the Holy Ghost”) are three gods who cooperate so perfectly they might as well be one God. But this is like saying that a perfectly cooperating baseball team has but one player.

If God or Heavenly Father used to be a man who was later exalted into godhood, then the entire universe would be without an explanation, because we could always ask the atheist’s favorite question: “Who created God?” Positing an infinite cycle of men becoming gods does not explain the existence of the universe any more than an infinitely long chain could explain why a chandelier is hanging in a room.171 It has to be attached to the ceiling, and likewise, the only explanation for why the universe exists at all is because the God of Christianity, who just is perfect existence itself, created it.

Scripture also clearly teaches there is only one God, and we are to worship him alone. There’s no doubt that the early Israelites were also henotheists, because they were often tempted to worship other gods that they presumed really existed. But through gradual, divine revelation God’s people came to understand that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods—he was real and they were not. In Isaiah 45:5, God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”

In Isaiah 43:10 God declares, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” This can’t refer to false gods or idols, because many of those are still “formed” to this day. Instead, the Bible teaches that no other god besides the one true God has ever existed, and no other god ever will exist. Even scholars who reject evidence for practices of monotheism early in the Old Testament agree that the prophet Isaiah is a witness to God’s people having finally rejected the existence of all other deities except for their own God Yahweh.172

The New Testament also firmly teaches not just that Jesus is God, but that there is only one God. Jesus described God as “the only God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). St. Paul describes God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) and the only being who possesses immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). St. Ignatius wrote in the early second century that the early Christians were persecuted because they “convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son.”173

If there is only one God, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are fully divine and distinct from one another (which we will discuss in the next chapter), then the doctrine of the Trinity logically follows. Jesus could not have been an “intelligence” that another god elevated to divinity, but must instead be an inseparable part of the one, Triune God who alone has eternal, necessary existence.

. . . The Bible Teaches That Jesus Created All Things

Mormons believe that the world is eternal—that it never had a beginning—and God is just a being who exists within it. The God of this world created it in the same way a baker “creates” a cake—by combining pre-existing ingredients. Eric Shuster, a Mormon convert from Catholicism, writes, “Latter-day Saint doctrine holds that the universe was formed and organized, not created ex nihilo, ‘out of nothing’ as Catholic doctrine holds. This is not an insignificant difference.”174

Christians, on the other hand, have always believed that God created all things out of nothing at some point in the distant past. Hebrews 11:3 says that “the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (in some other translations, “was not made out of visible things.”). The Shepherd of Hermas, an early Christian writing from around the year A.D. 80, says, “First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing. He alone is able to contain the whole, but himself cannot be contained.”175

According to Mormonism, in the beginning Heavenly Father sent the pre-incarnate Jesus (whose name at that time was Jehovah) and the archangel Michael to form our world from pre-existing matter. But this contradicts Isaiah 44:24, where God says, “I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth—Who was with me?” Colossians 1:16–17 also tells us that it was through Jesus that all things were created, Jesus is before all things, and in Jesus all things hold together.176

If God was alone when he created all things, then he did not receive help from separate spiritual beings like Jesus or Michael the Archangel. And if he truly created all things, then he did not form anything from uncreated matter. Finally, if the New Testament tells us that Jesus created all things, and the Old Testament says that God alone created all things, this must mean that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament who would gradually come to be revealed as three distinct persons who exist as the one God that created the world.

Reducing Jesus from being our Creator to only our “eldest brother” leads to an interesting consequence: Jesus becomes not only our brother but the brother of Heavenly Father’s other spirit children—which includes the fallen angel Lucifer. Mormons say this doesn’t mean that Jesus and Satan deserve the same respect, are similar in status, or that Mormons worship Satan. Nonetheless, Jesus and the devil are both God’s spirit children—along with us.

Some Mormons cite the Bible’s description of Jesus as “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29) and the “firstborn of creation” (Col. 1:15) as evidence that he was created to be our “eldest brother” and is not himself the eternal creator of all things.177 But Romans 8:29 refers to how Jesus was the first human to take part in the glory of the resurrection—not that Jesus was created. That verse says God planned for others to be “conformed” to Christ’s image, becoming his brethren by sharing in the future glory that he first received.

Regarding Colossians 1:15, the term firstborn doesn’t always mean “the oldest child within a family.” The Greek word for “firstborn,” prototokos, can refer to a special position that is worthy of honor and privilege. For example, in Psalm 89:27 God says of David, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Obviously, David was not the first king ever to reign on earth. And we know that he was the youngest son in his family, not the oldest (1 Sam. 16:11). The psalm here indicates how he was placed in a position of preeminence or authority over all other kings. And just as the firstborn of kings is the one who rules over kings, the firstborn of creation (or Jesus) is the one who rules over creation.

. . . It’s Praiseworthy to Pray to Jesus

In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is not one more god in an infinite line of gods nor is he a created being. He is instead eternal like the Father, who is also described as “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6). Jesus is the one true God we worship, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

But although Mormons pray to the Father, they do not pray to the Son, because from their perspective Jesus is closer to our level of existence than to Heavenly Father’s. When they are asked why they don’t pray to Jesus, most Mormons will say something like, “Jesus taught his disciples to address their prayers to ‘our Father.’ He never told us to pray to him.”

Yet it doesn’t follow that just because Jesus explicitly taught one way to pray that all other ways of prayer are unacceptable. For instance, Mormons give thanks to Heavenly Father even though Jesus never mentioned thanksgiving when he taught us the Lord’s Prayer. It seems more likely that Mormons only pray to the Father because they are following a prescription in the Book of Mormon where Jesus says, “[Y]e must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19).

But before he was martyred, St. Stephen prayed directly to the ascended Jesus, saying “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And Paul wrote, “[M]ay our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father . . . comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17). Notice that Paul does not ask the Father “in Jesus’ name” to comfort believers. He instead petitions both the Father and the Son. In his commentary on Thessalonians, Gene Green notes:

To address prayers to the Lord Jesus (so 2 Thess. 3:5,16) in the same breath with God the Father implies a very high Christology. This prayer would be proper only if the apostles held to the divinity of Christ. This point is even clearer in the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 2.16, where the order of the names is reversed.178

As I once said to two Mormon missionaries, “I appreciate that you’re trying to share your faith, but I love being a Christian. The reason I could never become a Mormon is because I would miss the relationship I have with Jesus Christ. I love praying to Jesus and knowing he isn’t ‘a god’ but, as the apostle Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God’” (John 20:28).


164 Although Mormons call themselves a “church,” strictly speaking they are not a church because they do not possess valid holy orders or even valid beliefs about central Christian doctrines like the Trinity. But for sake of simplicity, I use the term “church” to describe their organization. Also, in 2018 their president Russell Nelson released a statement expressing a preference for people to call that church by its full name and no longer by any “Mormon” nickname. In my own writings on the subject, I will still use terms like Mormon and LDS for readability and because I don’t think they’re offensive. In conversations with individual Mormons, I’d recommend following their lead about which terms they prefer, since not all of them may agree with the new change.

165 Gordon B. Hinkley, “We Look to Christ” Ensign (May 2002). Available online at:

166 St. Athanasius said, “[W]e become by grace what God is by nature.” (De Incarnatione, I). In other words, God gives us his divine life so that we resemble him but we never become him. Renowned historian of Christianity Jaroslav Pelikan says that the doctrine that men could become like God in holiness (what is called theosis) was, among people like Athanasius, “not to be viewed as analogous to classical Greek theories about the promotion of human beings to divine rank, and in that sense not to be defined by natural theology at all; on such errors they pronounced their ‘Anathema!’” Jarolslav Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (Yale University Press, 1995), 318. In other words, the Church Fathers would not have recognized the Mormon doctrine of exaltation as being a variation of their doctrine of theosis. Instead, they would have considered it heresy.

167 The Mormon sacred text Doctrine and Covenants describes Jesus telling Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith, “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth” (93:31–33).

168 “Origin of Man” Improvement Era, November 1909, 75–81. Available online at: man?lang=eng.

169 Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, 13. Available online at:

170 Joseph Smith said of the Trinity, “[T]hree in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. . . . All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God—he would be a giant or a monster.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372. But each person of the Trinity is not a part of God. Instead, each member is God, and because of this each member of the Trinity deserves the same level of worship, including the second person of the Trinity who became the man Jesus Christ.

171 For a more extended discussion of this argument for the existence of the traditional monotheistic God see Trent Horn. Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity (San Diego: Catholic Answers Press, 2013), 123–136.

172 Robert Karl Gnuse, No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1997), 84.

173 Letter to the Magnesians 8:1. 174 Eric Shuster, Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc: 2009), 62. 175 The Shepherd 2:1.

176 This passage is so damaging to people who deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ that some, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, mistranslate it to say Jesus created “all other things,” even though the Greek words for other (heteros and allos) are not in the original text.

177 Other critics cite Revelation 3:14 because it refers to Jesus as “the beginning of God’s creation. But in Revelation 3:14, the Greek word translated “be- ginning,” or arche, can also mean ruler, source, or origin. Indeed, in Revelation 21:6 the Father calls himself “the beginning,” but this does not mean the Father had a literal beginning. What this verse means is that Jesus is the source of all creation.

178 Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002), 176.

Horn, Trent . Counterfeit Christs : Finding the Real Jesus Among the Impostors (pp. 93-99). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

The Mormon Christ

-by Isaiah Bennett

“How can you possibly deny that we are Christians,” Mormons ask, “when even our church is named for Christ?”

“We acknowledge him to be the Creator of this world.”

“We rejoice in the great atonement he wrought.”

“His name is on nearly every page of the Book of Mormon, which we call ‘another testament’ to him.”

“We conclude all our prayers in his name.”

“You cannot doubt that we love and serve him.”

We don’t, in fact, deny that many Mormons try to love and serve the Lord Jesus. Active members do genuinely try to make him and his will a center in their daily lives. But as with many other Mormon beliefs, the teachings on Christ are a maze of misunderstanding, misdefinition, and misapplication. Mormon scriptures are contradictory, and Mormon prophets deny, redefine, or ignore one another’s teachings.

Brief Catholic View

The Catholic apologist Frank Sheed uses the term “double stream” to help us understand the union of human and divine in Jesus, as expressed by his words and actions. At times Jesus Christ speaks or acts simply as a man. He is tired, hungry, or sad. He prays to God the Father. He expresses feelings of grief in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38) and abandonment on Calvary (Matt. 27:46). Christ, in his human nature, was a man like us in all things but sin (Heb. 4:15).

At other times he says and does things that go far beyond the words and actions of a mere man. He demands his followers love him above all others, even family. No one who comes to him will be confounded. All must learn of him, for he is the way, the truth, and the life. “No man has ever spoken like this!” He sealed his words with divine signs: giving light to the blind and life to the dead. Because he possessed a divine nature as well as a human one, Jesus accepted without hesitation the adoration of his followers (e.g., John 20:28-29).

The gospels are replete with accounts of the apostles’ stumbling attempts to understand their master. While at times he evinced “merely” human compassion for a hungry crowd or a widowed mother, he responded in a manner truly divine: He fed the crowd and raised the dead son. He gently reproved the mother of James and John, saying it was not his but his Father’s decision to grant a place of privilege in the kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). Soon after, however, the Lord claimed authority to judge all men, to separate them, and to usher them to seats of glory or places of torment (Matt. 25).

This “double stream” is braided not only through the words and actions of the Lord Jesus but also through the meditation and reflection of his apostles and evangelists. Thus, Paul can affirm that Christ emptied himself of glory, took on the form of a servant, and humbled himself (Phil. 2:6-8), while also proclaiming that in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).

Mormon Teachings on Jesus Christ

The Son Was Made by a Divine Man and Woman

According to Mormons, Jesus Christ is their elder brother, since he was the firstborn in the spirit world. That is, God the Father and one of his heavenly wives begot Christ’s spirit at some point in the eternity before earthly creation. This was made possible because the Father, who had previously lived, died, and was resurrected in some other world, had finally attained divinity for himself. As part of the blessings of godhood, he was given an eternal wife or wives with whom to procreate spirit children.

The Son—and All Created Things—Pre-Existed from All Eternity

The Mormon church correctly teaches that the Son exists from all eternity. It makes two mistakes, however. First, it holds that the Son’s pre-existence was only as vague, unformed matter until his heavenly parents begot his spirit. Second, Mormons believe that his pre-existence-as they define it-is the pattern for all created beings. Thus, for Mormons, every person has existed from eternity; each spirit came into being in heaven by the union of God the Father and one of his heavenly wives. That spirit is eventually placed into the human body created by earthly parents.

Jesus Christ can be called the “firstborn” only because his was the first “spirit body” formed by his heavenly parents. There then followed the “spirit bodies” of all other rational beings.

Yet Scripture clearly states the Son created all things and is himself uncreated: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17).

We do well to remember the distinction presented earlier between Christ’s divine and human natures. As the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of the Father, Christ exists eternally. There never was a time when he was not. Because God is perfect and therefore changeless (change implying a movement either toward or away from some ideal or perfection), the Son did not undergo a “reformation” of component elements, bringing him into self-awareness or personhood. Jesus possessed both a divine and a human nature from the moment of his earthly conception. He did not grow into divinity either before or while living a mortal life among men.

Mormons admit Christ became God before he took on a mortal estate. Sometimes, though, their terminology is reminiscent of Greek or Roman mythology. One Mormon writer phrased his view this way:

“Mary, heavy with child, traveled all that distance on mule-back, guarded and protected as one about to give birth to a half-Deity. No other man in the history of this world of ours has ever had such an ancestry-God the Father on the one hand and Mary the Virgin on the other. . . . Jesus lived in a lowly home, the only man born to this earth half-Divine and half-mortal” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 10).

Contrast this with the Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is fully divine (Col. 2:9) and fully human (Heb. 4:15).

The Virgin Birth

Active Mormons claim God the Father (and his heavenly wife) not only brought forth the spirit of Christ in the pre-existence, they believe the Father also directly participated in the Lord’s earthly conception. This inventive doctrine, understandably, raises the ire of many devout Christians, particularly as it has found expression in the theological discourses of some Mormon prophets and apostles:

Brigham Young: “The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband. [The babe in] the manger was begotten, not by Joseph, the husband of Mary, but by another Being. Do you inquire by whom? He was begotten by God our heavenly Father” (Journal of Discourses 2:268).

Joseph F. Smith, sixth Mormon prophet (speaking to young children): “You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers. . . . You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in Scripture that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father” (Family Home Evening, 1972, 125).

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon apostle and theologian: “Christ is . . . the Only Begotten Son . . . of the Father. . . . Each of the words is to be understood literally. ‘Only’ means only. ‘Begotten’ means begotten; and ‘Son’ means son. Christ was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers” (Mormon Doctrine, 546-547).

Orson Pratt, early Mormon apostle and theologian: “The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of husband and wife: hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father” (The Seer, 158-159).

Mary thus had two husbands, the Father and Joseph. In the Mormon view, she was perhaps the only woman in history lawfully permitted to engage in polyandry.

In trying to describe how Mary, in the process of natural intercourse with her glorified Father and God, could remain a virgin, McConkie resorts to redefining the term. A virgin, he implies, is a woman who has not had sexual intercourse with a mortal man. The Heavenly Father is a resurrected, immortal man. Therefore, there was no loss of Mary’s virginity (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 1, 314). This is another example of how Mormons hijack and redefine orthodox Christian terms.

Jesus Christ: A Subordinate God

Catholics adore God alone. We give full worship and obedience to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three are co-eternal, all-holy Persons. We pray to each member of the Trinity. We seek to cultivate a relationship of love and reverence with each Person.

This cannot be said for the Mormon. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a second God. There was a time in which he, as God, did not exist, but had to await the organization of his spirit by his heavenly Father and Mother. Thereafter, he was obedient to the heavenly Father in all things and progressed to eventual godhood (Mormon Doctrine, 129), working out his own divinity. Now he has now achieved a fullness of exaltation and is spoken of as God. But he was not always so.

Within the past year (written 9/1/1999), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints changed its logo, now writing the name “Jesus Christ” larger than the rest of its title. The purpose for the change, the church said, is to emphasize its allegedly Christ-centered character. Yet this same church forbids prayer to Jesus Christ.

Not only does Mormon theology teach Christ’s inferiority to the Father, it insists he be excluded from the honor accorded the Father, the supreme God. Therefore, all prayers, whether personal or public, are to be addressed to the Father only. No one is to pray to the Son or the Holy Ghost. Though his picture adorns most Mormon homes and chapels; though he is referred often in the Book of Mormon; though every prayer and testimony is concluded “in the name of Jesus Christ,” Mormons are forbidden to pray to him.

Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie informed an audience at Brigham Young University: “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the Scriptures say about worshiping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense-the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to Him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator”(“Our Relationship with the Lord,” BYU Devotional, a March 2, 1982 monograph).

He may know “perfectly well” what the Scriptures say, but his interpretation of them is deficient. The Greek proskunéo refers to adoration or worship. As such, it is used in reference to God the Father throughout the Bible. But it is used in reference to the Son as well. See, for example, Matthew 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 28:9; 28:17; John 9:38; and Revelation 5:14.

Yet McConkie proclaimed a subordinate Christ to the BYU student body: “Though Christ is God, yet there is a deity above him, a deity whom he worships. . . . All of us, Christ included, seek to become like the Father. In this sense the Firstborn, our Elder Brother, goes forward as we do” (6-7). In other words, the Son worked out his own salvation, in part, by worshiping the Father.

Jesus Christ: Husband and Father

At this time, the Mormon church has no official position on whether or not Jesus Christ was married or had children. However, the Mormon leadership was not always so circumspect.

Orson Hyde, apostle under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, declared Christ was not only married but was a polygamist who fathered children: “It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction, it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it”

President Jedediah M. Grant, member of the First Presidency with Brigham Young, on the ultimate cause of the Lord’s crucifixion: “The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based upon polygamy, according to the testimony of the philosophers who rose in that age. A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers. We might almost think they were ‘Mormons’” (Journal of Discourses 1:346).

Many are familiar with LDS preaching on the great benefits of family. Jesus, many members think, must have shared fully in those blessings. Although large numbers of Mormons believe this notion of Jesus as husband and father, it has not been elevated to the level of universal doctrine. It’s not discussed much, if at all, with outsiders.

The Mormon church has recently added the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to its Book of Mormon. In light of Latter-Day Saints teachings on the Son of God, it would be more accurate to say they present to the world a “Testament of Another Jesus Christ.””

Love & truth,

Sep 10 – St Ambrose Edward Barlow, OSB, (1585-1641) – Priest & Martyr

Ambrose, Also known as Ambrose Brereton, Ambrose Radcliffe, Edward Ambrose Barlow, was born at Barlow Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester in 1585.   He was the fourth son of the nobleman Sir Alexander Barlow and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Urian Brereton of Handforth Hall.   The Barlow family had been reluctant converts to the Church of England following the suppression of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.   Ambrose’s grandfather died in 1584 while imprisoned for his beliefs and Sir Alexander Barlow had two thirds of his estate confiscated as a result of his refusing to conform with the rules of the new established religion.   On 30 November 1585, Ambrose was baptised at Didsbury Chapel and his baptism entry reads “Edwarde legal sonne of Alex’ Barlowe gent’ 30.”   Ambrose went on to adhere to the Anglican faith until 1607, when he converted to Roman Catholicism.

-baptism entry for St Ambrose Edward Barlow, OSB, please click on the image for greater detail

-Barlow Hall

In 1597, Ambrose was taken into the stewardship of Sir Uryan Legh, a relative who would care for him while he served out his apprenticeship as a page. However, upon completing this service, Barlow realized that his true vocation was for the priesthood, so like the sons of many of the Lancashire Catholic gentry, Edward decided to travel to Douai where, since 1569, an English College created by William Allen had operated.

This missionary college or seminary, working with neighbouring monasteries, was intended to provide university-style education to young men prior to them being sent to England to maintain and promote the Catholic faith. So he travelled to Douai in France to study before attending the Royal College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, Spain. In 1615, he returned to Douai where he became a member of the Order of Saint Benedict, joining the community of St Gregory the Great (now Downside Abbey) and was ordained as a priest in 1617.

The decision by Ambrose to take religious orders is summarized by Richard Challoner author of Memoirs of Missionary Priests:
“As he grew up and considered the emptiness and vanity of the transitory toys of this life and the greatness of things eternal, he took a resolution to withdraw himself from the world and to go abroad, in order to procure those helps of virtue and learning, which might qualify him for the priesthood and enable him to be of some assistance to his native country.”

Well aware of the activities of English spies on the Continent looking for persons likely to return to England as priests, Edward operated under his mother’s maiden name, Brereton.   Merely entering the country as a Catholic priest was treasonable and hazardous.   Ports were dangerous and officials had descriptions from spies of those attempting to return to these shores.   In Elizabeth I’s “Proclamation against Jesuits”, 1591 it was said:-

“And furthermore, because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered.  Some come as gentlemen with contrary names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel and many as gallants, yea in all colours and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”

After his ordination into the priesthood, Ambrose returned to Barlow Hall, before taking up residence at the home of Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Morleys Hall, Astley.   Sir Thomas’ grandmother had arranged for a pension to be made available to the priest which would enable him to carry out his priestly duties amongst the poor Catholics within his parish. From there he secretly catered for the needs of Catholic ‘parishioners’, offering daily Mass and reciting his Office and Rosary for the next twenty-four years.   To avoid detection by the Protestant authorities, he devised a four-week routine in which he travelled throughout the parish for four weeks and then remained within the Hall for five weeks.   He would often visit his cousins, the Downes, at their residence of Wardley Hall and conduct Mass for the gathered congregation.

Ambrose was arrested four times during his travels and released without charge. King Charles I signed a proclamation on 7 March 1641, which decreed that all priests should leave the country within one calendar month or face being arrested and treated as traitors, resulting in imprisonment or death. Ambrose’s parishioners implored him to flee or at least go into hiding but he refused, reasoning that he could not die a better death than to be martyred for being a Catholic priest.. Their fears were compounded by a recent stroke which had resulted in the 56-year-old priest being partially paralysed. “Let them fear that have anything to lose which they are unwilling to part with”, he told them.

On 25 April 1641, Easter Day, Ambrose and his congregation of around 100 people were surrounded at Morleys Hall, Astley by the Vicar of Leigh and his armed congregation of some 400. Father Ambrose surrendered and his parishioners were released after their names had been recorded. The priest was restrained, then taken on a horse with a man behind him to prevent his falling, and escorted by a band of sixty people to the Justice of the Peace at Winwick, before being transported to Lancaster Castle. It was at this time he had a premonition of what his fate would be since it is reported that Edmund Arrowsmith appeared to him in a dream and said that he too would become a martyr.

-Lancaster Castle, please click on the image for greater detail

Father Ambrose appeared before the presiding judge, Sir Robert Heath, on 7 September when he professed his adherence to the Catholic faith and defended his actions. On 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Sir Robert Heath found Ambrose guilty and sentenced him to be executed. Two days later, he was taken from Lancaster Castle, drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, hanged, dismembered, quartered and boiled in oil. His head was afterwards exposed on a pike. His cousin, Francis Downes, Lord of Wardley Hall, a devout Catholic rescued his skull and preserved it at Wardley where it remains to this day. When the news of his death and martyrdom reached his Benedictine brothers at Douai Abbey, a Mass of Thanksgiving and the Te Deum were ordered to be sung.

Several relics of Ambrose are also preserved, his jaw bone is held at the Church of St Ambrose of Milan, Barlow Moor, Manchester, one of his hands is preserved at Stanbrook Abbey now at Wass, North Yorkshire and another hand is at Mount Angel Abbey in St Benedict, Oregon.

The skull of St Ambrose Barlow is on display at the top of the main staircase in Wardley Hall, Worsley, Greater Manchester – the official residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford. It was discovered in a casket in 1745 in Wardley Hall when a wall of the original chapel was being demolished. The hall has been known as the House of the Skull ever since.

O God, Who were pleased to give light to Your Church by adorning blessed Ambrose with the victory of martyrdom, graciously grant that, as he imitated the Lord’s Passion, so we may, by following in his footsteps, be worthy to attain eternal joys.


When did “conversion” become a dirty word?

-Caravaggio, ca. 1600/1601, oil on cypress wood, 237 cm × 189 cm (93 in × 74 in), Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome, please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Bp Robert Barron, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

“I have recently returned from World Youth Day in Lisbon, where I gave five presentations, each one of which, as I promised, was evangelical in purpose. I made that promise in response to Cardinal-elect Américo Aguiar, the organizer of the international gathering of young people who had assured us, a week before the meeting, that he had “no interest in converting anyone to Christ or to the Catholic Church.” Though my talks were enthusiastically received by crowds ranging up to twelve and thirteen thousand, I found myself rebuked, upon my return, by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh in the pages of Commonweal. Apparently, I did not understand the subtleties of Bishop Aguiar’s mind and had failed to grasp the key distinction between evangelization and proselytism. On Ivereigh’s reading, the former is, evidently, “facilitating an encounter with the living Christ” while the latter is “converting others to the Catholic Church.” In fact, Ivereigh goes so far as to say that any effort at conversion to the Church “contradicts” authentic evangelization.

Well, one scarcely knows where to begin responding to the confusions on display here. The most obvious is the painful wedge that Ivereigh drives between Jesus and his mystical body. The Church is not a collectivity of like-minded devotees of the “living Christ,” whom they presumably have found outside of the stifling confines of the ecclesial institution. Rather, the Church is Christ’s body, the visible means by which he is known, the vehicle that he employs to convey his life to the world. This understanding of the Church is implicit in the Lord’s famous parable of the sheep and goats—“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me”—as well as in the various accounts of Paul’s conversion, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Therefore, if one wants an encounter with the living Christ, in the full sense of that term, she must seek communion with Christ’s mystical body, the living organism of the Church. The late Cardinal George of Chicago often remarked, “Just as you can’t know me apart from my body, you cannot know Christ apart from the Church which is his body.” A Jesus existing apart from his Church, it seems to me, is not “the living Christ” but rather a gnostic fantasy.

A second confusion is terminological. What Ivereigh is calling “evangelization” is, in point of fact, “pre-evangelization.” One can indeed prepare the ground for Christ in a thousand different ways: through invitation, conversation, debate, argument, the establishment of friendship, etc. One might legitimately say, at this stage of the process, that one is not pressing the matter of conversion, but one is most definitely paving the way for it. Unless it conduces toward real evangelization, pre-evangelization is an absurdity. And Ivereigh’s identification of “proselytism” and “converting others to the Catholic Church” is just plain ridiculous. If he is right about this, then Pope Francis, who has for ten years consistently spoken out against the p-word, is a fierce opponent of converting people to the Catholic Church! I can offer a correction, as it were, from the horse’s mouth. When I was still a bishop in California, I participated, with my brothers, in a wide-ranging, three-hour conversation with the Pope, during our ad limina visit. In the course of that session, one of the bishops asked Francis to clarify the distinction between evangelization (which the Pope obviously favors) and proselytism (which he obviously doesn’t). The Holy Father clearly stated that by “proselytism” he means an attempt at evangelization that is aggressive, brow-beating, condescending, and disrespectful. I can assure you that he most certainly did not imply that it is tantamount to bringing people into the Church.

During the confusing and often heated discussions around the meaning of “synodality,” I have found it useful to turn to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and I believe that consulting that classic text might prove helpful in this context as well. Jesus walks with and carefully listens to His erstwhile disciples, even as they move in the wrong direction. All of Pope Francis’s teaching on listening and accompaniment is beautifully congruent with the opening of this narrative. It was a necessary propaedeutic, but what emerges from this, if I might put it this way, pre-evangelistic conversation is a relatively superficial and disjointed understanding of the Lord: they have many of the facts right, but they don’t see the pattern. It was indeed an encounter with Christ, but no careful reader of the story would conclude that it rendered anything close to an adequate understanding of Jesus.

After listening for some time, Jesus speaks and does so definitively: “How foolish you are; how slow to understand.” Then He immerses them in the Scriptures, explaining how all of the revealed word points toward Him, relating to Him as type and pre-figurement. Though their hearts are burning within them, the two disciples still do not fully see the Lord. Only when He breaks the bread do they recognize Him, whereupon He vanishes from their sight. At that, the two disciples, who were initially walking the wrong way, turn back to Jerusalem and, with excitement, join the eleven apostles. As commentators from the ancient world to the present day have remarked, this story is a sort of icon of the Mass, including a kind of Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist, and concluding with a sending on mission. The point is that Jesus is fully encountered only in and through the Eucharistic liturgy, the prayer par excellence of the Church. Apart from a real conversion to the Church, where word and bread are broken open, people will have, at best, a fragmented sense of who Jesus is.

Ivereigh concluded his criticism of me by maintaining that I was someone who, out of fear, is “clinging to identity and difference.” Well, I can assure him that fear has nothing to do with it, but otherwise, guilty as charged. I proudly cling to the identity of the Church of Jesus Christ and declare it to all the world as something different indeed, a uniquely liberating form of life.”

Love and truth,

Only Love Knows Anything

-The denial of Saint Peter, oil on canvas, 154 × 169 cm, Rembrandt 1660

-With his left hand the disciple Peter makes a gesture of denial in response of the accusations made by Caiaphas’ maidservant, who is standing next to him holding a candle. To the left two soldiers in armor are present, one of whom is sitting at a table. To the right a chained Christ looks over his shoulder while he is being taken away. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Fr. Stephen Freeman

“There’s a part of us that is wired to be careful. It senses danger and hunkers down. It looks for danger. It can easily become the dominant mode of our life. Anxiety and depression, are among the most common noises of this internal warning system. When it comes to dominate, we see the world through fear-colored glasses. In the classical language of the Church, we describe such an experience by the voices it produces: the logismoi (the “little words” or “little thoughts”).

It is of note that the logismoi rarely consist of considering information or pondering deeper things. Such things do not “nag” us. Rather it is the dark thoughts of danger, anger, sexual impulses, hunger, anxieties, etc., that haunt our minds. And so, our days have a way of drowning in petty things.

Sadly, these voices or thoughts can become the lens through which everything is filtered. The world becomes a dark and dangerous place. This same lens can turn in on the self, magnifying the sounds and symptoms of the darkness within ourselves.

A difficulty with all of this is that a warning system is not designed to serve as a world lens. It does not see beauty, it fails to see the true complexity and wonder of the world, and it darkens and obscures any knowledge of God, including our sense of His presence. The nous, the natural faculty by which we see and know God is occluded by the logismoi. We imagine that God has abandoned us, or even that He doesn’t exist.

A World of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

A number of the early Fathers described the world with three terms: goodness, truth, beauty. It is grounded in the story of creation. When God creates, we are told that He says, “It is good.” In both Hebrew and Greek, the word translated as “good,” also carries the meaning of “beautiful” (a very interesting linguistic intuition). From this, the Fathers taught that what truly exists, that which has true being, is inherently good, and is inherently beautiful. Additionally, they taught that what is “evil,” does not have true being. Rather, it is a parasite, a distortion, and a misuse or misdirection of what is true, good, and beautiful. This parasitic distortion is the very nature of sin itself – a drive towards death and non-being. (This understanding is quite prominent in the work of St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Dionysius the Areopagite).

But, if the truth of existence, the reality of being, is beautiful and good, what happens when the lens through which we see the world is colored by fear, lust, anger, and anxiety? We do not see what is – we see counterfeits, parasites, and dark wannabe’s. We do not see God. We do not see others. We do not even see ourselves. At least, none of these appear in the truth of their existence.

St. John offers this statement:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn. 3:7-8)

The passage is so simple and familiar that we easily pass over it, failing to comprehend and consider what it tells us: Only love knows anything.

“He who does not love does not know God.” God is not an object, an inert entity that must stand still and endure our observations. Rather, St. John tells us, “God is love.” Only love can see Love.

The truth of creation (and of other human beings) is good and beautiful, and cannot be rightly perceived apart from love. This way of being (and perceiving) is often foreign to our actions. Instead, as fearful, anxious creatures of our logismoi, we imagine that knowledge is gained by the amassing of “facts.” The nature of such knowledge is found in its ability to manage. It represents a form of safety and comforts the mind of fear and anxiety.

Of course, such knowledge is extremely limited. The vast array of “facts” that constitutes the universe is well beyond our ken. With but the tiniest fraction of such information we spin various explanations of everything from the origins of life to the very nature of the universe itself. It is a game best played by academics, most of whom agree among themselves that the guessing game constitutes reality itself. The popular media regales the general population with daily revelations implying that we’re very close to knowing everything.

Only love knows anything.

Information Does Not Constitute Knowledge

Information does not constitute knowledge. At most, it constitutes the limits of our management. True knowledge, particularly as spoken of in the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, is an act of communion. Communion is an act of love.

The nous, as the organ given to us to perceive God, is an organ of love. When Christ says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” He is speaking of the purified nous, a heart made whole through love. For many, even most, the nous is a reality that is largely unknown. Our pursuit of information has largely drowned even our awareness of the nous, or to pay attention and value to its voice within our experience.

In our culture, if someone spoke about coldness of the heart, we would likely describe it as an emotional issue, and dismiss it or diminish it as merely unfortunate. If, on the other hand, we were to speak about something interfering with our acquisition of information, we would treat it as a crisis of first-order. We do not understand that the greatest crisis in our lives is found in our coldness of heart. Indeed, even our acquisition of information is distorted by coldness of the heart.

Only Love Knows Anything.

In our interactions with other people, our hearing can be very selective. We can imagine that noting the words spoken is sufficient. But words are never spoken “alone”  – they have an emotional context, and, quite often, other levels of meaning. St. Ignatius of Antioch once wrote: “He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence.” St. Ignatius is describing a context in which love is at the very center. Only love “possesses the word of Jesus.” As St. John said, “He who does not love does not know God.” Love is the beginning of true knowledge.

Of course, none of us is perfect in love. Coldness of heart can be fairly common companion, fueled by inner wounds and circumstances. I have long treasured the simple admonition: “Guard your heart.” Caught up in a world of ideas and the arguments of culture and causes, we all too easily neglect our heart. The passions cloud the nous and the coldness creeps in. We do not need an idea or information to heal us – we need communion.

The greater point of fasting, at all times, is to reacquire warmth of heart in the cleansing of our nous. It is a slowing down of mind and body and an attention to the one thing necessary. We return to our first love, for it was always love that made God known to us, however dimly.

We need to determine, above all, to guard our heart, to note the subtle hand of coldness before its grasp is complete.”

Love & truth,

CCC 846 – Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

-please click on the image for greater detail

Vatican Piazza

-please click on the image for greater detail

Explicit & implicit faith: who can be saved?

CCC 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church.

He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door.

Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

-by Bp Robert Barron, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

“You have probably heard by now that a statement made by Bishop Américo Aguiar has caused quite a stir. Aguiar is the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, Portugal, and he is the chief coordinator of the upcoming World Youth Day. Moreover, he was, in a very surprising move, just named a cardinal by Pope Francis. So he is a man of considerable weight—which is one reason why his remarks have gotten so much attention. He commented, in reference to the international gathering over which he is presiding, “We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.” The observation that excited the most wonderment and opposition was this: “We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all.” I will admit that the remark of his that disturbed me the most, however, was this one: “That we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty,” implying that fundamental disagreement on matters of religion is good in itself, indeed what God actively desires. Lots of Catholics around the world have been, to put it mildly, puzzled by the cardinal-elect’s musings.

In the wake of the controversy, Bishop Aguiar, to be fair, has walked back his statements quite a bit, insisting that he meant only to criticize the aggressive, brow-beating manner of sharing the faith that goes by the unlovely name of “proselytizing.” (I must say that this clarification still does nothing to explain his straightforward assertion that he does not want to convert young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church.) But for the moment, I will let that go and take him at his word. Nevertheless, I would like to address a wider cultural issue that his intervention raises—namely, the simple fact that most people in the West would probably consider his original sentiments uncontroversial.

Behind so much of the language of tolerance, acceptance, and non-judgmentalism in regard to religion is the profound conviction that religious truth is unavailable to us and that it finally doesn’t matter what one believes as long as one subscribes to certain ethical principles. Provided one is a decent person, who cares if he or she is a devout Christian, Buddhist, Jew, or Muslim—or nonbeliever? And if that is the case, then why wouldn’t we see the variety of religions as a positive, one more expression of the diversity that so beguiles the contemporary culture? And given this epistemological indifferentism, wouldn’t any attempt at “conversion” be nothing more than arrogant aggression?

As I have been arguing for years, and pace the current cultural consensus, the Catholic Church places an enormous emphasis on doctrinal correctness. It most assuredly thinks that religious truth is available to us and that having it (or not having it) matters immensely. It does not hold that “being a nice person” is somehow sufficient, either intellectually or morally; otherwise, it would never have spent centuries hammering out its creedal statements with technical precision. And it most certainly does maintain that evangelization is its central, pivotal, most defining work. St. Paul himself said, “Woe to me if I do not evangelize” (1 Cor. 9:16); and Pope St. Paul VI declared that the Church is nothing but a mission to spread the Gospel. Neither the first-century St. Paul nor the twentieth-century St. Paul thought for a moment that evangelizing is tantamount to imperialism or that religious “diversity” is somehow an end in itself. Rather, both wanted the whole world to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is precisely why every institution, every activity, every program of the Church is dedicated, finally, to announcing Jesus. Some years ago, when I was an auxiliary bishop in California, I was in dialogue with the board members of a Catholic high school. When I commented that the purpose of the school was, ultimately, evangelization, many of them balked and said, “If we emphasize that, we’ll alienate most of our students and their parents.” My response was, “Well, then you should close the school. Who needs one more secular STEM academy?” Needless to say, I was never invited back to address that board! But I didn’t care. When any Catholic institution, ministry, or outreach forgets its evangelical purpose, it has lost its soul. 

The same goes for World Youth Day. One of Pope St. John Paul II’s greatest contributions to the Church, World Youth Day has always had, inescapably, an evangelical élan. It delighted the great Polish pope that so many of the young people of the world, in all of their diversity, came together at these gatherings, but if you had told him that the true purpose of the event was to celebrate difference and make everyone feel comfortable with who they are, and that you had no interest in converting anyone to Christ, you would have gotten a look to stop a train.”

Love & truth,


-Klagenfurt Cathedral, Austria, Charlemagne promoted the usage of the Anno Domini epoch throughout the Carolingian Empire, please click on the image for greater detail

-by Steve Weidenkopf

“Time is an essential component of the Christian Faith because Christians believe that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became flesh and entered human history. From the earliest centuries, Christians focused on chronology and dating important events in salvific history.

The ancient world was also concerned with time and calendars to mark religious, cultural, and political events. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans (and others) created calendars. The Jewish people crafted a calendar (based on the lunar months) that was modified throughout their history.

The early Church, being born into the Roman Empire, had its understanding of time and dating impacted by the Julian and Jewish calendars. One of the first crises in Church history concerned the proper method for dating the celebration of Easter. In the eastern provinces many Christians used the Jewish method for dating Passover so that Easter was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan, regardless of the day of the week. The Church in Rome, as well as in Alexandria and Jerusalem, celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox. The different methods for calculating the celebration of Easter became such a contentious issue that the revered St. Polycarp (d. 155) traveled to Rome to meet with Pope St. Pius I (r. 140­-155) to discuss the matter, which was not officially resolved until the fourth century, when the Council of Nicaea mandated the Roman method.

After the early fourth-century Great Persecution under the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305), the Church marked events with the nomenclature the Era of Martyrs to highlight the sacrifice of these brave witnesses of the Faith and to replace the prevailing Era of Diocletian, which dated documents based on the emperor’s reign. This nomenclature remained in effect until the sixth century, when the monk Dionysius (d. 544), nicknamed “Exiguus” (meaning “the little” and used, more than likely, as a self-deprecating title) introduced the Era of the Incarnation as a dating method.

Dionysius was a native Greek-speaker who also knew Latin. He desired to make the writing of Greek theologians accessible to Latin-speakers, so he spent most of his time translating various works. He also had an interest in chronology. Dionysius believed that time should not be dated according to the reign of Diocletian, the great persecutor of the Church, but rather should be centered on the birth of Christ. Adopting this method would erase the memory of Diocletian and highlight Jesus, who entered human history in the Incarnation.

Dionysius Exiguus’s Era of the Incarnation was used first in Italy and then later in some areas of Spain, but widespread use first began in England, where the method was adopted at the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD.

The next important event in the Christian marking of time was the designation of events as “Before Christ (B.C.)” and as Anno Domini, “The Year of the Lord,” (A.D.), which had been utilized earlier but became well known from the works of the English saint and Doctor of the Church Bede the Venerable (672-737). As a young boy, Bede was entrusted to an abbot of a Northumbrian Benedictine monastery for his education. Recognized for his intellect, Bede was a brilliant student who loved learning. He studied Scripture and wrote commentaries on the Pentateuch and the Gospels. His greatest influence was exerted in historical writings, especially through his book on the Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples. Bede told the story of the English making reference to the dating of events in the “Year of the Lord” (Anno Domini).

Bede recognized that Christ is the center of history and that the telling of time should be rooted in a chronology based on the Incarnation. Bede produced other chronological words, including On the Reckoning of Time, in which he recounted the history of the world from Creation to his own time in eighth-century England.

Despite the influence of Bede’s writings, widespread application of dating events as A.D. did not occur until the time of the Charlemagne in the early ninth century. The king of the Franks and emperor was the first major secular ruler to mandate the use of A.D. as a dating device throughout his empire. But even with Charlemagne’s endorsement, the method was not utilized by the papal chancery until the tenth century. Eventually, the method became the universal standard of dating in the West and remained so until the modern age.

After centuries of acceptance, the use of B.C./A.D. as the standard dating convention has come under attack in the post-Enlightenment world because of its association with Christ. Secular humanists, including various academics and scientists, have embraced the use of “Common Era (C.E.)” and “Before the Common Era (B.C.E.)” to replace A.D. and B.C. in the spirit of “inclusivity” so that non-Christians are not offended by the dating methodology.

Some proponents of B.C.E./C.E., which changes merely the nomenclature and not the Christian dating baseline, advocate that the change is not a “politically correct” attempt to denigrate Christians but is based on historical usage in the scientific and academic communities since the seventeenth century and is more exact than B.C./A.D. Other commentators believe that the use of B.C./A.D. is rooted in Christian anti-Semitism and akin to a Christian conquest of time or even a form of colonization. Accordingly, some academics now criticize the use of B.C.E./C.E. because the terms attempt to hide the Christian connection (like a “yellow sticky note,” in the phrase of one academic) rather than celebrate the world’s diversity.

Regardless, the use of B.C.E./C.E. is common in the modern world, with some countries (England, Wales, Australia) mandating its usage in official school curriculum. The terminology is common in textbooks and popularly written histories in the United States as well.

How should Catholics approach this terminology? Names and terms are important, and their usage communicates beliefs and convictions. (For example, the use of the term anti-abortion rather than pro-life by various news organizations illustrates their position on the issue.) In a modern world where speech is weaponized and where propaganda flourishes, it is vital for Catholics to use language and terms that reflect Christian belief and history. The use of B.C./A.D. proclaims that the truth that the Incarnation was the central event in human history and that Jesus is the Lord of history, and so it is proper and praiseworthy to continue to utilize this centuries-old terminology.”

Love & truth,

Why do we suffer?

-by Matt Nelson

Since 1670, when they were first published, Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (Thoughts) have proven to be extraordinarily influential upon the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike. Avery Dulles noted, “Few if any apologetical works have brought so many unbelievers on the way to faith.”

One might even argue that these scribbled thoughts of a French philosopher and mathematician have grown in importance over time. Peter Kreeft says they are “for today”—that, whereas most modern works of Christian apologetics are written as though we were still living in a Christian culture, the Pensées speak “to modern pagans, not to medieval Christians.” And Pope Francis praised Pascal’s “brilliant and inquisitive mind” just this past year.

What is the greatest good for man? What is every human being really looking for? Most people will readily agree with Aristotle that it is happiness. Pascal agrees: “All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions.”

The trouble is that we tend not to get what we want in this life—at least not entirely. Here enters the universal reality of human suffering. We are left unfulfilled in this life, and therefore we suffer.

The loss and deprivation of happiness are normative experiences for all human beings. “We seek happiness and find only wretchedness and death,” writes Pascal. This is where his approach is so strong. It begins with the most obvious spiritual fact about humanity that not even skeptics can deny, what Chesterton called the only part of Christian theology that can really be proven: the damaged soul of man.

Every man knows through his own interior experience that he is “wretched,” Pascal continues, “but he is truly great because he knows it.” Man knows he is wretched because he possesses an intellect; therefore, he is also able to do something intelligent about it. Man’s greatness resides in his power to change his situation.

Because Pascal understood the fundamental human condition of suffering, he had wise insight into the psychological barriers involved with conversion. One of those barriers, he says, is fear: “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true.” The eminent atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel gives credence to this observation:

I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

What could be so scary about Christianity? One plausible answer might be the obligations, religious and moral, that logically follow if Jesus is God. Perhaps non-believers recognize that they would need to change, radically, if Christianity turned out to be true. And change tends to involve suffering in direct proportion.

When a potential Christian fixates on the cost of discipleship—on the cross to be borne—conversion to Christianity seems utterly painful and undesirable. It is only once he sees clearly what is to be won (everything, according to Pascal) that the suffering of change and giving up short-term desires appear worthwhile. Even those who are not altogether convinced of Christianity may come to see that the eternal attainment of the greatest Good is perhaps worth the wager.

One of the reasons my fellow countryman Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto psychologist, has influenced such a wide swath of people—Catholics and Protestants, believers and non-believers, men and women—is that he speaks hard truths about human nature with genuine conviction. Like Pascal, he doesn’t sugarcoat the indiscriminate reality of man’s wretchedness.

Like Pascal, Peterson only begins with suffering. Then he moves to commonsense solutions—not for eliminating suffering, but for living a meaningful life despite it. Peterson’s solutions are essentially practical in nature. Pascal, though, moves beyond the merely practical. His ultimate remedy for sin and suffering is not a mere strategy or archetypal interpretation of reality, but a real, personal Savior who is the incarnation of the all-loving God:

Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or of ourselves.

Teachers like Peterson offer hope for this life, and that is good and necessary, but we desire an end to our sin and suffering, indeed victory over death itself—not mere coping skills. Christ alone offers the ultimate, all-sufficient solution.

The overall form of Pascal’s approach is nothing new. It is the same general plan of evangelization used by the apostles 2,000 years ago, when they set the world ablaze. It is essentially the program laid out in St. Paul’s epistles: all men are sinners (Rom 3:23); if Christ has not been raised, then we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17); but Christ has been raised (1 Cor. 15:20)! Therefore, whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

Pascal knew that faith working in love was the only way to the truest experience of happiness in this life; that a person can have all the coping strategies in the world, but if he has not uncompromising love for God and man, he has nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3, Gal. 5:6). Life is suffering, yes. But in the life to come there awaits eternal bliss that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived of (1 Cor. 2:9). For that reason, the Christian life is not marred by misery. It shines with joyful expectation.”

Love & His Joy, only He can give,

The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

-reliquary containing the Eucharist turned human tissue, please click on the image for greater detail

-by Joseph Tuttle

“In the eighth century AD, a Basilian monk was saying Mass in the Church of St. Legontian in modern-day Lanciano, Italy. As he was saying Mass, he doubted the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. After the consecration of the bread and wine into the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, the host became Flesh and the wine became Blood.

The Eucharist is a twofold miracle. First, bread and wine are substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at the consecration during Mass. Second, the presence of Jesus Christ is veiled behind the accidents (the taste, shape, smell, etc.) of bread and wine. At the miracle of Lanciano, the veil that normally shrouds the Real Presence was lifted, the accidents of the bread and wine departed, and the substance of Jesus Christ—His Body and Blood—were seen.

The Flesh and Blood were kept safe for many centuries and were investigated by the Vatican on a number of occasions. In the 1970s, two scientists, professors Odoardo Linoli and Ruggero Bertelli, examined the Flesh. They determined a number of things. The Flesh was that of a human, and it was specifically heart tissue. They also found that the blood type was AB (the same found on the Shroud of Turin). The fact that the Flesh and Blood have lasted through so many centuries is a miracle in and of itself.

What can this tell us about the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist? Namely, that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is oriented to the Eucharist. The miracle of Lanciano tells us that we receive the very heart of Christ when we receive the Eucharist at Holy Communion. The heart is one of the most vital organs of the body. Thus, when we receive Jesus, we receive His very heart with which He loves us and calls us to follow Him. It is clear from Sacred Scripture, and indeed from various Eucharistic miracles, that when one thinks of the Sacred Heart, they should also be thinking of the Eucharist.

In the Passion narrative in the Gospel of John, we read, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out (John 19:33–34). Many of the Church Fathers have made an allegorical connection between the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Christ and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, St. Thomas Aquinas does a good job of summarizing this:

This happened to show that by the passion of Christ we acquire a complete cleansing from our sins and stains. We are cleansed from our sins by His blood, which is the price of our redemption: you know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:18). And we are cleansed from our stains by the water, which is the bath of our rebirth: I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean from all your filthiness (Ezek. 36:25); on that day there will be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). And so it is these two things which are especially associated with two sacraments: water with the sacrament of baptism, and blood with the Eucharist. Or, both blood and water are associated with the Eucharist because in this sacrament water is mixed with wine, although water is not of the substance of the sacrament. 

The sacrament of Baptism is the most important sacrament not only because it washes us of original sin and makes us members of the Mystical Body of Christ, but also because it is the gateway to the rest of the sacraments. Without Baptism, one cannot receive any of the other sacraments. But once one has received Baptism, they must continue to be nourished with spiritual food. The sacrament of the Eucharist is that nourishment, and it flows directly from the heart of Christ on the cross.

Again, the Gospel of John offers us another insight into the Sacred Heart when John the Evangelist rests on the heart of Christ at the Last Supper: “He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to Him, ‘Master, who is it?’” (John 13:25 NABRE). Aquinas also offers insight into this passage:

As for the mystical interpretation, we can see from this that the more a person wants to grasp the secrets of divine wisdom, the more he should try to get closer to Christ, according to: come to Him and be enlightened (Ps. 34:5). For the secrets of divine wisdom are especially revealed to those who are joined to God by love: He shows His friend that it is His possession (Job 36:33); His friend comes and searches into Him (Prov. 18:17). 

It is said that St. Thomas Aquinas would go to the tabernacle and rest His head against it as if he was resting his head against the heart of Christ. In a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “In speaking of the sacraments, St. Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean His head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus’ divine and human heart.”

We too can rest on the heart of Christ—in Eucharistic Adoration. So many of the saints have recommended this practice, and the benefits are innumerable. It is in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that the Sacred Heart of Jesus speaks with, comforts, and guides us along our life’s journey to fulfilling His will. If we wish to remain close to the Sacred Heart of Christ, we must remain close to the Eucharist.”


Perfectly & utterly unto Himself

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop & Martyr

-by Bp Robert Barron, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

“Several years ago, I participated in the annual meeting of the Academy of Catholic Theology, a group of about fifty theologians dedicated to thinking according to the mind of the church. Our general topic was the Trinity, and I had been invited to give one of the papers. I chose to focus on the work of St. Irenaeus, one of the earliest and most important of the fathers of the church.

Irenaeus was born around 125 AD in the town of Smyrna in Asia Minor. As a young man, he became a disciple of Polycarp who, in turn, had been a student of John the Evangelist. Later in life, Irenaeus journeyed to Rome and eventually to Lyons where he became bishop after the martyrdom of the previous leader. Irenaeus died around the year 200 AD, most likely as a martyr, though the exact details of his death are lost to history.

His theological masterpiece is called Adversus Haereses (Against the Heresies), but it is much more than a refutation of the major objections to Christian faith in his time. It is one of the most impressive expressions of Christian doctrine in the history of the church, easily ranking with the De Trinitate of St. Augustine and the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. In my Washington paper, I argued that the master idea in Irenaeus’s theology is that God has no need of anything outside of Himself. I realize that this seems, at first blush, rather discouraging, but if we follow Irenaeus’s lead, we see how, spiritually speaking, it opens up a whole new world. Irenaeus knew all about the pagan gods and goddesses who stood in desperate need of human praise and sacrifice, and he saw that a chief consequence of this theology is that people lived in fear. Since the gods needed us, they were wont to manipulate us to satisfy their desires, and if they were not sufficiently honored, they could (and would) lash out. But the God of the Bible, Who is utterly perfect in Himself, has no need of anything at all. Even in His great act of making the universe, He doesn’t require any pre-existing material with which to work; rather (and Irenaeus was the first major Christian theologian to see this), He creates the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). And precisely because He doesn’t need the world, He makes the world in a sheerly generous act of love. Love, as I never tire of repeating, is not primarily a feeling or a sentiment, but instead an act of the will. It is to will the good of the other as other. Well, the God Who has no self-interest at all, can only love.

From this intuition, the whole theology of Irenaeus flows. God creates the cosmos in an explosion of generosity, giving rise to myriad plants, animals, planets, stars, angels, and human beings, all designed to reflect some aspect of his own splendor. Irenaeus loves to ring the changes on the metaphor of God as artist. Each element of creation is like a color applied to the canvas or a stone in the mosaic, or a note in an overarching harmony. If we can’t appreciate the consonance of the many features of God’s universe, it is only because our minds are too small to take in the Master’s design. And His entire purpose in creating this symphonic order is to allow other realities to participate in His perfection. At the summit of God’s physical creation stands the human being, loved into existence as all things are, but invited to participate even more fully in God’s perfection by loving his Creator in return. The most oft-cited quote from Irenaeus is from the fourth book of the Adversus Haereses, and it runs as follows: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Do you see how this is precisely correlative to the assertion that God needs nothing? The glory of the pagan gods and goddesses was not a human being fully alive, but rather a human being in submission, a human being doing what he’s been commanded to do. But the true God doesn’t play such manipulative games. He finds His joy in willing, in the fullest measure, our good.

One of the most beautiful and intriguing of Irenaeus’ ideas is that God functions as a sort of benevolent teacher, gradually educating the human race in the ways of love. He imagined Adam and Eve, not so much as adults endowed with every spiritual and intellectual perfection, but more as children or teenagers, inevitably awkward in their expression of freedom. The long history of salvation is, therefore, God’s patient attempt to train His human creatures to be His friends. All of the covenants, laws, commandments, and rituals of both ancient Israel and the church should be seen in this light: not arbitrary impositions, but the structure that the Father God gives to order His children toward full flourishing.

There is much that we can learn from this ancient master of the Christian faith, especially concerning the good news of the God Who doesn’t need us!”

This piece was originally published on June 28, 2016 on


Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "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., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "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, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom