Archive for July, 2010

Christ the Redeemer - Symbol of Brazilian Christianity

Brazil is the largest Catholic country  in the world, with a whopping 74% of its population declaring themselves as Roman Catholic Christians. Since 1889, when the Brazilian Constitution was written, Brazil ceased to have an official religion as the Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion. Therefore, the make up of Brazil’s population is  a Roman Catholic majority, and a mix of Denominational Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as a surprising 7.5% of the population who declare themselves to believe in God but  not to have a formal religion.

The growth of Protestantism in Brazil has taken place mainly in the past three decades, especially in urban Brazil. The two generations of Protestant missionary work have gained about 1,000,000 adherents to various churches: Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopal, Pentecostal. Fourteen-fifteenths of the work goes on in a 300-mile-wide coastal zone extending from Rio Grande do Sul to Para; the tiny remainder lies in the vast inland rural areas. Rural Brazil, however, remains predominantly Catholic.

Recently, I watched an interview with a former American Protestant pastor, now  Catholic, who declared to have been involved in setting up a mission to go to Brazil and ‘convert’ Catholics to his denomination. I found his statement disturbing as it made me ponder on what motivations may lead anyone to set out to convert people who already believe in Jesus rather than non-believers elsewhere! There are over 38 thousand Christian denominations in the world today, of which  not a single one is fully in agreement with the others. With that in mind, one can ask oneself, which one of the 38 thousand churches is the right one, which one has the right interpretation of the Gospel? Sadly, the one point on which almost the totality of these denominations seem to agree, it appears, is an unfair contempt for  Catholicism.

Obviously, I am not refuting the value of Christian missions. Rather, I commend all well-meaning missionaries who,  in the name of Jesus, travel to remote parts of the world to spread the Gospel of peace to nations and people who have not yet come to know God. In this fashion the Catholic Church did a  great service to Christianity, as it not only fought for Christianity in Europe producing many martyrs who shed their blood for Christ and helping establish the Christian heritage of the Western world,  but also promoted countless missions worldwide  for the evangelization of pagan nations e peoples, including indigenous  people in Brazil. We can still see the symbol of this commitment in the vestment of  modern Cardinals, who wear a collar representing their willingness to die for Christ and for the Faith.

Evangelizing Native Pagans - Catholic missionaries in Brazil say first Mass in the year 1500

I suppose my point is to question the legitimacy of missions that, rather than bring the Gospel to those who are ignorant of it, set out to ‘convert’ people who already declare a genuine Christian faith such as Catholicism. Isn’t it time we begin to practise true Christian values and be faithful to the Gospels and the will of God rather than to our self motivated opinions of what is right and wrong? I can’t help the feeling that some of these missionaries are missing the point of Jesus’ command to us when the focus of their missions becomes expanding a particular church’s domain, as opposed to preaching the Gospel to the ends of the world.

 So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. ( Rom 15:20-22)


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With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel[…] (Eph 6:18-19).

Prayer is probably the best and most effective way to be united with God.  A good prayer-life is  like a doorway to receiving many graces and attaining true communion with God.  Through prayer one we can open one’s channels to receive whatever the Lord wishes to give us or reveal to us through His Holy Spirit. A prayerful person, through perseverance in prayer, may be enabled to discern God’s will from their own will and thus be more equipped to understand what God has deigned for them and respond to His plan. 

Catholics get a lot of questions (and criticism) about how we pray as well as to whom we pray. In my short experience with Catholic apologetics, I have found that most of the criticism is based on preconceived ideas, prejudice or mere ignorance. People often accuse Catholics of praying to Mary, instead of praying to Jesus, of praying to the Saints and not directly to God and so on… 

Obviously, these claims are all but accurate, because they mis-intreprete a core teaching of the Church that tell us that Christ is our only mediator to God, and that only through him we can get to God Father, and also because they fail to consider what Catholics call the communion of Saints. Simply it is not correct to state that Catholics pray to Saints in detriment of God.

Rather, we ask the Saints to pray on our behalftaking our petetions/prayers to the Lord. Prayers involving saints are petitionary or intercessory prayers, through which one asks for a favor (spiritual or more rarely, material) for oneself or for others. In the Scriptures we read  how Moses pleaded to God to spare his people, or Mary to Jesus at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1-11) or how Paul asked for prayers (Rm 15:30 or Eph 6:19).

11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13  (Ex 20:11-13)

Such intercessory prayers by no means substitute a sincere prayer  addressed directly to Lord Jesus, Who is God and who we worship.  Never will a Catholic pray a prayer of Adoration or Praise to a Saint. This would be most reprehensible. Such prayers are reserved to God and God only.  I add here that Catholics worship the Holy Trinity, so we may say prayers of praise to God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)

However, to understand the idea of praying with the Saints one must consider the Catholic doctrine regarding the Communion with Saints. Failing to understand such concept will limit or prevent a correct understanding of the Catholic approach to intercessory prayers. 

The communion of saints 

In the  Apostle’s Creed, which  is a summary of the Core beliefs of our faith,  we profess that we believe in the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints. The Catechism states that : 

946 […] “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?”477 The communion of saints is the Church. 

947 “Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head…. Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments.”478 “As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.”479 

 The Communion of the Church of Heaven and Earth

When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is. 

956 The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”493 

Saint Paul explained that the body is corruptible when it is buried, but it will be incorruptible when raised.  “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:43-44). 

The belief that Catholics have on being in communion with the spiritual beings in Heaven, who come to our aid can be verified inthe Scriptures, such as in Jude 1:9, or when Elijah and Moses prayed with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one forElijah.” (Matthew 17: 3-4)

“But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come, such as never was from the time that nations began, even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
-Daniel 12:1

“Behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”
-Daniel 10:13 

 Here is another post on  Praying to Saints 

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I came across this video with Fr. Barron which should be a great source of information for all Catholic Apologetics out there. YouTube is full of anti-Catholic videos and we need to understand how to better  respond to these attacks and defend our Faith.



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I think The Prayer of the Hours, The Divine Office or Breviary, is a great Catholic tradition that seems to be going through a ‘revival’ among lay people in  recent days.  As a result, some parishes have (re)-introduced this practice in their community (morning & evening prayer), so people may come to church to say the daily Prayer of the Hours,  and practise a tradition which has been somewhat ‘restricted’ to consecrated religious people and clergy. Many people, however, recite the Divine Office at home with their families.

The Divine Office is the public prayer of the Church. This beautiful Catholic tradition has its roots in the Psalm and ancient daily prayer of the Jewish people, and has developed throughout the history of the Church in monasteries, cathedrals and parishes, in the more present day. The Acts of the Apostles give frequent testimony to the fact that the Christian community prayed with one accord. [See Acts 1:14, 4:24, 12:5 and 12. See also Eph 5:19-21.] The Divine Office used to be prayed in Latin, but in the past 3 decades modern languages have also been introduced by parishes.

So where does this Tradition originate from?

In Psalm 118 (119), a Psalm ascribed to King David, we read: ‘Seven times a day I will praise you’, this originated the tradition of  regularly reciting sets of prayer throughout the day. The Divine office is comprised, therefore, of seven sets of prayers to be recited through the day. These are:

1- Matins or Lauds ( Midnight prayer)
2-Prime ( the name comes from the start of the Roman day, 6 am)
3-Terce (the third Roman hour, 9 am)
4-Sext (the sixth Roman hour, 12 am)
5-None ( the ninth Roman hour, 3 pm)
6- Vesper (evening prayer)
7- Compline ( night prayer)

The chanting of psalms makes up a major portion of each of the hours of prayer. Each of the prayers have a particular theme according to the time of the day they are meant to be prayed, for instance the Morning Prayer is a prayer of praise, consecrating the day to God. It has a strong theme of  ‘Offering our day to God’, whereas the Night Prayer has a theme of thanksgiving.  For instance, the traditional structure of  the Morning prayer is:

First Psalm
Old Testament Canticle
Second Psalm
Scripture Reading
Benedictions ( Gospel Canticle)
Our Father
Concluding Prayer

In this way each of the prayers should follow a particular structure with some varying components. These components may change according to the Calender of the Church or seasons, such as during Lent, Christmas, Eastertide, Solemn Feasts and so on…

Why is the Prayer of the Hour called the Church’s Prayer?

Because the Divine Office is prayed throughout the Church it must follow some very specific rules as to how and when each Psalm should be prayed, where even particular postures (sitting or standing) have to be observed for each specific component of the prayer. But more importantly, the Church establishes the proper themes,  Psalms, canticles and readings for each period or season which are organized in periods of 4 weeks Psalter, which are tied up with the liturgical year of the Church.

The Church’s calendar include, besides the main sections (such as Lent, Eastertide, Advent, and so on), a general 34 weeks every year. Each of these sections has a particular Sunday on which they start – first week of Advent (when the Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated [the first week of the year], first week of Lent and Easter Sunday).  Each of these correspond with the first week of the four-week Psalter. The cycle then repeats itself so that there is always a relationship between the Sunday of the year and the week of the Psalter.

There are various informative websites where one can learn more about reciting the Divine office and using a prayer-book.  Once one gets familiar with the different prayers and learn how to place the various markers for each particular time of the year,  it becomes a great enjoyment to be able to unite with the whole of the Church in prayer to praise God and give Him thanks. I find that reciting the liturgy of the hours has been a wonderful way to enhance my prayer life.

 For further help and info on the Divine Office please check these:






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Catholics should speak-up and be aware of the dangers involved in keeping a low-profile in the debates about important topics such as abortion. In the recent times there  has been a fierce disposition by some members of the media in trying to portray erroneous catholic views on various topics. A recent article, first publicized on Catholics Online, which I am partially quoting here, illustrates this very well.

The pro-abortion discussions carried out by groups such as  Catholics for the Right to Decide in Europe  (counterpart of the U.S. Catholics for Choice)  are a good example of the problem, as they seem to have been misleadingly divulged as the official teaching or view of the Church; rather than a separate  movement that actually contradicts the official views of the Catholic Church.

It may seem superfluous to point out that the Catholic doctrine opposes strongly and vehemently to the very notion of any crime against life, including the life on the unborn. However, we should never assume that even a fundamental teaching such as the one concerning abortion are free from  misinterpretation or even manipulation by interest groups. 

When any basic teachings of a doctrine begin to be publically challenged such as in this instance, society’s perceptions could become confused by a notion that there may be an internal conflict within the institution’s leadership, which in turn could lead to unjustified and unnecessary negative criticism.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – A tale of two women…and life, love and faith.One preaches the “obligation to self” The other preaches the call to give ourselves away in love to the other, out of love for the Lord who gave Himself away in love for each one of us. One preaches a false “gospel”, the other preaches the true Gospel which alone brings life and freedom.

Once again last week the Church was maligned by a false “feminist” who believes that a woman has the right to kill her unborn child if she chooses and such a “choice” is not contrary to Catholic teaching. Elfriede Harth is the Secretariat of European Parliament Study Group on Religion and Secularity, and a Spanish member of Catholics for the Right to Decide (their counterpart in the U.S. is Catholics for Choice).  She made her insane remarks at the Women Deliver conference in Washington, D.C. this month.

She aims to promote what passes for “liberal” or “progressive” doctrines within the Church these days. They do not liberate and they do not promote true progress. However, they are being promoted by the media as somehow reflective of a “Catholic” position. They are anything but. They are heretical and anti-life.There are no ‘abortion rights’, only human persons have rights. In fact, every intentional abortion KILLS a human person. There is only the Right to Life and Harth fails to recognize this preeminent and fundamental right upon which all other rights rest. .

Harth says, “Religious feminists play a crucial role in organizing resistance to religious fundamentalism.”  Her mission, in my opinion, is to redesign the Church to suit the pro-abortion, anti-male, anti-tradition, anti-calling-anything-sinful philosophy she preaches.  In short, she is working to destroy the Church from within.She is an advocate of the “Dictatorship of Relativism” the Holy father warned of.

She knows the Church doesn’t approve of her endorsement of baby-killing while calling herself Catholic, but naturally, she says the problem isn’t her total misunderstanding of Church teaching or her errant definition of being Catholic – it’s the Magisterium that’s all screwed up. 

“They’re always trying to say we’re not real Catholics, which is wrong, because the criterion to say you’re Catholic is that you’re baptized.  That’s all.” she said.  “And I don’t accept that other people pretend that they define what is Catholicism.  You know?  The way the Vatican presents Catholicism is incomplete.”

Thousands of years of Church leaders, starting with the Apostles, are simply “other people” to Ms. Harth, and since she doesn’t like what they say about abortion and her other favorite liberal “feminist” doctrines, well, it just means the faith is incomplete.  All this time, we’ve been waiting for Ms. Harth to fill in the holes those “other people” left behind!

Harth insisted that a woman has the right to abort because she “has a right to have a good life” and she does not have “the right to ruin it.”  “And if a pregnancy is going to ruin her life in any way, she has a right to get the abortion.  She has the right.  She has an obligation to protect her life from being ruined… Because you owe this respect to yourself because you’re a child of God.  You should feel guilty if you don’t.” she said.

Read that again:  Catholic women should feel guilty if they do not abort a child they feel might “ruin their lives.”  To not do so would be disrespectful toward themselves as a child of God. 

And what about the baby, Ms. Harth?  Is the baby also a child of God?  “If you have an abortion, there is a fetus that will be killed.  This is true.  But… for us, death is not the end of the story.  And this unborn child or fetus or whatever you want to call it is… well, we don’t know what God is going to do with this creature.  God has a lot of mercy, maybe… we don’t know.”

Incredibly, Harth is actually justifying the murder of the child in the womb by pointing to our belief in eternal life!?!  Hey, death is not the end of the story!  So, really, abortion’s not a bad thing.  It’s just sending the baby on to Gloryland a little early – no harm done!  This, according to pro-abort heretic Elfriede Harth is real, complete Catholic teaching.  Wrong.

The tragedy only grows worse as Harth collects more confused, uncatechized souls and leads them astray.  She’ll scowl at me for saying this, but Ms. Harth – you’re not really Catholic.  Not even close.

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