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Archive for July, 2011

As an Evangelical said to me once: “It is as if what Christ did on the cross to purify us of our sins (forgving us and cleansing us through His shed blood and sacrifice) is not enough and we must suffer ourselves to somehow earn a purification that we do not receive simply by believing in Christ alone so here”

Along the same lines Catholics could ask a fundamentalist Christian “why are we asked to keep the commandments, to be holy, to carry our cross, feed the hungry and clothe the naked,  if  faith in Christ is enough to take us to Heaven?  Didn’t his Sacrifice make up for every omission or wrongdoing that we could possibly do?  If we believe, but  fail to do all those things the Lord is asking of us, what happens, what are the consequences?”

Nevertheless, how should Catholics explain the position of the Church on Purgatory and Salvation to a protestant friend?

1030 – All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven ( Catechism of the Catholic Church)

First we have to clarify that  Catholics believe that only God is perfectly good and holy. However, God is just and fair, therefore he would not ask his children “to be Holy because he is Holy” (Cf Lev 11:44) if that was something impossible for any-one to achieve. Neither would Peter echoed these words in 1 Peter 1:15-16.

 Having said that, even the great saints in the Bible, such as David and the apostle Peter, sinned against God; didn’t they? So how can it be that without holiness no one will see God (Cf Heb 12: 14)?

I suppose the Catholic answer to this would be: Contrition, Expiation and Remission of Sins.

The Bible plainly says that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die”, Ezek. 18:4. It also says that, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” of sin (Heb.9:22).  Christ said before He went back to Heaven “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Therefore, blood redemption in Christ means nothing to the individual until he first repents.

Contrition –  Repentance for one’s sins. Perfect Contrition, on the other hand is repentance for the LOVE of GOD rather than for fear of Hell.

Isaiah speaks of it in these words,“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15).

Expiation – “The idea of expiation has to do with reparation for a wrong, the satisfaction of the demands of justice through paying a penalty.” To make expiation or satisfaction for a sin is to make amends or reparation for it. When someone makes reparations, he tries to repair the situation caused by his sin. This is a very clear concept that  I’ve seen in the lives of the of all Catholic saints that I’ve read.

I found this catholic explanation on Catholic Answers Website:

 Certainly when it comes to the eternal effects of our sins, only Christ can make amends or reparation. Only he was able to pay the infinite price necessary to cover our sins. We are completely unable to do so not only because we are finite creatures incapable of making an infinite satisfaction (or an infinite anything), but because everything we have been given to us by God. For us to try to satisfy God’s eternal justice would be like using money we had borrowed from someone to repay what we had stolen from him. No actual satisfaction would be made (cf. Ps. 49:7-9, Job 41:11, Rom. 11:35). This does not mean we can’t make amends or reparation for the temporal effects of our sins. The claim that only Christ can atone for or expiate our sins arises from a confusion about whether the temporal or the eternal dimension of our sins is being discussed. Only Christ can provide eternal satisfaction for our sins, but we can make temporal amends or reparations for them.

Proverbs 16:6 states, “By kindness and piety guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the LORD man avoids evil” Also on expiation, Exodus 30:15-16; Leviticus 17:11; Numbers 31:50

We could put it like this, in our earthly relationships whenever we hurt someone it is good to say sorry, but it is even better if we try to put things right whenever we can, because we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This can be done at all levels. Say that I break my neighbor’s window while playing ball, I can say sorry and apologize, but the right thing to do is to say sorry AND replace the window or pay for the damage. This would please my neighbor; wouldn’t it? The same thing with God. 

With true contrition comes the desire to put things right. With repentance comes remission of sins.

Remission of Sins –  A completely free and undeserved gift, a newness of life which we could never earn. God grants it to us out of his mercy. As Saint Paul wrote: “It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5, 18).

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Before you read this press release, please ask yourself these honest simple questions: Whatever happened to humble hearty obedience? How about submission to authority? I can’t help comparing this situation to when Our Lord was falsely accused and condemned to death on the Cross without fighting back. Similarly,  one can think of Padre Pio’s exemplary submission to the Church and his superiors authority…   Maybe intensive prayer and a solid trust in God’s justice would have made all the difference in our beloved  Fr Corapi’s situation….  All those things that he used to preach but seem to have failed to live.

“Pride makes everyone into ‘God,’ and you have no objective truth. The antidote is humility. If God humbled himself, who are we not to humble ourselves? Remember that humility leads to obedience, which leads to life. Pride leads to disobedience and death.” – John Corapi, 1 May 2010, St. Louis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

From: Rev. Gerard Sheehan, SOLT Regional Priest Servant Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Robstown, Texas

Fr. John A. Corapi submitted his resignation from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (“SOLT”) early in June. SOLT is a Society of Apostolic Life of Diocesan Right with its regional office in Robstown, Texas.

While SOLT does not typically comment publicly on personnel matters, it recognizes that Fr. John Corapi, through his ministry, has inspired thousands of faithful Catholics, many of whom continue to express their support of him. SOLT also recognizes that Fr. Corapi is now misleading these individuals through his false statements and characterizations. It is for these Catholics that SOLT, by means of this announcement, seeks to set the record straight.

A woman, well known to Fr. John Corapi, mailed SOLT a signed letter detailing allegations of Fr. Corapi’s sexual activity with adult women, abuse of alcohol and drugs, improper sacramental practices, violation of his promise of poverty, and other wrongdoing.

After receiving the allegation, SOLT formed a three person fact-finding team to ensure that it handled this matter in accordance with canonical norms. The team included a priest-canonist, a psychiatrist, and a lawyer. Two were members of religious orders, and one was a lay Catholic. Two were men, and one was a woman. All three have national reputations and substantial experience in ecclesiastical processes related to priest disciplinary issues.

As the Society was engaging this team, Fr. Corapi filed a civil lawsuit against his principal accuser. He contended that she had defamed him and breached her contract. The contract, according to Corapi’s lawsuit, contained a provision binding the woman to silence about him. He offered the woman $100,000 to enter this agreement.

SOLT’s fact-finding team subsequently learned that Fr. Corapi may have negotiated contracts with other key witnesses that precluded them from speaking with SOLT’s fact-finding team. Many of these witnesses likely had key information about the accusations being investigated and declined to answer questions and provide documents.

When the fact-finding team asked Fr. Corapi to dismiss the lawsuit, to forbear from foreclosing his mortgage, and to release her and other individuals from their contractual obligations to remain silent about him, he refused to do so and, through his canonical advocate, stated: “It is not possible for Father Corapi to answer the Commission’s questions at this time.”

SOLT’s fact-finding team has acquired information from Fr. Corapi’s e-mails, various witnesses, and public sources that, together, state that, during his years of public ministry:

He did have sexual relations and years of cohabitation (in California and Montana) with a woman known to him, when the relationship began, as a prostitute; He repeatedly abused alcohol and drugs; He has recently engaged in sexting activity with one or more women in Montana; He holds legal title to over $1 million in real estate, numerous luxury vehicles, motorcycles, an ATV, a boat dock, and several motor boats, which is a serious violation of his promise of poverty as a perpetually professed member of the Society.

SOLT has contemporaneously with the issuance of this press release directed Fr. John Corapi, under obedience, to return home to the Society’s regional office and take up residence there. It has also ordered him, again under obedience, to dismiss the lawsuit he has filed against his accuser.

SOLT’s prior direction to Fr. John Corapi not to engage in any preaching or teaching, the celebration of the sacraments or other public ministry continues. Catholics should understand that SOLT does not consider Fr. John Corapi as fit for ministry.

Father Sheehan will not be available for comments as he is attending the SOLT General Chapter from July 5-23.

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I received the comment below from an evangelical Christian who keeps a website on the internet with the aim to evangelize and convert  Catholics to the ‘light’ and the true Christian faith. Assuming that I am not the only one who sometimes is asked these questions, I decided to post my reply here in the hope that it may be useful to other Catholics who find themselves in the same situation:

Dear Helen
Thank God, Catholics do believe in Jesus, as well as the wholesome truths of the Scriptures summarized in the creeds, and other blessed truths. For that I truly thank God. However, speaking from personal experience, and from my correspondence and discussion with hundreds of Catholics, many do not trust wholeheartedly and solely in Christ for salvation. By that I mean that they trust in Christ as well as seek help from Mary, and endeavor to do good works to merit grace and eternal life, as well as do penance to make satisfaction for sin. But the Bible teaches that there is no other name but the name of Jesus by which we must be saved, and that we are saved by grace, through faith, not of our works, but as a gift of God, and that the blood of Jesus cleanses his people from all sin.

Helen, may I ask you, do you rely solely and totally on Christ for your salvation? Do you seek to live a godly life to merit grace?

Dear brother in Christ,

As I stated in my previous message, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a gift of God which we receive by his grace alone. Please, for more thoughts on Salvation click  here. Unfortunately,  you still seem to sustain some rather erroneous ideas on Catholicism which I am hoping to be able to clarify for you.

Many non-Catholics assume that Catholics give too much importance to good works because they rely on them for their salvation, which could not be further from the truth. In fact, most protestants fail to appreciate what  ‘Good Works’  (which include prayer, reading the scriptures and not only charitable actions) really represent. The Catholic definition of Good Works does not consist of the Works of the Law (Mosaic Law) condemned by Paul in his Epistles, such as in Romans 3:20, but  rather the outer expression of an inner faith which S. Paul himself  praised, as we will see below.
In fact, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a free gift from God and that no effort of our own can make us  earn it. Rather, as it is stated in the document «All Salvation Comes from Christ», by Pope John Paul II,  the Church maintains  “that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture.  Apart from Christ “there is no salvation.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
However, the Catholic Church teaches that true life in Christ has to reflect in actions what one believes internally, so that  as a true disciple one is recognized them by their fruits ( cf. Matt.7,16). But what are our fruits, if not our way of life and actions? For this reason, I belive the Catholic Church outlines the virtues for a life in the Spirit:
ARTICLE 7

THE VIRTUES
1803 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”62
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like* God.63 ( *holy like God)
Therefore, the Church defines the Four Cardinal Virtues ( Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) as essential for life in Christ,  as well as the Great Theological Virtues and Graces ( Faith, Hope and *Charity [*which is love])
Regarding Charity the Church teaches:   ( http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm )
1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own “to the end,”97 he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”98
1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”99
1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”102
1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.”103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”104
1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who “first loved us”:106
These teachings reflect what Scriptures teach, for instance,  in Matthew 25:31-46  as well as other passages. However, my point with this letter is to clarify that the Church indeed teaches that Salvation is a free gift of God which we receive by grace. The Cathechism says in paragraph 1996 that “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. (Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4).
Therefore, it is wrong to state that Catholics believe that they can earn Salvation through their good works – as we see once again in paragraph 2005 of the Cathechism – “Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.(Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.) However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:20).
Lastly, since grace comes first, it is the protestant doctrine of Salvation through Faith Alone which is wrong, not the Catholic teaching:

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”(Catechism of the Catholic Church).

As for Mary; she is the Mother of Christ and His first true disciple. She leads those to recourse to her – as she did at the wedding feast in Canaan: “do whatever He tells you” – to Christ,  never to herself. Mary is a creature who had favor with God, who received His graces and said Yes to His divine plan. Catholics honor her; but know that only God saves.

* II. DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
 
971All generations will call me blessed“: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.”515 The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.”516 The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.517
III. MARY – ESCHATOLOGICAL ICON OF THE CHURCH
972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”518 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.
In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.519
IN BRIEF
973 By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.
974 The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.
975 “We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ” (Paul VI, CPG § 15).
May God Bless you,
Helen

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Can a Bible-Alone Christian Biblically answer this question without  pointing out the verses that discuss the efficacy, inerrancy, or inspiration of scripture such as 2 Tim 3:16?   

Obviously, Catholics agree and accept all what is said in  2 Tim 3:16. However, I’m looking for a verse that says it MUST be written in Scripture before it should be believed. Where is that verse?

On the other hand, Catholics can readily provide a number of passages that emphatically debunk the notion of Bible Alone as the sole rule of faith, and attest to the ancient practice of  oral transmission of our faith:

2 Thessalonians 2:[15] So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Timothy 2: [1] You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, [2] and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Luke 10: [16] “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Romans 10: [17] So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.

1 Peter 1:[25] but the word of the Lord abides for ever.” That word is the good news which was preached to you.

2 John 1:[12] Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Clearly Scripture IS inspired and infallible. Catholics and Protestant don’t disagree on that point! But, nowhere in Scripture will you find a verse that says it MUST be written in Scripture for it to be believed by the faithful.  The 1st century Church taught the faith and handed its TRADITIONS on by preaching,  oral teaching and eventually by letter preserving the witness of the Apostles.  Therefore, the Catholic position to hold both Scripture & Tradition as rule of faith is inline with what is witnessed in both Scripture & TRADITION.

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“Blasphemy and false worship”, so is the Catholic relationship with Mary most commonly described by many non-Catholic Christians.   

Not so; the Catholic Catechism states:

II. “HIM ONLY SHALL YOU SERVE”

Adoration

2096 – Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Saviour, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,” says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy.13

III. “YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME”

2110 –  The first commandment forbids honouring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.

The Catholic Church honours Mary not only for her gift of Mothering Jesus, our Saviour, but because she was his first and most loyal disciple and because in the Old Testament she is prefigured as the New Ark of the Covenant and The New Eve.

Here is an excellent video with Biblical support of this assertion: Mary the New Eve

The Holy Spirit has guided the Church throughout its history in the understanding of the faith that has been revealed in Jesus. Therefore, the knowledge of the Christian faith did not come to us in one instalment, but through the deepening of the understanding of God’s Revelation to mankind. In the Bible itself we see how the  Apostles, lead by Peter, established the matter of circumcision among believers. As promised by Jesus, the Holy Spirit played a crucial role in this process as the Guide for the Truth.

Mother of God – A Pagan title for a Christian Figure?

Title “Son of God” was used by Pagan leaders long before Jesus. History tells us that according to Near Eastern theology of kingship in Pagan Rome, Caesar Augustus and other Caesars declared themselves as Son of Divine Cesar, the Son of God (CF P. W. v. Martitz, TDNT, Vlll, pp. 334-340 esp. p. 336) … This does not take away from Jesus’ True Divine Sonship. Therefore, the protestant objection against Mary’s title falls short of support.

Unfortunately, many protestants don’t realize that the objection against Mary’s title as Mother of God was the very argument of some serious heresies of the 1st centuries of Christianity which  denied Jesus “Oness” with God the Father. Because of such heresies, the Church Fathers again, guided by the Holy Spirit, determined that Jesus is not divisible. He is TRUE Man And TRUE God. Therefore, to state that Mary is only Mother of Jesus Man, and not of His entire nature is a heresy in itself.

The mother of the King – A Biblical Perspective

In order to understand Mary’s queenship it is crucial to consider that in the OT the Queen was not the King’s wife, but his mother. Thus Mary’s intercessory influence is prefigured in the persons of the queens of the OT, such as in 1 Kgs 2:19-20:

‘Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.’ (1 kgs 2:19-20)

Still on Mary’s Queenship and her prefiguration in the OT, we have to remember that the Scriptural exegesis of the  Church’s Fathers proves that they did realize that the 12 stars on the Woman’s crown takes us to the 12 tribes of Israel. However, they also understood that Our Lord presented himself throughout the Gospels in the light of the O.T, where He had been prefigured in many ways before being fully revealed in the NT. For this reason we should also understand the references used in the Book of revelation, not literally, but as fulfilment of the OT.

Jesus, the New Moses, brought the God of Israel to the world in fulfilment to what had been prophesied in Scriptures, making Israel the light house of the world. Through Jesus’ sacrifice the uncircumcised became adopted children of God. Thus, He established a New Israel, The Bride of the Lamb or His Church on earth.

Furthermore there are 3 points to consider:

  • The woman in Revelation gave birth to the King of the Israelites (Jesus) – who will rule the nations from Heaven.
  • The devil is very interested in destroying her but she is safe.
  • Her *children are all faithful Christians (the Church) who “follow the lamb” (Rev 12:17)

*Many fundamentalist Christians understand the ‘Woman’  in the book of Revelation to be Israel, not Mary. However Rev 12:17 confirms the Catholic understanding that Mary, not the nation of Israel, is the ‘Woman’ and the  Mother of the Church. 

For Catholics all honour given to Mary has the sole aim of coming closer to Jesus, which is Mary’s own purpose:

“His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (2 Jn 1-5)

Catholics also believe that not only Mary, but all the just and Saints departed, are in heaven –  and not asleep waiting for the second coming of Jesus – from where they  pray for us in a way that we could not do ourselves.  St. James tells us that the prayer of the just (the saints) are powerful and effective.

Fundamentalists will argue that no-one has ascended to Heaven except for Jesus (Jn 3:13), so Mary could not be in Heaven as Catholics claim. But in the Gospel of John we see how the good thief on the cross obtained mercy and was promised heaven that day. Therefore, we should not assume that in John 3:13  Jesus was referring to those who lived before as well as after him.  Personally, I think  Jesus simply meant  that  no-one had gone or could ever go to heaven  by their own means or merit, except he Himself.

As I have discussed on other posts, Catholics believe that Salvation is attained by grace alone, because even the gift of faith comes from God’s grace. Salvation is a “free gift” given by God and only by Him, there is nothing we can do to “earn it”, so to speak. However, those who have already attained the crown of victory never stop  interceding on our behalf, so that we too can enter the glory of God.  As we see in the Lord’s prayer, ALL those in heaven do the will of God, and it is the will of God that all men shall be saved. The souls in heaven sympathise with our sufferings and trials, such as we are told by St Paul to bear  one another suffering and struggles  while here on earth. This applies to Mary, who constantly prays for us.

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