Bible: books that J U S T missed it….


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“It took more than a thousand years for the books of the Bible to be written. Afterward, it took several centuries for the Church to determine which of the books written were Scripture and which weren’t.

God didn’t simply give the Church a revelation saying, “The following books and only the following books are Scripture.” Instead, the Holy Spirit guided the Church as it conducted a process of discernment. This means we don’t find early, universal agreement on the books of Scripture. We find churchmen having different opinions.

There was always a broad consensus about the core books of the Bible. All orthodox Christians recognized works such as the five books of Moses in the Old Testament or the four Gospels in the New Testament. There also was broad agreement about the prophets and the letters of Paul.  (Ed.  the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.  The Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation were highly controversial.  They were not accepted into the canon until the 4th century AD.)

But there was debate about other books. Certain churchmen questioned or opposed books that were eventually included. Some had reservations about seven books of the Old Testament—1-2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, and Wisdom. Others had reservations about seven books of the New Testament—Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

All these were eventually included in the Bible, but there were books that some early churchmen did regard as Scripture but that didn’t find a place in the canon. We’re going to take a look at these books that “almost” made it into the Bible. We have to put quotation marks around “almost” because the Holy Spirit was in charge of the process, and God always knew which books He had inspired and which He hadn’t. But, on the human level, there was uncertainty about the status of certain books for some time.

The criterion of discernment

The criterion the early Church used to determine the status of a book was whether it had been handed down from the apostles as authoritative.

Of course, if a book was written by an apostle, it was authoritative. But apostolic authorship wasn’t required. The apostles also regarded the books of the Old Testament as authoritative, so they counted as Scripture. Even certain books of the New Testament that had been written by associates of apostles—such as Mark and Luke—were held to be authoritative and so found a place in Scripture.

The fact the apostles didn’t have to write a book led to differences in opinion in the early Church. Just how far removed from the apostles did a book have to be before it wouldn’t count as Scripture? If it was an orthodox book written in the Apostolic Age, did that imply apostolic consent to it? If it was thought to be written by someone who knew the apostles—though not a traveling companion such as Mark or Luke—was that enough?

The heretical books that were written after the first century could be recognized as fakes because of the false doctrine they contained. However, the early orthodox books were another matter.

The fact some were considered Scripture by orthodox Christians illustrates the important role that the Church played, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in determining what belongs in the Bible. (For more information, see my book The Bible Is a Catholic Book.) What were these books?

The Didache

What it is: A Church manual giving basic instruction on morality, the sacraments, prayer, church officers, and prophecy.

When it was written: The Didache likely appeared in more than one edition, but the earliest clearly was penned when there were traveling apostles and prophets, because the document includes instructions on how to tell true ones from false ones. This edition thus belongs to the apostolic age.

Who thought it was Scripture: Although this work was popular in the early Church, the evidence for people thinking it was Scripture is thinner than for some other works we’ll consider. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) quoted it and may have considered it Scripture (Stromateis 1:20:100:4). In the 300s, Pseudo-Cyprian refers to it as “Scripture” (De Centesima 14). And in the late 300s, the Syriac Book of Steps, or Liber Graduum, refers to it using the scriptural citation “it is written” (7:20).

Why they thought it was Scripture: The first edition of this work dates to the Apostolic Age, and the Didache (Greek, “teaching”) often circulated under the titles “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.”

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Too many in the early Church doubted its apostolic authorship. The titles under which it circulated indicate it is a good summary of the teaching of the apostles, not that it was written by them.

What it said: The Didache touches on many matters connected with Christian morality and Church discipline. It contains a noteworthy passage discussing the ways (plural) in which baptism was performed in the first century.

Now concerning baptism, baptize as follows: After you have reviewed all these things, baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in running water. But if you have no running water, then baptize in some other water; and if you are not able to baptize in cold water, then do so in warm. But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” (7:1-3).

1 Clement

What it is: A letter written by Pope St. Clement I to the church of Corinth.

When it was written: Many scholars think it was written in the A.D. 90s, but a careful examination of the text suggests it was written in the first half of A.D. 70, after the disastrous “year of four emperors” in 69 but before the destruction of the temple in August of 70.

Who thought it was Scripture: Apparently, quite a few people. Eusebius notes that this letter was “publicly read for common benefit, in most of the churches” (Church History 3:16), and because of its early origin “it is probable that this was also numbered with the other writings of the apostles” (3:38). In the early 400s, it was included in the Codex Alexandrinus, an important copy of the Bible.

Why they thought it was Scripture: Clement was a man who lived in the apostolic age and who apparently knew and was approved by the apostles Peter and Paul. He was often thought to be the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 (Church History 3:15), and early traditions indicate that he was ordained at least to the priesthood by St. Peter. Some even held that he was Peter’s immediate successor as pope. St. Jerome notes that “the greater part of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle” (Lives of Illustrious Men 15:1).

The letter has great literary merit and is often compared in style to the book of Hebrews. In fact, in the early 200s, Origen knew a tradition that held Clement was the author of Hebrews (Church History 6:25:14), which would be another reason for thinking the letter might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Despite its considerable merits, its long use in the churches, and Clement’s connection to the apostles, not enough churchmen came to regard it as Scripture. Thus, in the list of approved, disputed, and rejected books that Eusebius made in the early 300s, he didn’t mention “1 Clement.”

What it said: Clement wrote because the Corinthians had appealed to the Church of Rome to settle a dispute in their community. A faction had kicked out the duly ordained leaders of the church, and Clement argued they needed to be reinstated. This apparently happened, because Clement’s letter was kept and read in Corinth for many years.

The book contains a number of points of interest, including the earliest surviving reference to the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul:

There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance (5:4-7).

The Letter of Barnabas

What it is: An early document offering a spiritual interpretation of Jewish law and customs and how they are fulfilled in Christ and the Church.

When it was written: Shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (ch. 16), perhaps around A.D. 75.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria considered it Scripture (Church History 6:14). In the 300s, it also was included in the important Bible known as Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scrip­­ture: Barnabas was a companion of the apostles (Acts 4:36), including Paul, and Luke even describes Barnabas as an apostle (Acts 14:14).

Also, around A.D. 200, Tertullian recorded a tradition that the book of Hebrews was written by Barnabas (On Modesty 20), which would provide additional reason to think the “Letter of Barnabas” might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Barnabas was an apostle of a lesser rank. Also, the letter does not claim to be written by him (his name is found only in the title), which may have led to doubts about its authorship. Eusebius lists this letter among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25). St. Jerome apparently thought it was written by Barnabas but nevertheless was not Scripture (Lives of Illustrious Men 6). Scholars today generally don’t think it was written by the biblical Barnabas.

What it said: There are many fascinating things in this letter, but I’m personally glad that it’s not in Scripture. When allegorizing various Old Testament commandments, the author makes several scientifically inaccurate statements that I would not like to have to explain as an apologist. Consider:

“You shall not eat the hare.” Why? Do not become, [Moses] means, one who corrupts boys, or even resemble such people, because the hare grows another opening every year, and thus has as many orifices as it is years old.
Again, “Neither shall you eat the hyena.” Do not become, he means, an adulterer or a seducer, or even resemble such people. Why? Because this animal changes its nature from year to year and becomes male one time and female another.
* * *
But he also hated the weasel, and with good reason. Do not become, he means, like those men who, we hear, with immoral intent do things with the mouth that are forbidden, nor associate with those immoral women who do things with the mouth that are forbidden. For this animal conceives through its mouth (10:6-8).

The Shepherd of Hermas

What it is: A collection of visions by a simple and sincere man named Hermas who was a former slave living in Rome.

When it was written: Although sometimes wrongly dated to the mid-second century, Hermas lived during the time of Pope St. Clement I (“The Shepherd,” Vision 2:4[8:3]). He began receiving the visions perhaps around A.D. 80.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around A.D. 175, St. Irenaeus of Lyons described it as “Scripture” (Against Heresies 4:20:2). About the same time, Clement of Alexandria repeatedly used the work and said it was written “by divine inspiration” (Stromateis 1:29:181:1). In the early 200s, Origen also referred to it as Scripture, though he said it was “not acknowledged by all to be divine” (Commentary on Matthew 14:21). In the 300s, it was included in Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It’s a work of prophecy that dates to the first century. Also, many at the time believed that Hermas was the man whom Paul greets in Romans 16:14.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Almost every author in the early Church who mentioned “The Shepherd” had a high opinion of it and regarded it as valuable for private reading, even those who didn’t regard it as Scripture. Ultimately, the latter came to be the majority, and Eusebius lists it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: “The Shepherd” is astonishingly long for a book of this period. Its visions deal with virtue, forgiveness, and the need to repent. A central theme of the book is that repentance and forgiveness are possible for Christians who have sinned. A major figure in the visions is an angel who appears to Hermas dressed like a shepherd and thus gives the book its title. He is identified as “the angel of repentance” (Vision 5[25:7]).

After I had prayed in my house and sat down on my bed, there came a man glorious in appearance, dressed like a shepherd, with a white skin wrapped around him and with a bag on his shoulders and a staff in his hand. He greeted me, and I greeted him in return. He immediately sat down beside me and said to me, “I was sent by the most holy angel to live with you the rest of the days of your life” (Vision 5[25:1-2]).

The Apocalypse of Peter

What it is: A series of revelations allegedly given by Christ to St. Peter.

When it was written: Likely between A.D. 132-135, during the rebellion under the Jewish leader Simon bar-Kokhba, who is likely the false Christ discussed in 2:7-9 of the “Apocalypse.”

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria referred to the “Apocalypse of Peter ”as Scripture (Eclogae Propheticae 41) and attributes it to Peter (48-49). The Muratorian Fragment, an early work dated between the late second and the fourth century, accepts the Apocalypses of John (i.e., the book of Revelation) and Peter as Scripture, but it acknowledges that “some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church.” Other early churchmen also supported it.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It is an early work claiming to preserve the words of St. Peter.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Many recognized that it wasn’t actually by Peter—that the tradition supporting its apostolic authorship wasn’t strong enough. Thus, in the early 300s, Eusebius included it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians of his time as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: The book contains prophecies about Israel as well as descriptions of hell and heaven. Its descriptions of the punishments of the damned are particularly vivid, but the book also contains a description of the blessings of the righteous. It concludes with an account of the ascension of Christ:

A large, very white cloud came above us and picked up our Lord and Moses and Elijah. I shook and was terrified. We watched as this heaven opened up and men with physical bodies came to welcome our Lord and Moses and Elijah. They went into the second heaven. The saying of Scripture was fulfilled, “This generation looks for him; it looks for the face of the God of Jacob.”

There was great awe and amazement in heaven. The angels flocked together to fulfill the saying of Scripture, “Open the gates, ye princes.” Then this heaven, the one which had been opened, was closed.

We prayed, and as we descended from the mountain, we praised God who has written the names of the righteous in the book of life in heaven (17:2-7).

Sidebar

How the Bible Came Together

Many in the Protestant community find it hard to imagine the Church existing for centuries without a closed, fixed list of the books of the Bible. This is because of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura—the idea that Christian doctrine should be determined “by Scripture alone.” If you use sola scriptura, then there is an urgent need to know the precise boundaries of the canon.

If you’re uncertain about the status of a book, you don’t know whether it’s authoritative for doctrine or not. You could err in either extreme: ignore statements God meant to be authoritative or treat something as authoritative when it isn’t.

But the early Church didn’t employ sola scriptura. Instead, Christians used the same principles for formulating doctrine that had been used since the Apostolic Age: Yes, Scripture was authoritative, but so was the Tradition that Christ and the apostles had passed down—and one could rely on the Church’s divinely guided Magisterium to settle cases of dispute. Therefore, pre-Reformation Christians felt no urgency to know the exact status of lesser books.

Early in the 300s, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea wrote his famous Church History in which he described the state of views in his own day (Church History 3:25:1-6 with 3:3:5-6). He divided the books into several categories: those that orthodox Christians accepted, disputed, or rejected.

By later that century, the borders of the canon were firmer. In 382, Pope Damasus I held a council at Rome that taught essentially the same canon that Catholics have today. Pope Innocent I affirmed this list in A.D. 405, and it was endorsed by various local councils including Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 and 419. The traditional canon continued to be affirmed down through history, such as at the Council of Florence in 1442.

When the Protestant Reformers began a major controversy about the authority of certain books, the need to define the canon became more urgent, and in 1546 the Council of Trent infallibly defined which books the Church holds as sacred and canonical..”

Love, and His will,
Matthew

Sufferings of Purgatory lead to Joy!!!

[Ed. our sufferings in this life are part of our purgation.  What is not finished here, is resolved in the next.  There is a guilt & a temporal punishment incurred through sin.  Absolution absolves us from the guilt of our offense against God.  Yet, there is still the temporal penalty to pay in penance, in this life or the next.  Nothing unholy may enter before His presence.  His unspeakable divinity consuming obliterates it.  Our purgation in this life also adds to the Treasury of Merit to benefit the whole Church.]

“Among those throughout the history of the Church who have written and spoken about purgatory, many have emphasized the sorrows or pains.

They have done so rightly, since the sufferings of purgatory are real.

However, I think it’s safe to say some have over-emphasized the pains of purgatory, such that many have lost sight of its joys. It’s important that we find a happy medium.

St. Francis de Sales taught, “If purgatory is a species of hell as regards suffering, it is a species of paradise as regards charity. The charity which quickens those holy souls is stronger than death, more powerful than hell.”

His mention of charity being a species of heaven is noteworthy. As for his view that purgatory is a “species of hell,” we will see later that the Magisterium today does not articulate the sufferings of purgatory in this way. In fact, the Catechism teaches that the “final purification of the elect” in purgatory is “entirely different from the punishment of the damned”.

The Italian mystic St. Catherine of Genoa writes, “I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in purgatory except that of the saints in paradise.”

Let’s now turn to that sweet joy of purgatory and see what might give a suffering soul reason to say with Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings” (Col. 1:24).

A Keen Awareness of God’s Love for Us

The first thing we can say is that in purgatory, we become ever more aware of God’s love for us. Just as a thing is blocked from the forever shining rays of the sun due to it being covered, and the more the cover is removed, the more a thing is exposed to the sun’s rays, so too the souls in purgatory are more and more exposed to the divine love as impediments to entrance into heaven are removed through purification.

Catherine of Genoa explains it this way: “Day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to his entrance is consumed.” With this influx of God’s presence within the soul, there comes a growing awareness of God’s love for the soul.

A Keen Appreciation for God’s “Order of Justice”

Another cause for great joy is the keen awareness and appreciation of God’s “order of justice”(God’s plan for human behavior as it relates to us as human beings and as it relates to him as our ultimate end). On this side of the veil, we don’t perceive just how wise and good God’s order of justice is, so we might perceive punishment for disrupting that order as unfair or unjust.

But in purgatory, we will have already received our judgment according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). From that judgment, we will see the perfect justice in the debt of temporal punishment due for our sins.

St. Catherine explains, “So intimate with God are the souls in purgatory and so changed to his will, that in all things they are content with his most holy ordinance.”There is no room for resentment of God’s order of justice in a soul that is confirmed in God’s love.

Moreover, the holy souls realize that their purgatorial pains are a manifestation of God’s order of justice. And since they love God, they desire the glory of that order to be upheld and manifest. This is why they willingly submit to such purgatorial pains for the discharge of the debt of temporal punishment.

An Intense Love for God and Neighbor

A third cause for joy is the intense love the suffering souls have for God and neighbor. Joy and love go hand in hand. For example, right after listing love as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, St. Paul lists “joy” and “peace.”

The Catechism lists joy as a fruit of charity itself (1829).

Joy is often defined as “the pleasure taken in a good possessed.”God is the ultimate good. Whoever loves God possesses him in some measure. The souls in purgatory are confirmed in their love for God. Therefore, they possess God in some measure, even though they won’t fully possess him until they enter the beatific vision. This possession of their ultimate good, God, although imperfect, is a source of joy.

Assurance of Receiving the Final Reward of Heaven

In this life, there exists the possibility to turn away from God as our life’s goal and thus lose our inheritance of heaven. St. Paul thought it was possible for him to become “disqualified” from receiving the crown of eternal life, causing him to “pummel” his body and “subdue it” (1 Cor. 9:27).

This is why he reminds the Romans, “Continue in [God’s] kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). And the Corinthians, “Let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). And the Philippians, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

Such worries are no longer present in purgatory. All the souls there are confirmed in charity and are assured of receiving their final reward in the beatific vision.

This perhaps is the greatest of joys for the souls in purgatory, what Fr. Jugie calls the “gift of gifts.”There is tremendous peace and joy in knowing that you no longer have to fight to overcome sin and worry about losing the ultimate good that we long to fully possess: God.

To use another metaphor, a soul in purgatory stands in the vestibule of the house of the Lord, the heavenly temple, saying with the Psalmist, “I rejoiced in the things that were said to me: we shall enter into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 121:1). This assurance gives new meaning to Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say it—Rejoice, for the Lord is nigh” (Phil. 4:4-5). The full measure of the Lord’s presence is truly near for the holy souls in purgatory, and that is indeed a source of joy.”

ALL is JOY, whatever it is that leads to Him!!!
Love & Joy,
Matthew

Baptist discovers the early Church & Mass


-by Steve Ray, a convert to the Catholic faith

“Time for Mass rolls around, and I am usually entangled in things like catching up on emails, writing an article, planning a pilgrimage trip, playing with the grandkids, or reading. It is hard to break away, hard to step out into the heat or cold to get the car started and hard to shift gears in my mind and heart.

But once I step into the sacred space of a Catholic church, the world melts away, and I am swept up into reality of heaven. The presence of God fills the church, while heaven comes down to earth on the altar. I am swept away to another world, one more real than the one where my feet are planted.

Why was I fortunate enough to discover this euphoria? How did this great joy become a reality for humans bound to a planet spinning around a star in one of billions of galaxies?

Sundays as a Baptist

Before explaining my profound discovery of the liturgy and sacraments of the Catholic Church, I must first to take a step back in time to my delightful Baptist childhood.

Before I ever read the Bible for myself, I was well aware of my Baptist tradition, which permeated every aspect of my childhood and teen years. I was reminded constantly that Baptists reject many of the teachings of the Catholic Church. We rejected infant baptism and taught that anyone baptized as an infant had to be baptized again, or re-baptized as an adult—and this by full immersion.

We also rejected the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that there was any sacrifice involved. This was Catholic heresy that originated in the “traditions of men.” We did not use the words Mass or Eucharist. For us, the correct terminology was the Lord’s Supper or communion. Since Jesus was crucified once and for all on the cross, there is no way that the Lord’s Supper could have anything to do with the sacrifice of Christ. It actually did nothing, and changed nothing. It was simply a meal we shared to commune spiritually with our Lord and to remember what he did for us on the cross.

The door of our Baptist church opened, and the early arrivers stepped in with well-worn Bibles under their arms. (I still have my dad’s marked up and notated King James Schofield Reference Bible on my desk. The date in the cover reminds me of his conversion from pagan to Christian in 1954, the year I was born.) Boys with cute bow ties and girls in frilly dresses were dropped off at Sunday school. Women adjusted their hats and smiled at their friends.

It was always the same: We entered the church with chattering friendliness accompanied by the organ or piano. Everyone took their place in the padded pews. The pastor stepped up to the front and welcomed everyone, especially any visitors. Then we all stood as he opened with a solemn and often lengthy prayer. A number was called out, and we all grabbed our hymnal and proved we were real Christians by belting out the hymn—and not just the first verse, but every verse.

Then came announcements, the doxology, and the collection while a soloist sang. I remember at one church they even passed a credit card machine up and down the pews.

Then we were enriched by nearly an hour of preaching with the exercise of flipping from one end of the Bible to the other. I don’t recall us ever reading any lengthy selection of Scripture in context. It was usually a thematic study, using verses out of context from one passage then another.

It usually concluded with an altar call—a passionate, heartfelt appeal to come forward to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. I always wondered about this, since I assumed everyone there had already done that at least once, if not many times. No one ever came forward except in the yearly revivals, when flocks came forward just to make sure. Then came the closing prayer and another complete hymn followed by a reminder of the Sunday service at 7:00 p.m.

It never dawned on me (and probably not on any other person sitting in the pews) to ask what the very first Christians did on Sunday mornings. After all, Christians have been gathering on Sundays for more than 2,000 years. Jesus and the apostles set something in motion, and their immediate disciples followed them in their manner of worship on Sundays.

They certainly had a structure to their “worship service,” as is clear from the New Testament and the writings from the first and second century. The apostles certainly taught them what to do and how to do it, if only by their example.

The Lord’s Supper

In my Baptist congregation (and later in other churches we attended, such as Reformed, non-denominational, Methodist, Calvary Chapel, Presbyterian, New Testament Assembly, Plymouth Brethren, etc.) we had the “Lord’s Supper.” Once every three months or so it was tacked on to the end of a regular church service.

Broken crackers were distributed on a silver tray, followed by the grape juice in individual mini-glasses (like shot glasses used for whiskey). We were clear that nothing happened to the crackers and grape juice during the ceremony. Only the heretic Catholics believed that unseen magic took place. The crackers and grape juice were mere symbols to remind us of the body of Jesus that was nailed to the cross and the blood that resulted from the nails.

Jesus had ordered us to do this, so we obeyed, calling it not a sacrament but an ordinance. The ceremony did nothing but remind us of the crucifixion. It was simply a “meal”—meager as it was—to remind us of our Lord’s death. We were always anxious to get out of church and to our real meal at the diner on the way home.

Jesus said, “As often as you do this”—but in our Baptist church, this was interpreted as, “As infrequently as you do this.” No one seemed concerned that the apostles and the early Christians celebrated this ceremony often and that it was more than just sharing crackers and grape juice. St. Luke informed us that the very first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The apostles and their disciples met frequently to “break bread,” which was the earliest term for the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. This was shared no less than weekly (cf. Luke 24:30; Acts 2:46, 20:7). The daily bread of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai was called manna. The manna prefigured the Eucharist, and we are taught likewise to pray for the Father to provide us with our “daily bread,” which certainly refers to the Eucharist as well as our daily provisions.

Beyond the book of Acts and St. Paul’s epistles, do we have any idea what the apostles did on Sunday mornings when they gathered together? Did the early Christians leave a record of what they did on Sunday? Was it similar to the typical Baptist church service?

A historical record

We are fortunate. The early Christians did leave us a record of what they did, as taught by the apostles. It would serve us well to read their testimonies.

Why? Well, who can provide us with the best and most accurate idea of what the apostles taught, practiced, and expected the Church to do on Sundays than those who actually learned it from the apostles?

There is an old axiom that tells us the water is always cooler and clearer the closer you get to the source.

Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 100-165) was a pagan philosopher who converted to Christianity. He became a celebrated defender of the Christian faith and was beheaded as a martyr in Rome in A.D. 165. This was only 65 years after the death of the Apostle St. John in Ephesus.

St. Justin wrote to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was a persecutor of the Christians. He tried to explain to the emperor what the Christians believed and practiced. Maybe, he reasoned, if the Emperor understood Christianity he would stop killing the Christians.

It would do well for modern Protestants to look beyond their own relatively recent traditions to see what the first Christians did on Sunday morning.

Justin Martyr’s voice can still be heard ringing clearly down through the centuries, for our ears:

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons (quoted in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1; Roberts, Donaldson, and Coxe, eds., p. 186).”

This is the earliest description we have of the Sunday morning worship service, as Protestants usually refer to it. Catholics refer to it as the Mass, or the Eucharistic liturgy.

Notice first of all that Christians gathered on Sunday mornings. This was something that was expected and even required. They gathered! Second, they all gathered in one place. Today, in Anytown, USA, Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. Christians do not gather in one place but in multiple, sometimes competing, locations—Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Methodists, Presbyterians, so-called non-denominational denominations, and a host of others.

An ancient form

In the early centuries Sunday morning began with reading lengthy selections of Scripture, including the Old Testament and the developing New Testament (though the final collection was not codified for another two hundred years or so). They read the Gospels—the words of our Lord.

The readings were extensive and in context. Afterward, the presider or the priest would exhort the Christians to follow and imitate what Scripture taught. Then they stood together and prayed, usually ending with “Lord, hear our prayer,” just as we offer our petitions to God in the Catholic Church today.

After the homily and prayers of the faithful, “bread and wine and water [were] brought” to the front of the church. The priest then “offer[ed] prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent[ed], saying, ‘Amen.’”

This is exactly what happens in every Catholic Church in the world today, 2,000 years later. After the Eucharistic prayers the people say “Amen” and arise to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Then the deacons take the Eucharist to those who were absent. A collection is taken to help the poor and to help support the Christian community.

Is this the Catholic liturgy or the Baptist service? St. Justin Martyr’s voice pierced the noise of modern religious confusion and reached my ears with a clear and clarion call: “Steve, wake up—open your eyes, abandon sectarian novelties and man-made traditions and listen to us who followed the actual teachings and practices of the apostles. We are still living and teaching and preserving what we learned from the apostolic Fathers. Their words are still ringing in our ears, their liturgy still vivid before our eyes.”

Justin Martyr again:

“And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [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 [water baptism], and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body” (quoted in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 185).”

So, what did the earliest Christians do on Sunday morning? The same thing Catholics do today.

Time machine experiment

I’ve always wanted to perform an experiment. I want to invent a time machine and drop a first-century Christian into a modern Baptist church on Sunday morning. Would he know where he was, or what is going on?

No, he would not. It would be foreign to him.

Next, I would like to take that same apostolic Christian and set him down in a modern-day Catholic Church. Then would he know where he is and what is going on?

Yes, because it is precisely what he was doing in the first or second century—every Sunday for his whole life since his conversion from paganism.

Except for the cultural differences—language, style of dress, type of instruments accompanying the songs, architecture—the “blueprint” and structure of the liturgy, as well as the teaching and belief in the Eucharistic mystery, are the same.

Where did my former Baptist tradition come from? Not from the Bible or the early Church. It came from man-made traditions begun by Martin Luther and a host of other schismatics. The Baptist tradition is usually traced to English Separatist John Smyth in 1609 who in Amsterdam, after his own novel interpretation of the New Testament, decided that infant baptism was invalid and that only believing adults could be baptized. After baptizing himself, he baptized others of his new sect.

But back to this past Sunday. I again sat at church with tears in my eyes. It has been seventeen years since my family and I converted to the Catholic Church. Yet I still am amazed, enchanted, overjoyed, overwhelmed, and profoundly grateful.

We are proud of the Catholic Church for keeping the blueprint and living in obedience to our Lord and his apostles. I sat and listened to more Scripture read, sung, and prayed than I had ever experienced in any hour in a Baptist church. I ate the Body and drank the Blood of our Lord. I am still transported.

Heavenly continuity

My wife, Janet, and I sat in Mass this weekend again swept away by the beauty of the liturgy—not because the music was soaring or the homily profound but because it was the same Sunday morning worship that was given to the Church by Jesus and his apostles, and it has been celebrated uninterrupted for the last 2,000 years. It was the same liturgy loved by Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James . . .

The Catholic Church is ancient, yet ever young. We partake of the same Body and Blood of Jesus as did the first Christians. We are one body in Christ not only across the surface of the earth but throughout all of time. The Mass is timeless, vital, essential. It is life and light for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

As St. Ignatius of Antioch, another first century Christian wrote—not of himself but as a disciple of the apostles, with their words still ringing in his ears—“Obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live forever in Jesus Christ” (quoted in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 57).

The first Christians lovingly reached through two millennia and gave me the sign of peace saying, “Welcome home!”

I am proud and happy to be a Catholic.”

Me, too. Although, the sinners, full of them, like me, drive me nuts. But, He is there. And, that is all that is needed, desired, possibly hoped for.  Praise Him, Church!!!!!  Praise Him!!!!
Love,
Matthew

Oct 19 – Jesuit North American Martyrs (1642-1649)


-St. René Goupil (1642), St. Isaac Jogues (1646), St. Jean de Lalande (1646), St. Antoine Daniel (1648), St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1649), St. Charles Garnier (1649), and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649), please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Christopher Check

“On Christmas Eve 1643, a merchant vessel left Cornwall southbound for Brittany, carrying cargo more precious than whatever filled its holds. Letting go anchor the next morning, the ship’s crew lowered a small rowboat, which left on the beach a man whose lined countenance suggested more than his thirty-six years. Making his way to a nearby fishing cottage, he found two men expecting perhaps a Catholic refugee of the English Civil War. They heard perfect French.

“Is there a church close where I can hear Mass?” begged the man.

“Yes—a monastery not far up the road. Mass begins soon. Come join us for breakfast after.”

The man raced up the road to the monastery, where with tears in his eyes he assisted at his first Mass in almost two years. Later he would write, “It was at this moment that I began to live once more. It was then that I tasted the sweetness of my deliverance.”

Later, devouring breakfast at the home of his hosts, the man could not conceal his deformed hands. What fingers he yet possessed were badly maimed. Some were mere stumps. Some had no fingernails. The thumb of his left hand was missing. The young daughters of the household gave him a few coins they had saved. A merchant from the village gave him a horse and pointed him 130 miles to Rennes, home of a college of the Society of Jesus.

Arriving on the eve of Epiphany, the man knocked on the door of the seminary asking for the rector.

“He is preparing to offer Mass.”

“Please tell him I have news from the Jesuit missions in New France.”

The rector came with all haste. “Do you know Fr. Isaac Jogues?” he asked. “He is a prisoner of the Iroquois. Is he dead? Is he alive?”

“I know him well. He is alive. I am he.”

Subsequently, Fr. Isaac Jogues, who had suffered capture, torture, privation, and every form of unspeakable humiliation for more than a year at the cruel hands of Mohawk savages, was for four months fêted by the royalty of France. Pope Urban VIII, who had who canonized Loyola and Xavier and patronized the Jesuit reductions in Latin America, joyfully granted Fr. Isaac a dispensation once again to offer Mass even though he lacked a canonical set of fingers and thumbs. Indignum esset Christi Martyrum Christi non bibere sanguinem, he wrote. “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ not be allowed to drink the blood of Christ.”

Fr. Isaac was filled with joy to ascend again ad altare Dei, yet his heart’s prayer was to return to New France, to the native peoples of the St. Lawrence Valley for whom he desired more than anything to bring baptism and the salvation of Jesus Christ, knowing with near certainty that his return would bring to him a brutal martyrdom.

St. Isaac Jogues is one of the eight North American Martyrs, also called the Canadian Martyrs, canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI, whose heroic courage and sacrificial love we honor today. Their missionary work during the first half of the seventeenth century, especially among the Hurons, is an epic tale rich in opportunities for reflection.

When we are inconvenienced, for example, turning our imaginations to the daily lives of the Jesuit martyrs should prove a quick tonic. Knowing that to convert the Indians they had to live among them and live as they did, the Jesuits endured the smoke and the squalor of the Huron longhouses, with their lack of hygiene and rampant promiscuity. The missionaries paddled and portaged along with the natives, slept on the hard ground, endured the bitter Ontario cold, and subsisted on eels and corn paste.

The story should also refocus our appreciation of the sacrament of baptism. It would be seven years—after first learning their language and then catechizing the Hurons—before St. Jean de Brébeuf baptized a healthy adult native. In time, 7,000 Hurons had the doors of heaven opened to them through the waters of baptism—and good thing, for most of the Huron people were later massacred by the vicious Iroquois in their wars of expansion.

And vicious does not overstate it. In March of 1649, the Iroquois tribes—Mohawk and Seneca, especially—invaded the Huron lands with fury. Fr. Jean and his young colleague, Fr. Gabriel Lalemont, were taken prisoner and forced to watch as the Hurons they had come to love were slaughtered, their skulls split by Iroquois tomahawks. Those spared the tomahawk—women, children, sick, elderly—were burned to death in their longhouses.

Binding Brébeuf and Lalemont along with other Huron Christians, the Iroquois dragged them to the neighboring town of St. Ignace at the southeastern end of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. Stripped naked, the priests and their Huron sons in Christ were subjected to the gauntlet. With blood-curdling shrieks, the Iroquois beat the Christians with clubs before confining them to a cabin that Brébeuf himself had designed with the hopes that it would one day be a church. There the Huron Christians consoled one another while the priests gave absolution.

Then the torture continued. First, they broke Brébeuf’s fingers. They pulled out his fingernails and gnawed his fingertips. Next, they bound him to a post, which the saint kissed—the instrument of his martyrdom. They set burning sticks around his feet and ran torches up and down his body, between his legs, around his neck, and under his arms. The saint’s flesh began to blister, but he made no cry, so they slashed his flesh with knives.

To the Hurons enduring the same ordeal, Brébeuf called out, “My sons, my brothers, let us lift up our eyes to heaven in our affliction. Let us remember that God is the witness to our afflictions, and very soon he will be our exceedingly great reward. Let us die in our Faith. The glory that awaits us will never have an end.” As the Mohawks stabbed him with the heads of spears he repeated aloud: “Jesus have mercy on us.”

To silence the giant of a priest, the savages cut off his lower lip and thrust a hot poker down his throat. Then they brought out Lalemont, around whose naked waist they had fastened a girdle of pine bark. Tying him to a stake alongside Brébeuf the Mohawks set fire to the pine bark.

Around Brébeuf’s neck the Indians had fastened a necklace of hatchet heads heated red in the fire. If he leaned forward, they burned his back. If he leaned back, they scorched his chest. “Jesus have mercy on us!” was his only cry.

The Iroquois, in their diabolical frenzy, tied around him another girdle of pine bark and set it aflame. Traitorous Hurons poured boiling water over him in a mockery of baptism. They sliced strips of flesh from his legs and ate them as he watched. They cut off his nose, his upper lip, his tongue. They shoved a torch into his mouth and gouged out his eyes. Dragging him to a platform, they hacked off his feet, scalped him, tore open his chest, ripped out his heart and ate it. Then they drank his blood, hoping to acquire his courage. Finally, a blow from a tomahawk cut his face in two.

Fr. Lalemont they tortured similarly throughout the night, being certain to bring him only to the brink of death before giving him reprieve. The young priest whom his superior had doubted was physically fit for the rigors of the missions of New France endured sixteen hours of torture before the angel met him with the crown of martyrdom.

A final point of reflection: the Jesuits were the best and the brightest of their time. Their colleges provided the finest and broadest education in Europe. These men could have been bishops, university professors, seminary rectors. They could have been writing academic treatises or making scientific discoveries. There were no finer minds. We may find it odd that they left so much behind to endure the wilderness of New France, but there was a time when the world’s best and brightest were sent to do the world’s most important work: bring souls into the Catholic Church.

That human instinct, if you will, that the best and brightest take up the most important work, is still with us. It is what we regard as the most important work that has changed.”

Love,
Matthew

Injustice is easy to find


cardinal virtues, 🙂 please click on the image for greater detail

God’s justice is not blind nor indifferent. It sees, acts, and loves.

Debitum and Personae: The Metaphysical Foundation of Justice

St. Thomas in the Summa Theologiae understands the virtue of justice to be founded upon the notion of jus or right because, according to the classical definition of the virtue, it is by justice that one renders to another his due by a perpetual constant will.( Thomas Aquinas; Summa Theologiae II-II, 58, 1.) Justice directs man in his relations to others according to some kind of equality or rightness.( ST II-II, 57, 1De Veritate 23, 6.) This relation of rightness is what is meant by jus. It is a right that is due to other men, and it is this object which specifies the virtue. As such, it is logically prior to the virtue itself which perfects a man so as to render this object swiftly, easily and gladly. Hence Thomas treats the question of jus before he does that of justice.

The notion of jus then is a complex notion. It is a relation that at once incorporates equality and the fact that it is owed, or a debitum. These two poles of what is involved in the notion of jus, i.e. being equal because it is natural and being owed, seem to create an incoherent tension. All men are equal in being owed rights by others, which are their rights by nature as rational beings. By means of the jus, i.e. right, humans are related to each other as equals, since it derives from common human nature.

Yet everything that is owed to someone seems to be lacking to the one to whom it is owed; this seems to be just what is meant by the word “owe.” What is owed is a possession, or thing that is owned, yet lacking to him who owns it. This is easy to see in the case of material possessions. I may own a car and have lent it to a friend. When he has finished using it, he owes me the return of the car in the condition that I lent it. While my friend is borrowing the car, I at once own it and am owed its safe return. This case of ownership and being owed the thing I own, is not a problem since a material possession like a car is extrinsic to my nature. The question may be asked, however: If men have rights that derive from their nature as men of which they always have possession, how can these rights be owed them by others? Either one has his own nature, and cannot stand in need of it, or what one is owed is not natural to him, but extrinsic. In an age that often merely assumes inalienable rights and begins to show an inclination toward extending rights to things non-human, it would be useful to examine what relation this basic, yet complex element of the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas, jus, has to his metaphysical framework in order to see that rights belong to only humans and yet belong to every human.

A human being is characterized metaphysically as a person, an individual suppositum of a rational nature.( ST I, 29, 1.) The person is not only made to act but acts of itself, that is to say, a person acts freely. As rational, the human has dominion over his or her actions, since it is just in acting in accord with its rational nature that a person is free. Human freedom, then, is intimately linked to human rationality. And as rational knowledge unites the person to the world, freedom also is grounded in the structure of reality. Freedom, as belonging necessarily to a rational person, explains how a person owns anything, such that the person might be owed a debitum.

And though not necessary, a person’s free choices are one’s own because they follow the necessary tendency of the will which is the person’s own. The things that are in fact means to the necessary end of the will can be specified by reason under some aspect other than as ordered to that end. For every object that is presented to the will, reason can focus on some aspect of it that will make it more or less desirable to the will. Thus one can find in some particular thing that is a necessary means for attaining universal goodness an aspect under which it is less desirable than some other thing that is not a means to universal goodness at all. Such specification is contrary to the truth of the things themselves. Yet the will is able to choose these things under this false specification. This, then, requires some power to perfect the intellect in its specification, such that necessary means are seen to be necessary by the rational relation they bear to the ultimate end. Knowledge of this necessity is rational; it follows upon the use of reason determining what is necessary to attain the end in some particular circumstances. This is practical reason perfected by the virtue of prudence.

The debitum that is a natural right follows upon a rational nature; rights are owed to persons, all persons and equally. From the side of the other person to whom the debt is owed, freedom means that the free person has dominion over his acts and thus owns them. As ordered to an ultimate end, a person is owed the right to pursue that end, the end of his own perfection. This end, however, is realized in that for the sake of whom things are done; it is realized in the ultimate end, universal goodness which is God. Thus a person’s own end, which is his right to pursue, is in his attaining final beatitude in the vision of God.

Persons act for their own sakes by acting according to reason, and reason reflects reality. Reality, in its turn, reflects God’s Wisdom as his providence has ordains things to be for his own sake. And so in conforming to reality, the person conforms to the good will of God that orders reality. That the will has been ordered to operate according to rational knowledge at once relates its operations to reality and relates the person to him who so ordered it, i.e. to God. Thus God who has made persons act for their own sakes, makes them to act freely according to rational knowledge and love of universal goodness. And this universal goodness is God himself.( DV5, 5.)

All human persons are equal in their rights, since their rights derive from their equal and common nature that in each of them is the source of each of their unique personality. And anything that does not share in the rational nature in which humans share, but has an inferior and non-rational, un-free nature, is not equal, and has no rights of its own. Animals, strictly speaking, have no rights because they do not have dominion over their actions but are simply made to act. They are already in possession of everything they naturally own and could possibly be owed them. Since they do not act of themselves, nothing natural yet due them could possibly be their right.

If the nature of person naturally entails rights, what then are the rights due to persons in virtue of their rational personhood? On the part of the person to whom a debitum is owed, the debitum consists in what it owns or possesses by internal necessity. Since personality is, first of all, a self-possession based on intellectual knowing and loving, personality is of itself ordered to communication. This requires other persons both able to know and love and be known and loved for any person to exercise its nature. Thus, the person is immediately and intrinsically ordered to a society of equals, and such a society is his right.

Insofar as humans are rational animals, the human person has a right to actualize and perfect its own rational activity in overcoming the interference of matter, and the passions. The person thus has the right to exercise his freedom and grow in its use. And since the rational nature requires the perfection of virtues to do this (as we saw in the case of prudence) there is a right also to be taught virtue and the discipline of education. Though virtue is learned through the repetition of acts which the person must do for himself, the potential to acquire such virtue is rooted in the rational nature.( Bernard Ryosuke Inagaki; “Habitus and Natura in Aquinas”; Studies in Medieval Philosophy; J. Wippel, ed.; (Washington: Catholic University of America Press ,1987); p. 169.) Thus, the person has the right to be taught virtue by the virtuous of society insofar as it can be taught. Persons have rights to just and moral laws.

The perfection of nature that consists in the virtue of justice likewise requires that persons be social. As we have seen, rational persons have owed to them from their equals certain rights arising from their very nature. The virtue by which these rights are rendered is justice. And more than the other virtues to which persons have rights, justice requires that there be others to whom the person can owe rights, and thus perfect his own virtue of justice. Since a person is ordered by its very nature as rational to give to another his due, this other remain in society with the person. He to whom a debitum may be rendered by a person owes it to that person to be available to receive his due. By conforming their own actions and dispositions to be in accord with the ultimate rational end, God, as he ordered reality, persons attain their ultimate end, ie. the goodwill of God in their own will perfected through justice. By becoming just and developing a goodwill conformable to the goodwill by which the person is ordered, namely God’s, the person attains the end to which it was ordered, namely God. And this is only possible in society.

All this is from the point of view of humans considered in their rational, spiritual personhood. Without ever considering the actual material condition in which human persons are found, one can already see the basis for right- claims upon others, and the duties of justice owed to them. Yet when this material condition is also taken into account, the obligations to render due another’s rights becomes obvious in virtue of the fact that one’s life is necessarily one’s own and so must be due him. Thus those things necessary for a material existence, like continued life and sustenance and the means to earning a livelihood are also debita.( Jude P. Dougherty; “Keeping the Common Good in Mind,” The Ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 197.)”


-by Br Cyril Stoa, OP

“Injustice is easy to find. Every day, people break their word, slander and insult others, deface property, blaspheme, dodge duties, elude laws, and lie. These deeds offend God, hurt others, and deform the people who do them. Anger is our natural response to injustice, for we want the transgressor punished and justice restored. When guided by reason, anger’s ultimate end is justice, and it is good. Its flames can refine society, but they can also blaze out of control, burning what they should purify.

Injustice is easy to find among any group of people, so it is easy to provoke anger against any group. Journalists, talk-show hosts, and politicians often take advantage of this by compiling clips of their ideological enemies committing crimes or asserting absurdities…

{We can view] injustice solely as a political problem caused by ideological opponents…They make perceived injustice inflame our anger and burn our reason away.

In the words of St. Benedict, the resentment that such anger feeds creates an “evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell.” Someone may have good judgment and a deep understanding of justice, but if these combine with bitterness and anger he can lose sight of his well-reasoned goal. Disputing others becomes a self-satisfying end. “I showed him,” one may say, yet the point of an argument is to establish truth, not to win victory. Seeking victory over truth makes us unjust, it prompts us to slander or misrepresent or lie. It is important to judge and correct, indeed we are called to judge angels (1 Cor 6:3), but we must not let our anger mold us into ideological gladiators. If someone offends us, we’re called to forgive. We should not respond to slander with slander nor broad strokes with broad strokes.  [Ed.  We are called to love, and admonish the sinner, and instruct the ignorant in love, as spiritual works of mercy. Justice is a cardinal virtue.]

Truth and justice matter. We should work for them. Yet if we slander others, if we commit injustices out of a desire for justice, or if we lose sight of reconciliation, then our zeal is a false zeal. It is the zeal of bitterness and not the zeal of justice. The hunger and thirst for justice that Jesus teaches is greater. It forgives as it condemns, it invites as it corrects, and it attacks the injustice within the heart before it looks to the injustice outside. Injustice is easy to find, and if we respond to it wickedly, we only make it more manifest.”

Love,
Matthew

The responsibility of free will


-by Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., a convert from Episcopalianism

“Freedom!” To hear contemporary people speak, you would think that this notion gives us the essence of human dignity and happiness. Well, freedom is surely closely related to our human dignity and to our acquiring of happiness but not because it is the most important component of either human nature or human fulfillment. It is a condition of our participation in the good things that we need to receive or accomplish in order to be good or happy, but it is not the best aspect of our goodness or happiness.

Free will, as it is called, is simply a composite effect of the fact that we are knowing, rational beings who thus have the power to choose among several (and “several” can mean a whole lot!) means to accomplish a desired end. [Ed. There is no true, real, honest love w/out free will.]  We can go by foot, by ten-speed, by motorcycle, by skateboard, by bus, by car, or by plane or boat. Our freedom is precisely our rational ability to choose between a number of means to an end. This means that our freedom is not an end in itself—it is itself a kind of means to the end.

The frequent problem with people, at least in our culture, is that they think everything is just fine as long as you get to choose (Ed. w/out truly considering the dramatic responsibility of the power they exercise}. The classical and Catholic view is different. For us, everything is fine if we use our understanding in order to arrive at our true good. How stupid it would be to say, “Well, it doesn’t matter that you decided to go shopping for a new smartphone and so missed your mother’s funeral, because at least you were using your freedom!”

A silly approach like this, which is obviously wrong when we apply it to practical things, often ends up being our excuse for serious defects in our relationship with God and with each other. You even hear people say that that it is a better thing for people to be free to go to hell, since that proves that God made us free. This is nonsense.

Misuse of free will is a defect, not a perfection. It doesn’t prove anything except that we are not God, and so we are capable of not reaching the goal of our existence. We should never speak as though God had no choice but to make us capable of going to hell, otherwise he would not show us the respect due our nature, which is dignified by our free will!

Not at all. God gave us free will in order to reach Him according to our reasonable and loving nature, not to prove a philosophical point. Of course, not even God can make a creature that is radically and totally incapable of falling short of its end and goal, but this ability to suffer so awful a defect does not constitute the dignity of the creature; rather, it is just a natural liability of not being God.

This is so deeply part of the modern view of things, even among Catholics, that they fall into the error of Pelagius, against which Pope Francis is always speaking, the idea that our salvation requires our previous activity and that damnation is a proof of our dignity. This is not Christian thought—it is rationalist, pagan thought.

It would be better for us to esteem the power of divine grace and the ability of God effectively to attract our free will to Himself so that we can persevere in grace and be saved. As St. Augustine, the great doctor of grace and theologian of free will, prays, “Give what You command, and command what You will.”

Our free will is only a snare and a road to inevitable disaster without the grace of God, and we will be very happy one day when, seeing the supreme Good, our end, and, possessing Him eternally, we will unable to choose anyone or anything else. Then freedom will have achieved its perfect goal, and we will be at rest in ecstatic joy all together in the kingdom of God’s grace.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 25 – St Louis IX of France (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270) – Crusader King

“Louis’s insistence on taking the cross [in December 1244] and journeying to the Holy Land was an outgrowth of his deep faith and love for Christ. He yearned to see Jerusalem under Christian control once more. His desire was so great that he was prepared to risk his personal and royal fortunes on the expedition. He was sovereign of the wealthiest region in all Christendom and the king of the most populous Christian country. There was much to lose by going on Crusade, but King St. Louis IX knew that the eternal reward greatly outweighed the temporal risk.

The thirteenth-century was the “century of St. Louis,” as no man more exemplified the tenor of the age than the saintly king of the Franks. Louis was blond, slender, handsome, gentle though firm, decisive in policy and generous in charity. He was a devout and dutiful son and a loving husband and father. Along with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, Louis was the most important political figure of the thirteenth century and the central figure in Christendom. Those two men could not have been more opposite in all aspects of their lives. Frederick was the “Crusader without faith” whereas Louis was the “perfect Crusader.” One man seemed to eschew all religious faith, whereas the other embraced it and was declared a saint of the Church. Frederick kept a harem of Muslim women, whereas, uncharacteristic of the age for monarchy, Louis was a monogamous husband. Louis was a product of his times, but he also shaped the era in which he lived, and his influence (and intercession) continues to the modern world.

There was perhaps no greater king in the history of France. He governed his realm peacefully and justly for forty-four years, following three principles: devotion to God, self-discipline, and affection for his people. Even in an age of faith, the king’s personal piety and sanctity stood out. He wore simple clothing, especially after his return from the Crusade, and kept a regimented prayer life. He awoke each night at midnight to participate with his royal chaplains in the Liturgy of the Hours, and said fifty Hail Marys each evening, kneeling and standing for each prayer. Louis’s prayer life was augmented by penitential practices, including fasting, the wearing of a hair shirt, weekly confession, and the special personal mortification of not laughing on Fridays. He was concerned for his own salvation, but even more so for the salvation of his subjects, which he considered “his highest duty.”


-contemporary depiction ~1230 AD

…The Egyptian Campaign Begins

The French fleet arrived at Damietta on June 4, 1249, and once more the Muslim garrison prepared to fight Crusaders. The next morning, the Crusaders undertook an amphibious landing with Louis in the lead. When warriors waded to shore, the Muslim garrison commander, Fakhr al-Din, saw the strength of the Crusader army and decided to withdraw from the city to the sultan’s camp several miles away.

The city, now emptied of its defenders, was soon occupied by the French Crusaders in a surprisingly easy undertaking, which was the opposite of the siege during the Fifth Crusade [a 17-month siege in 1218-19].  Louis found stockpiles of food, equipment, and material that the Muslims left behind in their hasty retreat. The king decided to spend the summer in Damietta while waiting for his brother Alphonse and other Crusaders to arrive.

As winter approached, Louis thought an attack on Cairo would give the Christians complete control of Egypt and finish the task left undone by the Fifth Crusade, so he gave the command to march there in late November, 1249. He left a garrison and his five-months-pregnant queen in Damietta, and ordered the fleet to shadow the army’s movement offshore…”

Love,
Matthew

Early Church: before ~400 AD, Christianity w/out the Bible


-please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Catholic Answers

“Question:

I recently listened to a debate on sola scriptura between a Catholic apologist and a Baptist who runs an anti-Catholic organization. The Baptist claimed the Catholic Church did not decide the canon of the New Testament at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419). As proof he alluded to the Muratorian Fragment, saying that, since it was far older than those councils and since it contains the New Testament canon as we know it, the issue was obviously settled long before the Catholic Church made any decisions. Is it true?

Answer:

The Baptist fellow is wrong and misled the audience. The Muratorian Fragment (so-called because it represents only a portion of the actual second-century document discovered in 1740 by Lodovico Antonio Muratori), is the oldest extant listing of New Testament-era books revered by early Christians. It was written sometime between 155 and 200. Patristic scholars believe the unknown author originally wrote the list in Greek (since the Latin is very poor), but the oldest copy available is an eighth-century Latin manuscript.

Although the Muratorian Fragment is important in studying how the early Church developed the New Testament canon, it doesn’t give exactly the same list of books that was later adopted as canonical at the councils of Hippo and Carthage. The Muratorian Fragment is just that: a fragment of a larger list of books which were considered canonical or quasi-canonical during the second century.

The Fragment itself provides us with a good though incomplete idea of this early canon. Virtually the entire New Testament canon as we know it is represented but not all of it: the Gospels of Luke and John (preceded by what seems to be an allusion to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark), Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, Jude, two letters of John (since the fragment simply says “the two ascribed to John,” we don’t know which two of his three letters are meant), and Revelation.

The unknown author adds other non-canonical books to this lineup but makes clear these were not considered part of the canon: the so-called Pauline Epistles to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians (about which the Fragment’s author expresses his conviction that they were not authored by Paul), the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Shepherd of Hermas). The Fragment’s list is cut short abruptly with a final, enigmatic phrase which may indicate that the author had gone on to include still other non-inspired writings: “Those also who wrote the new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the founder of the Asian Cataphrygians.”

As you can see, although the Muratorian Fragment lists most of the New Testament books, it’s missing a few (e.g. James, one of John’s epistles, most likely 3 John), and it also adds the book of Wisdom as canonical, which is very interesting from a Catholic perspective.

These facts demonstrate that, although the Fragment came close, it did not represent the actual canon of inspired Scripture. Further, there is no internal evidence in the document that it sought to represent any kind of official canon that was regarded by the Church as binding.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired.

It was not until the Synod of Rome under Pope Damasus in A.D. 382, followed by the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, that the Catholic Church defined, albeit non-infallibly, which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. Probably the council fathers studied the (complete) Muratorian Fragment and other documents, including, of course, the books in question themselves, but it was not until these Councils that the Church officially settled the issue.

The plain fact of the matter is that the canon of the Bible was not settled in the first years of the Church. It was settled only after repeated (and perhaps heated) discussions, and the final listing was determined by the pope and Catholic bishops. This is an inescapable fact, no matter how many people wish to escape from it.”


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“When a skeptic argues against the Bible, he is usually not attacking the book but the ideas in the book. Skeptics are not really concerned about how many generations there are between Adam and Jesus or how many angels were at Jesus’ tomb. It is Christianity that concerns them (and hence the New Testament in particular). Since many Christians and skeptics alike consider the Bible to be the foundation of Christianity, to call its historicity, manuscript transmission, scientific accuracy, etc. into question is to call Christianity into question.

Defenses of Christianity, then, often either begin or conclude with a defense of the Bible. But what if the trustworthiness of the Bible could not be satisfactorily defended?

I don’t think this is the case, but it is worth thinking about for at least these two reasons: 1) most skeptics think the Bible has not been defended sufficiently, and 2) the case for Christianity will be even stronger if it can survive the failure of these popular methods. If the defense of Christianity is not coextensive with that of the Bible, then attacks on the latter can’t be used against the former.

I would argue that even if we lost the Bible completely, Christianity would remain undefeated. Therefore, the defeat of the Bible would not entail the defeat of Christianity.

How can we be sure of this?

First, Christianity preceded the Christian Bible. The New Testament writings did not begin until at least a decade after Christ started the Church, yet those who believed were Christians and therefore constituted the Church (1 Cor. 1:2 cf. 15:1-5).

Second, Christianity continued to exist without most of its members possessing the New Testament. Even after the New Testament started to be written and copied, its contents were not in the possession of the average believer. Even literate Christians would have to wait 1,500 years or so, when the printing press made bibles widely accessible. Even in our own time, people from many parts of the world become Christians when the Bible is forbidden or inaccessible in their own language. Yet Christianity has spread across the globe. It is possible, then, that Christianity’s message could have been communicated only orally through the ages.

Third, suppose some atheistic world dictator had every copy of the Bible destroyed and somehow made it impossible to create any future copies or to publish it online. Would Christianity disappear from the Earth? Of course not.

Before the New Testament was canonized, Christianity existed. Before it was completed, Christianity existed. Before its writing had even commenced, Christianity existed. It is, therefore, both a theoretical and a historical fact that Christianity can exist while no Bible exists.

All right, you ask: if the Bible is not necessary for Christianity’s existence, how would we know what Christianity teaches? As it turns out, we can find out pretty much everything necessary from a multitude of extra-biblical historical sources. These include:

  • Catechetical instructions (e.g., The Didache, first century)
  • Sermon messages (e.g., 1-2 Clement, A.D. 95-97)
  • Early epistles (e.g., Letters of Ignatius, A.D. 98-117)
  • Baptismal confessions (e.g., The Old Roman Creed, second to third century)
  • Bible commentaries (e.g., Theophilus’s, or the Diatessaron, second to third century)
  • Liturgical instructions (e.g., Liturgy of St. James or St. Basil, fourth century)
  • Authoritative pronouncements (e.g., ecumenical councils, canons, creeds, and definitions, fourth to fifth century).

We can see, then, that the content of Christianity, and thus most of the issues skeptics have with it, would remain even if the Bible was taken out of the equation. At a minimum, it is clear that the message that brought people into Christianity was from the very beginning that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died, was buried, and rose again. This was the message the apostles died for, the message the early Church was persecuted for, and that two centuries later brought the greatest empire on Earth to its knees.

So, ultimately, it is not the Bible but the historic Christian Church (which gave the world the canonical scriptures and their orthodox interpretation) that skeptics must defeat in order to bring Christianity down. This puts the Catholic apologist in a much stronger position than the Protestant, who must build his defense on the trustworthiness of just part of the Church’s tradition while rejecting others.

Now, this is not a reductionist attempt to shield the Bible from legitimate criticism, and or a suggestion that we should abandon defense of the Bible. There is no need! The evidential arguments for the reliability of the Bible are extremely strong (so much so that if they are thought to fail the Bible, then, to be consistent, the rest of ancient history goes with it). If nothing else, it is difficult to imagine that God would bother inspiring hundreds of pages of communication only to have it lost or corrupted before it could be disseminated!

Still less is this an attempt to downplay the importance of the Bible for Catholics. The Church holds Sacred Scripture in the highest regard—reveres it, exhorts all believers to read it deeply.

Rather, it is good simply to realize that, even without the Bible, Christianity endures. This allows us, as circumstances may demand, to benefit from a different apologetic focus: to move from defending the Bible to defending the Church that produced it. This approach neatly sidesteps issues of biblical inspiration, transmission, inerrancy, and infallibility and opens the door to more accessible and accepted pieces of evidence. The skeptic’s target becomes both smaller and more difficult to hit—all without threat to Christianity’s teachings (which are, after all, the skeptic’s real prey).

Finally, lest someone think this is some sneaky Catholic sleight of hand, even the sixteenth-century Protestant scholar William Whitaker reluctantly admitted:

“I confess that the divine Providence can preserve from destruction whatever it chooses; . . . . we may, in the same manner, infer that there is no need of the scriptures, that everything should be trusted to divine Providence, and nothing committed to writing, because God can preserve religion safe without the scriptures.”

Love,
Matthew

Depositum fidei: how Scripture & Tradition work together


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).

“Catholicism teaches that the doctrines contained in Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition (the Church) are authoritative because God’s revelation is the source of both. The Catechism puts it this way: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the word of God” (97).

This means that “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (82).

To some Protestants, this might sound blasphemous. The idea that anything the Church says could be on the same level as Scripture just doesn’t make sense. After all, only the Bible was inspired by God, right? How, then, can Catholics say that both must be reverenced equally?

More importantly, what happens if they come into conflict? The Protestant, in principle, does not face these difficulties because the Bible is said to hold the supreme place. As the ultimate and final level of religious authority, according to sola scriptura, when the Bible comes into conflict with any other authority it must be declared the winner.

“Where Is That in the Bible?”

Protestants hold to subtly different forms of sola scriptura. At one end of the spectrum, it is thought to mean that only the Bible may be trusted as a source for faith and practice—and so everything the Christian believes must be explicitly found in it. On the other end, it means that the Bible is simply the most trustworthy source, and so no teachings can explicitly contradict it.

Protestants’ objections to Catholic claims about Sacred Tradition will vary depending on which version of sola scriptura they hold. Some will argue that any addition of Tradition to the Bible is illicit, others will only see a problem if a particular tradition goes against Scripture. Either way, though Protestants are generally uncomfortable with an authoritative, big-T Church Tradition because they think it threatens the authority of Scripture.

Some Catholic assume that by sola scriptura Protestants mean anything not found in the Bible is off-limits for Christian faith and practice. This is not what it originally meant, but it is the way the principle is often understood by those on the more Fundamentalist end of the spectrum.

Most Protestants, though, realize that to hold such a position would be self-defeating. This is because if one believes that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible, then the teaching that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible must be taught in the Bible—but it isn’t.

Although some apologists for this more extreme version of sola scriptura may point to verses such as 2 Timothy 2:16-17—which says that all Scripture is inspired and useful—for support, such appeals to prooftexts are unconvincing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say clearly that Scripture alone is the source for all Christian faith and practice. Thus, Protestants who hold to any form of sola scriptura thereby show that at least one Christian belief (or two, if you include the canon) can be derived from something besides the Bible itself.

In Principle, Protestants Agree: Not everything that Christians are to believe must be taught explicitly in Scripture.

In Particular, Catholicism Affirms: Some things that Christians are to believe have been taught outside of Scripture.

REFLECT: Since it is practically unavoidable to believe things that are not taught in Scripture, how do we discern between them?”

Love & Christian unity,
Matthew

Biblical non-biblical traditions

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“We don’t even have to appeal to extra-Biblical doctrines or events to find accord with Protestants on the validity of extra-Biblical traditions—we can just use Scripture. In the New Testament, there are numerous affirmations of extra-Biblical traditions:

  • – The Old Testament does not name the magicians in Egypt who tried to discredit Moses, but Paul calls them Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim 3:8).
  • – Jude expects his readers to be aware that Michael the Archangel disputed with Satan over the body of Moses (verse 9) and that Enoch prophesied Christ (verse 14), but these stories are found nowhere else in Scripture.
  •  – The writer of the book of Hebrews 11:37 talks about Old Testament saints being sawn in half for their faith—but he didn’t get this from the Old Testament.

And it is not just New Testament references to the Old Testament that seem to go beyond the Bible. In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”—yet Jesus is not recorded as having said this anywhere in the Gospels.

It seems apparent that the New Testament writers were not afraid to reference extra-biblical traditions.

This does not, of course, raise extra-biblical traditions to the level of inspiration—but it does show that unwritten traditions can be infallibly affirmed.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by Scripture).

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by the Church).

It is not uncommon to hear Protestants complain that Catholics added unbiblical traditions to what the Bible teaches. Sometimes they will even cite scriptures that disparage man-made traditions (e.g., Matthew 15:3–6). Doesn’t holding to traditions not taught by the Bible nullify the word of God?

The first thing to note here is that there is a big difference between something being non-biblical and it being anti-Biblical. Owning a cell phone is non-Biblical; worshipping an idol is anti-Biblical. Simply not appearing in the Bible doesn’t make something false. Moreover, numerous facets of Protestant worship are based on a denomination’s tradition rather than anything affirmed or commanded in Scripture.

For example, the idea of youth pastors, worship bands, meeting in Church buildings, or sitting in pews has no explicit support in Scripture. Most Protestants, however, recognize that not all Christian beliefs and practices are spelled out in the Bible. They realize that there is development and religious thought and that these sometimes lead to affirmations that, though extra-Biblical, are nonetheless authoritative.

To believe otherwise would be to reject the Church’s explanation of the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea, or the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it would threaten Protestantism itself, which is a development that did not come to exist until the sixteenth century. The real problem, then, comes when a religious group teaches something that is contrary to the Bible.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: We can affirm beliefs and practices that aren’t explicit in Scripture but developed over time.

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: The Church can teach doctrine and prescribe practices that aren’t explicitly found in Scripture but developed over time.”

Love,
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, “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