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A well-meaning brother in Christ posted a comment for me refuting the claim of the Catholic Church to be an Apostolic Church. The answer to the question here is not straightforward but it is, by all means, provable. Were all early Christian Catholics?

Here is the comment I got:

The reason history can only record a Catholic Church and not others is because all other faiths had went underground and many were slaughtered including the Nazarenes […]

First of all it is important to clarify that the fact that any movement, religion or society becomes ‘underground’ does not prevent historistorians to trace them or document their existence. The Catholic Church itself was persecuted and had to go ‘underground’ during the Roman Empire, and in spite of this, we have records that indeed the Church already existed during that period. My response to this question, however,  is that no-one is denying that others existed, at least I am not. The point here is whether or not it is possible  to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is the Church that was initially led by Peter and the other Apostles.

 I have posted some examples of early writings here, where the Apostles, as well as their disciples, refer to what they called sects, which they considered not to be true Christians, since they did not embrace the teachings of the Apostles ( who held the true teachings of the Lord, 1- because they heard it first hand, 2- because they were guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Who they received at Pentecost).

If we look at history, there are numerous examples of breakages in Christianity, from the very early days this problem has existed. However, those churches were not proto-protestants, they were regarded as sects and not considered to be loyal to the Gospels. For this reason they  didn’t resist  time, and died out…

Refuting the Apostolic heritage of the Roman Catholic Church is something of a hard task; even very reputable historians throughout the centuries have not denied the fact that the Roman Catholic & Apostolic Church can be traced back to Peter, having Peter himself as our first overseer* – a word which in greek means episcopos, the root word for bishop in English.

“Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, ‘I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth.’” This is Jesus talking, “‘Peter’s mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office.’” (Martin Luther, 1531)

Here is an excellent source for those who want to investigate further: Apostolic Succession of the Catholic Church

‘Catholic’ as an ecclesiastical word

Ignatius of Antioch – A disciple of the Apostle John

A letter written by Ignatius of Antioch to Christians in Smyrna[10] around 106 AD is the earliest surviving witness to the use of the term Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8). By Catholic Church Ignatius designated the universal church. Ignatius considered that certain heretics of his time, who disavowed that Jesus was a material being who actually suffered and died, saying instead that “he only seemed to suffer” (Smyrnaeans, 2), were not really Christians.[11] The term is also used in the Martyrdom of Polycarp in 155 and in the Muratorian fragment, about 177 .

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 315-386 AD), venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, urged those he was instructing in the Christian faith: “If ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens “houses of the Lord”), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God” (Catechetical Lectures, XVIII, 26).[12]

Theodosius I

The term Catholic Christians entered Roman Imperial law when Theodosius I, Emperor from 379 to 395, reserved that name for adherents of “that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff (Pope) Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria …as for the others, since in our judgement they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches.” This law of 27 February 380 was included in Book 16 of the Codex Theodosianus.[13] It established Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Augustine of Hippo

The use of the term Catholic to distinguish the “true” church from heretical groups is found also in Augustine who wrote:

“In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate (in Rome; here Augustine refers to the Petrine succession of the Pope).
“And so, lastly, does the very name of “Catholic”, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
“Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should … With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me… No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion… For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”
— St. Augustine (354–430 AD): Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental, chapter 4: Proofs of the Catholic Faith.[14]

St Vincent of Lerins

A contemporary of Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, wrote in 434 AD (under the pseudonym Peregrinus) a work known as the Commonitoria (“Memoranda”). While insisting that, like the human body, church doctrine develops while truly keeping its identity (sections 54-59, chapter XXIII), he stated: “In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense ‘catholic,’ which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors” (section 6, end of chapter II) .

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I won’t say anything because the videos below say it all! Simply beautiful.

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Why confess to a priest if Christ is our only Mediator? Says the Protestant. Every Catholic should know the answer to this question. But if you still don’t know, then read this:

According to the RCC, the Sacrament in question is called the Sacrament of RECONCILIATION or PENANCE, not confession, as it is popularly called. Catholics believe that no priest, as an individual man, however pious or learned, has the power to forgive sins apart from God. However, the Priest in the confessional, after having performed the preparation for the Sacrament by reciting the formula of absolution, forgives the sins of the penitent in Persona Christi or the person of Christ, as though we were confessing to Jesus Himself.

“Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything,
I have done for your sakes, in the person of Christ.” 2Corinthians 2:10

Likewise, we see this at Holy Mass, when the Priest blesses the offerings of bread and wine and asks God the Father to accept them and through the Holy Spirit, transform the substance ( NOT the form, therefore, Transubstantiation Miracle) into the Body and Blood of Christ, as Jesus Himself did at the Last Supper, it is no longer him who is performing the miracle of the Transubstantiation, but Christ himself through the Priest.

I. The authority for this is explained in the Scripture.

Jesus Christ Granted the Apostles His Authority to Forgive Sins*

John 20:21 – before He grants them the authority to forgive sins, Jesus says to the apostles, “as the Father sent me, so I send you.” As Christ was sent by the Father to forgive sins and reconcile men with God, so Christ sends the apostles and their successors as ministers of reconciliantion.

John 20:22 – the Lord “breathes” on the apostles, and then gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. The only other moment in Scripture where God breathes on man is in Gen. 2:7, when the Lord “breathes” divine life into man. When this happens, a significant transformation takes place.

John 20:23 – Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In order for the apostles to exercise this gift of forgiving sins, the penitents must orally confess their sins to them or the apostles would not be able to forgive anyone. The text makes this very clear.

Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:5,10 – Christ forgave sins as man (not God) to convince us that the “Son of man” has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Luke 5:24 – Luke also points out that Jesus’ authority to forgive sins is as the Son of Man.  This authority has been transferred from Christ to the apostles and their successors.

Matt. 18:18 – the apostles are given authority to bind and loose. The authority to bind and loose includes administering and removing the temporal penalties due to sin. The Jews understood this since the birth of the Church.

2 Cor. 5:18 – the ministry of reconciliation was given to the ambassadors of the Church. This ministry of reconciliation refers to the sacrament of reconciliation, also called the sacrament of confession or penance.

James 5:15-16 – in verse 15 we see that sins are forgiven by the priests in the sacrament of the sick. This is another example of man’s authority to forgive sins on earth. Then in verse 16, James says “Therefore, confess our sins to one another,” in reference to the men referred to in verse 15, the priests of the Church.

1 Tim. 2:5 – Christ is the only mediator, but He was free to decide how His mediation would be applied to us. The Lord chose to use priests of God to carry out His work of forgiveness, the Church of Christ is one with Christ.

Lev. 5:4-6; 19:21-22 – even under the Old Covenant, God used priests to forgive and atone for the sins of others.

II. The Necessity and Practice of Orally Confessing Sins

James 5:16 – James clearly teaches us that we must “confess our sins to one another,” not just privately to God. James 5:16 must be read in the context of James 5:14-15, which is referring to the healing power (both physical and spiritual) of the priests of the Church. Hence, when James says “therefore” in verse 16, he must be referring to the men he was writing about in verses 14 and 15 – these men are the ordained priests of the Church, to whom we must confess our sins.

Acts 19:18 – many came to orally confess sins and divulge their sinful practices. Oral confession was the practice of the early Church just as it is today.

Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5 – again, this shows people confessing their sins before others as an historical practice (here to John the Baptist).

1 Tim. 6:12 – this verse also refers to the historical practice of confessing both faith and sins in the presence of many witnesses.

1 John 1:9 – if we confess are sins, God is faithful to us and forgives us and cleanse us. But we must confess our sins to one another.

Num. 5:7 – this shows the historical practice of publicly confessing sins, and making public restitution.

2 Sam. 12:14 – even though the sin is forgiven, there is punishment due for the forgiven sin. David is forgiven but his child was still taken (the consequence of his sin).

Neh. 9:2-3 – the Israelites stood before the assembly and confessed sins publicly and interceded for each other.

 

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Holy Eucharist

The testimony of Scripture and the Early Church is clear. When Jesus recited the prayers over the Passover bread and wine at the Last Supper, saying “This is my body” (Mt 26:17-30, Mk 14:12-26, Lk 22: 7-22), the Church has always believed that the Eucharistic the substance of the elements were transformed into his literal Body and Blood. This is called the transubstantiation miracle which happens daily at Mass all over the world.  The Catholic Church has been proclaiming the Eucharist mystery for the past 2000 years. 

The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all “thanksgiving.” 1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation.(Catholic Catechism)

I regret that so many Christians do not take literally this command of our Lord. Most denominations believe Jesus was talking figuratively and that  he never meant for us to receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at communion. So why do Catholics are so strict about this particular teaching of Jesus? I suppose the shortest answer to this is: Because that is what Jesus told us to do! 

But how do we know that the Apostolic teaching included faith in the Eucharist as Real Presence? The Scripture is clear, in 1Cor 11:27,28, written only twenty years after Jesus’ death, St. Paul tells us that the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper is so sacred that the person who partakes without examining his conscience, ‘sins against the body and blood of the Lord’, could even make himself ill. 

Further more, there are records of the early Fathers of the Church as well as Apostolic writings that attest to that the early Christians took literally Jesus’ teaching that “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). By examining these early writings, we discover that  the Eucharistic “traditions that you were taught” (2 Thes 2:15), are interpreted precisely the same way by the RCC of today as they were two millenia ago. 

So what did the Apostolic Fathers write about the Eucharist?

The Didache, 50 – 100 AD:

Also called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the Didache is a manual of catechetical instruction and liturgical procedure. It is the oldest existing document of Christian antiquity and it says: 

Consecrated Eucharist is sanctified: ‘Let no-one drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord, for concerning this also did the Lord say: “Do not give to dogs what is sacred” (Chapter 9).
“Upon us, however, you have bestowed spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your Servant”. (Chapter 10)
“If anyone is holy, let him advance [to the altar]; if anyone is not, let him be converted” (Ibid). 

Eucharistic Sacrifice:

“On the Lord’s Day (Sunday), assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks, but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure” (Chapter 14) 

St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, 35-107 AD

A disciple of the Apostle John, who wrote the letters to various local churches on his way to Rome to be thrown to the beasts i the arena. The letters reveal internal conditions of early Christian communities. 

“From the Eucharistic and prayer they [ Donastic heretics] hold aloof, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who suffered four our sins…And so, those who question the gift of God perish in their contentiousness” (Smyrnians,7). 

The Eucharist is “the medicine of immorality, the antidote against death, and everlasting life in Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 20:2). “Take care then, to partake of one Eucharist; for one is the Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood” (Philipians 4). “Let that Celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid wich is held under the  bishop or anyone to whom he has committed this” (Symerians, 8:1). 

Ever since the begining of Christianity, not only faith in the Eucharist and the Real Presence is explicitly expressed, but so is our own hierarchical Church structure, with the local bishop passing on his authority to the priest. There is a wealth of records that attest to the doctrine of the Eucharist in the  Catholic Church throughout its history, from as early as the first century, as shown above.  I used the writings of Daniel Gallilo “Christ Lies Here Slain” as a reference for this post, and would not hesitate to recomment it to those who are interested in further readings on the Holy Eucharist.  

Recent Eucharistic Miracle

It is well documented that various Eucharist Miracles have taken place in the history of the Church. I believe the most recent ones are those that have taken place through Julia Kim, a pious Catholic woman, who since the early 90’s has been involved in twelve Eucharistic miracles; of which the most recent one happened in February this year. These miracles are currently being investigated by the Vatican.  

Besides the mysterious events related to the Eucharist, Julia Kim is also known to occasionally feel the pains of the Crucifixion and tortures endured by Jesus, especially during Good Friday.

  

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But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’sbook of life. Rev 21:27

The word purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible in the same way that terms such as ‘Incarnation’, ‘Holy Trinity’ or even the word Bible, do not appear in the Scriptures. This, however, is no reason to deny the existence of a ‘purging place’, which is indeed mentioned in the Bible.

There are a few passages that indicate to us the existence of such a cleansing place, but let us take a look at 1 Cor 3:12-15, which unlike other biblical references to purgatory,  cannot be talked away by protestants. We will analyze  an excerpt from King James version, a popular protestant Bible translation.

12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If we look at this passage within the context of Chapter 3, we will notice that it addresses members of the Church of Christ, as  it deals with  Corinthians believers regarding their sinful actions, such as divisions and jealousy.  In chapter 3, Paul not only states that our works are rewarded, but he also deals with the quality of man’s works, for which each of us will be either rewarded or punished.

The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 1 Cor3:8

If we look at verse 15 in the same chapter, we have a man whose works have been judged and  burned, this man ‘suffers loss’ but is ultimately saved by fire. In order to clarify what this means we need to define what ‘suffer loss’ represents.  The expression ‘suffer loss’ is a form of the Greek word Zemio. Forms of this same Greek word also appear in the context of the Old Testament to mean PUNISHMENT [ Ex. 21:21, Proverbs 17:26, 19:19 , etc…].  This means that Zemio, translated in  1 Cor3:15 as ‘suffer loss’ can mean punishment. Therefore, 1Cor3:12-15 gives us a clear description of Purgatory because that is what Paul is referring to.  Even more so when we consider, as stated above, the context of the whole Chapter 3, where Paul rebukes the Corinthians believers for their bad works or sins.

 

 

 

Paul makes an analogy to the  quality of our works where gold, silver, precious stones represent a more perfect or better adherence to the Gospel of Christ and wood, straw and stubble which are burned and for which the man ‘suffers loss’ or ‘punishment’ but he is saved, yet so as by fire. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 3:12, the wood, hay and stubble (which are burned) signify the works of a man who has died in the state of justification and has been forgiven of any mortal sins he might have committed. He is therefore eventually saved, but he hasn’t made satisfaction for sins committed after baptism.

Christians understand that once a soul is condemned into hell it cannot be saved anymore. In this context, the Old Testament demonstrates that indeed Purgatory, which is the place where those who did justified by not yet purfied go,exists:

Psalm 49:15 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;  he will surely take me to himself.

 

The passages above agree perfectly with the Catholic teaching on Purgatory. The Catholic Council of Lyons II defined Purgatory this way:

Pope Gregory X,

Council of Lyons II, 1274: “Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death for purgatorial or purifying punishments….” (Denzinger 464)

A great example of a man who has been forgiven of his serious sin, but hasn’t made satisfaction for it, is found in the case of David. In 2nd Samuel 11 (2 Kings 11 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible), we read that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. David also had her husband killed. These are mortal sins. If David would have died in that state, he would have gone to Hell. 1 Cor. 6:9 shows us that no adulterers or murderers will enter Heaven. But David repented of his sin when convicted of it by Nathan in 2 Samuel 12.

2 Samuel 12:13- “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, the Lord hath forgiven thy sin, thou shalt not die.

The Lord took away David’s sin, and Nathan said that he would not die. This means that he would not eternally die. The guilt of the sin was forgiven because David truly repented and turned from it, but was that the end of it? No, full satisfaction for this mortal sin had not been made. We read in 2 Samuel 12:14-15 that David had to suffer the loss of his child to make satisfaction for his sin; a sin that had already been forgiven.

2 Samuel 12:14-15- “… because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.”

This provides undeniable proof that the guilt of a sin of a believer can be forgiven without the entire punishment being taken away. The Council of Trent put it this way:

Pope Julius III,

The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” David had to suffer the loss of his child to make satisfaction for his sin – a sin which had already been forgiven. because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.” Council of Trent, on the Sacrament of Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 8, Nov. 25, 1551- “… it is absolutely false and contrary to the word of God that the guilt [of a sin] is never forgiven by the Lord without the entire punishment also being remitted. For clear and illustrious examples are found in the Sacred Writings [cf. Gen. 3:16 f; Num. 12:14; Num 20:11; II Kings 12:13 f.; etc.].” (Denzinger 904)

There are various references to the existence of purgatory in the Old Testament, which I intent to discuss here, as well as other references in the New Testament, but as seen in 1 Cor 3:12-15, Purgatory was taught in Scripture and was believed by the earliest Christians. Why did the ancient Christians believe in Purgatory and prayers for the dead? It’s obviously not because this was a man-made doctrine, but because they clearly saw that it was taught in the Bible and was part of the Tradition received from the Apostles.

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Christ inaugurated the New Covenant to fulfill the Scriptures. The decision of  the Apostles to institute a new Sabbath lines up with what Christ taught them. Thus, the Catholic Church  must be loyal to this Tradition otherwise she would not be Apostolic.

Therefore, do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food or drink or observing festivals, new moons or Sabbaths.  These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col 2: 16-17)

But to answer this question we first must remember the authority given to the Apostles by Jesus, because it was the early church led by the apostles that first consecrated the first day of the week, Sunday, also known as the Lord’s Day, as the day of worship of the early Christians.

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

Through the authority given to the Apostles, the early Christians consecrated the First day of the week, Sunday, to the Lord. Hence, the first day of the week became the Lord’s Day and the New Sabbath, when Worship  and celebrations of Christ’s life and Resurrection would take place. This fact is reflected in many Latin languages in which the terms for Sunday come from the Latin Expression Dies Domini or the Day of the Lord, as opposed to ‘the day of the Sun’  as in English.

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying…” (Rev1:10)

It is important to note that Jesus’ Resurrection and His subsequent appearances to the gathered apostles happened on the first day of the week, Sunday. In fact, the Scriptures do not record any appearances on the Sabbath after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2 & 9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 & 19). Rather, Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were gathered together to pray and worship.

[…] And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Mk 16: 8

There are various scriptural evidence that the early Church celebrated the Eucharist (the Breaking of the Bread), listened to preaching and even took up collections for the church at their gatherings on Sunday, first day of the week. Here are some examples from the New Testament:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7)

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. (1 Cor. 16:2)

We also see that the Apostles and other disciples gathered for prayer and worship on the first day of the week when the Holy Spirit fell upon them on the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Sabbath (Acts 2:1).

Some people may argue that the ‘Breaking of the Bread’ was just a regular meal often shared amongst the Jews of the scriptures, and not a memorial celebration of the Last Supper, as commanded by Jesus Himself: ‘Do this in remembrance of me‘ (1Cor 11:24). But such view can  be easily dismissed when various passages  are interpreted together. We also need to consider that Jesus not only commanded to the apostles to do it in His memory, but he also promised that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again”. (1Cor 11:26).

Thus, the Scriptures say that ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’. (Acts 2: 40). The Bible also provides some striking evidence that the apostles, as well as the early Christians, considered the celebration of the breaking of the bread to be a true participation in the blood and body of Christ.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1Cor 10: 14-17).

The breaking of the bread was not a ’regular’ meal shared by the congregation. St. Paul was careful enough to give directions to the first Christians on how to approach the Lord’s Supper and warned them about the judgement that those who participated in it unworthily would receive.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, because as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! (1 Cor. 11:17-22)

“Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27).

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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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And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:(Ephesians 4:11-12)

Pope Benedict XVI leads a consistory to canonize five new saints

 Most non-Catholics  wonder why the Catholic Church is structured the way it is, as they question the clergy’s authority or whether priests and bishops are necessary at all.  Obviously, this is not the view of the majority of traditional Catholics, but it would be foolish to assume that all Catholics understand what are the basis for how the Church is organized. Some people are not sure about the diferences between the structural model adopted by most Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church.     

The Catholic Church has preserved what is called the Fidei Depositum, or the ‘Deposit of Faith’ ( 1 Timothy 2:5-7 and 2 Tim 1:14, NAB) that Jesus passed on orally to his Apostles – as was his command to perpetuate the liturgical ritual brought about this supernatural wonder. Along with his instructions, Jesus imparte to the Twelve his own authority to teach and preach:    

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:18-19).   

Therefore, Apostolic bishops such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were all successors of the chosen Twelve through the laying of hands (1 Tim 4:14). They inherited this same authority to proclaim the Gospel and guard the authentic repository of doctrine after the Apostles had died and which has been passed on to the present days.    

 11Command and teach these things. 12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you (1 Tim 4:10-14).   

Below are some additional Scriptural references that might shed some light onto these questions, and help us understand why the Catholic Church  keeps the tradition of  the Apostolic Succession:     

20“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ” ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’[b] and,” ‘May another take his place of leadership.[c] 21Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”     

 23So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:20-26)     

The above is a reference to the appointment a new apostle to  succeed Judas, who, as we know,  died after he had betrayed Jesus. Then we also have references as to the role of the apostles as careers of the Christian community:     

6We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. (1Thessalonians 2:6-7)     

Or     

28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.[a] Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. ( Acts 20:28)     

 1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,[a] he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. 8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. (1 Timothy 3:1-8)     

10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.  (Ephesians 4:10-12)     

[a] The word overseers is a translation of the lexic Episcopos, the Greek root for Bishops.

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Firstly, I would like to state that most of the thoughts and references posted in this entry,  are either based on or refer to the writings of a former Protestant Minister and author, Paul Whitcomb, who after several years of Bible Study and spiritual ‘search’ converted to Catholicism.

Mr. Whitcomb is a profound studious of the Holy Scriptures and his insights on Catholicism can be very valuable to those looking to understand the Psyche of a Catholic, but most of all they provide an incredible understanding of the Catholic Faith. I believe also that his work can provide very plausible answers to many, if not all, of the most common misunderstandings and prejudice against the Catholic Church.

Yes, we Catholics have to deal with a lot of questioning and criticism. I do not intent to ‘convert’ anyone, rather my goal with this section of the blog is to explain my Faith as best as I can. I realize that some of the issues I intend to write about in this space are controversial and sensitive.  However, I hope that anyone reading these posts will not be tempted to ‘draw hasty conclusions, but read on’ before they can sincerely make an opinion, which hopefully will be based on facts and not in preconceived ideas.

(more…)

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