Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jesus Among Other Gods

The author, Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias, is an Indian-born, Canadian-American Christian apologist and evangelist. Ravi Zacharias is the author of numerous Christian books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner Can Man Live Without God ?




Don't all religions teach the same thing ?




Many religions claiming to be the true path



When Pope John Paul II called for a massive "new evangelisation" of Asia during a November 1999 visit to India, his comments sparked protest from Hindus for whom proselytising is a form of oppression. The debate underscored the sharp difference between Western creeds such as Christianity and Islam, which tend to be exclusive, and Eastern religions that stress pluralism.

The reality is that if religion is to be treated with intellectual respect, then it must stand the test of truth, regardless of the mood of the day. This book is a defense of the uniqueness of the Christian message.

In this book Ravi Zacharias explains how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Ravi Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives. This book contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.

In Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias examines the truly unique message of Jesus in distinction to other major religions of the world. Is Jesus Christ really that different from other religious teachers ? Aren't all the major religions basically the same ? Ravi Zacharias looks at 6 vital questions that Jesus answered in a way that no other claimant to divine or prophetic status would have answered. Some may resist Jesus' answers, but antagonists will not be able to challenge his uniqueness.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

12 Claims Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer

By Deal Hudson

Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at an unavoidable price: When citizens are free to say what they want, they’ll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things. And that’s the case with the 12 claims we’re about to cover.

Some of them are made over and over, others are rare. Either way, while the proponents of these errors are free to promote them, we as Catholics have a duty to respond.

1. “There’s no such thing as absolute truth. What’s true for you may not be true for me.”

People use this argument a lot when they disagree with a statement and have no other way to support their idea. After all, if nothing is true for everyone, then they can believe whatever they want and there’s nothing you can say to make them change their minds.

But look at that statement again: “There’s no such thing as absolute truth.” Isn’t that, in itself, a statement that’s being made absolutely? In other words, it applies some rule or standard to everyone across the board — exactly what the relativists say is impossible. They have undone their own argument simply by stating their case.

The other problem with this statement is that no relativist actually believes it. If someone said to you, “There is no absolute truth,” and you punched him in the stomach, he’d probably get upset. But by his own creed, he’d have to accept that while punching someone in the stomach may be wrong for him, it might not be wrong for you.

This is when they’ll come back with an amendment to the original statement by saying, “As long as you’re not hurting others, you’re free to do and believe what you like.” But this is an arbitrary distinction (as well as another absolute statement). Who says I can’t hurt others? What constitutes “hurt”? Where does this rule come from?

If this statement is made based on personal preference, it means nothing for anyone else. “Do no harm” is in itself an appeal to something greater — a sort of universal dignity for the human person. But again, the question is where does this dignity come from?

As you can see, the further you delve into these questions, the closer you come to understanding that our concepts of right and truth are not arbitrary but are based in some greater, universal truth outside ourselves — a truth written in the very nature of our being. We may not know it in its entirety, but it can’t be denied that this truth exists.


2. “Christianity is no better than any other faith. All religions lead to God.”

If you haven’t heard this one a dozen times, you don’t get out much. Sadly enough, the person making this claim is often himself a Christian (at least, in name).

The problems with this view are pretty straightforward. Christianity makes a series of claims about God and man: That Jesus of Nazareth was God Himself, and that he died and was resurrected — all so that we might be free from our sins. Every other religion in the world denies each of these points. So, if Christianity is correct, then it speaks a vital truth to the world — a truth that all other religions reject.

This alone makes Christianity unique.

But it doesn’t end there. Recall Jesus’ statement in John’s Gospel:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” In Christianity, we have God’s full revelation to humanity. It’s true that all religions contain some measure of truth — the amount varying with the religion. Nevertheless, if we earnestly want to follow and worship God, shouldn’t we do it in the way He prescribed?

If Jesus is indeed God, then only Christianity contains the fullness of this truth.


3. “The Old and New Testaments contradict one another in numerous places. If an omnipotent God inspired the Bible, He would never have allowed these errors.”

This is a common claim, one found all over the internet (especially on atheist and free-thought websites). An article on the American Atheists website notes that “What is incredible about the Bible is not its divine authorship; it’s that such a concoction of contradictory nonsense could be believed by anyone to have been written by an omniscient God.”

Such a statement is generally followed by a list of Biblical “contradictions.” However, claims of contradictions make a few simple errors. For example, critics fail to read the various books of the Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. The Bible is, after all, a collection of several kinds of writing...history, theology, poetry, apocalyptic material, etc. If we try to read these books in the same wooden way in which we approach a modern newspaper, we’re going to be awfully confused.

And the list of Bible “contradictions” bears this out. Take, for example, the first item on the American Atheist’s list:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

Versus...

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5

There! the atheist cries, A clear contradiction. But what the critic neglects to mention is something every Christian knows: When Christ instituted the New Covenant, the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant were fulfilled (and passed away). And so it makes perfect sense that Old Testament ceremonial rules would no longer stand for the people of the New Covenant.

If the critic had understood this simple tenet of Christianity, he wouldn’t have fallen into so basic an error.

The next item on the American Atheist list is similarly flawed:

“...the earth abideth for ever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4

Versus...

“...the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

So, the Old Testament claims that the earth will last forever, while the New says it will eventually be destroyed. How do we harmonize these? Actually, it’s pretty easy, and it again comes from understanding the genre in which these two books were written.

Ecclesiastes, for example, contrasts secular and religious worldviews — and most of it is written from a secular viewpoint. That’s why we find lines like, “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)

However, at the end of the book, the writer throws us a twist, dispensing with all the “wisdom” he’d offered and telling us to “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)

If a reader stops before the end, he’ll be as confused as the critic at American Atheists. However, since the viewpoint that gave birth to the notion of an eternal earth is rejected in the last lines of the book, there’s obviously no contradiction with what was later revealed in the New Testament. (And this is just one way to answer this alleged discrepancy.)

The other “contradictions” between the Old and New Testaments can be answered similarly. Almost to an item, the critics who use them confuse context, ignore genre, and refuse to allow room for reasonable interpretation.

No thinking Christian should be disturbed by these lists.


4. “I don’t need to go to Church. As long as I’m a good person, that’s all that really matters.”

This argument is used often, and is pretty disingenuous. When someone says he’s a “good person,” what he really means is that he’s “not a bad person” — bad people being those who murder, rape, and steal. Most people don’t have to extend a lot of effort to avoid these sins, and that’s the idea: We want to do the least amount of work necessary just to get us by. Not very Christ-like, is it?

But that mentality aside, there’s a much more important reason why Catholics go to Church other than just as an exercise in going the extra mile. Mass is the cornerstone of our faith life because of what lies at its heart: the Eucharist. It’s the source of all life for Catholics, who believe that bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. It’s not just a symbol of God, but God made physically present to us in a way we don’t experience through prayer alone.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54). We’re honoring Jesus’ command and trusting in that promise every time we go to Mass.

What’s more, the Eucharist — along with all the other Sacraments — is only available to those in the Church. As members of the Church, Christ’s visible body here on earth, our lives are intimately tied up with the lives of others in that Church. Our personal relationship with God is vital, but we also have a responsibility to live as faithful members of Christ’s body. Just being a “good person” isn’t enough.


5. “You don’t need to confess your sins to a priest. You can go straight to God.”

As a former Baptist minister, I can understand the Protestant objection to confession (they have a different understanding of priesthood). But for a Catholic to say something like this...it’s disappointing. I suspect that, human nature being what it is, people just don’t like telling other people their sins, and so they come up with justifications for not doing so.

The Sacrament of Confession has been with us from the beginning, coming from the words of Christ Himself:

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

Notice that Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sins. Of course, they wouldn’t know which sins to forgive if they weren’t told what sins were involved.

The practice of confession is also evident in the Letter Of James:

“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:14-16)

It’s interesting that nowhere does James (or Jesus) tell us to confess our sins to God alone. Rather, they seem to think that forgiveness comes through some means of public confession.

And it’s not difficult to understand why. You see, when we sin, we rupture our relationship not just with God, but with His Body, the Church (since all Catholics are interconnected as children of a common Father). So when we apologize, we need to do so to all parties involved — God and the Church.

Think of it this way. Imagine you walk into a store and steal some of their merchandise. Later, you feel remorse and regret the sinful act. Now, you can pray to God to forgive you for breaking His commandment. But there’s still another party involved; you’ll need to return the merchandise and make restitution for your action.

It’s the same way with the Church. In the confessional, the priest represents God and the Church, since we’ve sinned against both. And when he pronounces the words of absolution, our forgiveness is complete.


6. “If the Church truly followed Jesus, they’d sell their lavish art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor.”

When some people think of Vatican City, what they immediately picture is something like a wealthy kingdom, complete with palatial living accommodations for the pope and chests of gold tucked away in every corner, not to mention the fabulous collection of priceless art and artifacts. Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see how some people would become indignant at what they think is an ostentatious and wasteful show of wealth.

But the truth is something quite different. While the main buildings are called the “Vatican Palace,” it wasn’t built to be the lavish living quarters of the pope. In fact, the residential part of the Vatican is relatively small. The greater portion of the Vatican is given over to purposes of art and science, administration of the Church’s official business, and management of the Palace in general. Quite a number of Church and administrative officials live in the Vatican with the pope, making it more like the Church’s main headquarters.

As for the impressive art collection, truly one of the finest in the world, the Vatican views it as “an irreplaceable treasure,” but not in monetary terms. The pope doesn’t “own” these works of art and couldn’t sell them if he wanted to; they’re merely in the care of the Holy See. The art doesn’t even provide the Church with wealth; actually, it’s just the opposite. The Holy See invests quite a bit of its resources into the upkeep of the collection.

The truth of the matter is that the See has a fairly tight financial budget. So why keep the art? It goes back to a belief in the Church’s mission (one of many) as a civilizing force in the world. Just like the medieval monks who carefully transcribed ancient texts so they would be available to future generations — texts that otherwise would have been lost forever — the Church continues to care for the arts so they will not be forgotten over time. In today’s culture of death where the term “civilization” can only be used loosely, the Church’s civilizing mission is as important today as it ever was.


7. “Dissent is actually a positive thing, since we should all keep our minds open to new ideas.”

You might hear this argument a lot today, especially in the wake of the abuse scandal in the Church. Everyone wants to find a solution to the problem, and in doing so some people are advocating ideas that are outside the pale of our Catholic faith (i.e., women priests, being open to homosexuality, etc). A lot of people blame the Church for being too rigid in its beliefs and not wanting to try anything new.

The truth is, a lot of the ideas for reform that are floating around today aren’t new. They’ve been around for a while, and the Church has already considered them. In fact, the Church has spent its entire life carefully examining ideas and determining which ones are in line with God’s law and which aren’t. It has discarded heresy after heresy while carefully building up the tenets of the Faith. It should come as no surprise that there are thousands of other Christian churches in existence today — all of them had “new ideas” at one point that the Church had decided were outside the deposit of faith.

The Church has an important responsibility in protecting the integrity of our Faith. It never rejects ideas out of hand, as some dissenters would claim, but has two thousand years of prayer and study behind the beliefs it holds to be true.

This doesn’t mean that we can never disagree on anything. There’s always room to discuss how best to deepen our understanding of the truth — for example, how we can improve our seminaries or clergy/lay interactions — all within the guidelines of our Faith.


8. “Properly interpreted, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Rather, it weighs against promiscuity — whether homosexual or heterosexual. Therefore, we have no reason to oppose loving homosexual relationships.”

As homosexual activity gains greater acceptance in our culture, there’ll be more pressure among Christians to explain away the Bible’s clear prohibition against it. It’s now the standard liberal party line to claim that the Bible — when understood correctly — doesn’t disallow homosexual activity.

But this claim flies in the face of clear passages in both the Old and New Testaments. The first, of course, is the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you recall, two angels were sent by God to Sodom to visit Lot:

“But before [the angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’ Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ But they said, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door.” (Genesis 19:4-10)

The message of this passage is pretty clear. The men of Sodom were homosexuals who wanted to have relations with the men inside the house. Lot offered them his daughters, but they weren’t interested. Shortly thereafter, Sodom was destroyed by God in payment for the sins of its people — namely, their homosexual acts. This fact is confirmed in the New Testament:

“Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)

But these certainly aren’t the only passages in the Bible that condemn gay activity. The Old Testament contains another unambiguous condemnation: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22).

And these statements aren’t reserved to the Old Testament alone.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)

It’s awfully hard for a liberal Christian to explain this away. There’s simply no mention here merely of gay promiscuity or rape; rather, Paul is weighing against any homosexual relations (which he describes as “unnatural,” “shameless” and “dishonorable”).

Liberal Christians are in a bind. How, after all, does one harmonize homosexuality with the Bible? Their solution, it appears, is to strip the Bible of its moral power, and run in rhetorical circles trying to escape its clear message.


9. “Catholics should follow their conscience in all things...whether it’s abortion, birth control, or women’s ordination.”

It’s true — the Catechism says quite plainly, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’” (1782). This teaching is at the heart of what it means to have free will.

But that doesn’t mean that our conscience is free from all responsibility or can be ignorant of God’s law. This is what the Catechism refers to as having a “well-formed conscience.”

The Catechism assigns great responsibility to a person’s conscience:

“Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil.... It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (1777).

In other words, our conscience isn’t just “what we feel is right”; it’s what we judge to be right based on what we know of the teachings of God and the Church. And in order to make that judgment, we have a responsibility to study and pray over these teachings very carefully. The Catechism has a section dedicated entirely to the careful formation of our conscience — that’s how important it is in making right decisions.

And in the end, whether right or wrong, we’re still held accountable for our actions: “Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed” (1781). When properly formed, it helps us to see when we’ve done wrong and require forgiveness of our sins.

By seeking a fully-formed conscience, we actually experience great freedom, because we’re drawing closer to God’s infinite Truth. It’s not a burden or something that keeps us from doing what we want; it’s a guide to help us do what is right. “The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart” (1784).


10. “Natural Family Planning is just the Catholic version of birth control.”

Natural Family Planning (NFP) has enemies on all sides. Some believe that it’s an unrealistic alternative to birth control (which they don’t think is sinful anyway) while others think that it’s just as bad as birth control. NFP has had to walk a fine line between both extremes.

First of all, the main problem with birth control is that it works against the nature of our bodies — and nature in general. It aims to sever the act (sex) from its consequence (pregnancy), basically reducing the sacredness of sex to the mere pursuit of pleasure.

NFP, when used for the right reason, is more of a tool used for discerning whether a couple has the means (whether financially, physically, or emotionally) to accept a child into their lives. It involves understanding your own body, taking careful stock of your situation in life, discussing the issue with your spouse, and, above all, prayer. Rather than cutting yourself off from the full reality of sex, you are entering into it with a better understanding of all aspects involved.

People who favor birth control point to those people who can’t afford more children, or whose health might be at risk from further pregnancies. But these are perfectly legitimate reasons to use NFP — situations where it would be perfectly effective — and the Church allows its use.

Other people think that taking any sort of control over the size of your family is like playing God, rather than letting Him provide for us as He sees fit. It’s true that we must trust God and always accept the lives He sends us, but we don’t need to be completely hands-off in that regard.

For example, rather than throwing money around and saying that “God will provide,” families carefully budget their finances and try not to overextend their means. NFP is like that budget, helping us prayerfully consider our situation in life and act accordingly. It’s part of our nature as humans to understand ourselves and use our intellect and free will, rather than passively expecting God to take care of everything. We’re called to be good stewards of the gifts we’re given; we must be careful never to treat those gifts carelessly.


11. “Someone can be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time.”

While this may be one of the most common myths Catholics hold regarding their faith, it’s also one of the most easily dispelled. The Catechism minces no words when talking about abortion: It’s listed with homicide under crimes against the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

The following passages make this clear: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270). “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (2271). “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (2272).

It can’t be stated more plainly than that. Some people might argue, however, that being “pro-choice” doesn’t mean being in favor of abortion; lots of people think abortion is wrong but don’t want to force that opinion on others.

There’s that “what’s true for you might not be true for me” argument again. The Church has an answer to that, too: “’The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin’” (2273).

The sanctity of life is a universal truth that can never be ignored. Advising someone to get an abortion, or even voting for a politician who would advance the cause of abortion, is a grave sin, because it leads others to mortal sin — what the Catechism calls giving scandal (2284).

The Church stands forcefully and clearly against abortion, and we as Catholics must take our stand as well.


12. “People’s memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation is true...and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not.”

As society becomes increasingly fascinated with the paranormal, we can expect to see claims of “past life memories” increase. Indeed, there are now organizations who will help take you through your previous lives using hypnosis.

While this may be convincing to some, it certainly isn’t to anyone familiar with the mechanics of hypnosis. Almost since the beginning, researchers have noted that patients in deep hypnosis frequently weave elaborate stories and memories, which later turn out to be utterly untrue. Reputable therapists are well aware of this phenomenon, and weigh carefully what the patient says under hypnosis.

Sadly, though, this isn’t the case with those interested in finding “proof” for reincarnation. Perhaps the greatest example of this carelessness is the famous Bridey Murphy case. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick outline: In 1952, a Colorado housewife named Virginia Tighe was put under hypnosis. She began speaking in an Irish brogue and claimed to once have been a woman named Bridey Murphy who had lived in Cork, Ireland.

Her story was turned into a bestselling book, “The Search For Bridey Murphy,” and received much popular attention. Journalists combed Ireland, looking for any person or detail that might confirm the truth of this past-life regression. While nothing ever turned up, the case of Bridey Murphy continues to be used to buttress claims of reincarnation.

That’s a shame, since Virginia Tighe was exposed as a fraud decades ago. Consider: Virginia’s childhood friends recalled her active imagination, and ability to concoct complex stories (often centered around the imitation brogue she had perfected). Not only that, but she had a great fondness for Ireland, due in part to a friendship with an Irish woman whose maiden name was — you guessed it — Bridie.

What’s more, Virginia filled her hypnosis narratives with numerous elements from her own life (without revealing the parallels to the hypnotist). For example, Bridey described an “Uncle Plazz,” which eager researchers took to be a corruption of the Gaelic, “Uncle Blaise.” Their enthusiasm ran out though when it was discovered that Virginia had a childhood friend she called "Uncle Plazz."

When a hypnotized Virginia began dancing an Irish jig, researchers were astounded. How, after all, would a Colorado housewife have learned the jig? The mystery was solved when it was revealed that Virginia learned the dance as a child.

As the Bridey Murphy case shows, the claims of past-life regression are always more impressive than the reality. To this day, not a single verifiable example exists of a person being regressed to a former life. Certainly, many tales have been told under the control of a hypnotist, but nevertheless, evidence for reincarnation (like that for the Tooth Fairy) continues to elude us.

Source: Catholic Education Resource Center

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pastor's Business Card

A new pastor was visiting in the homes of his parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door.

Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote 'Revelation 3:20' on the back of it and stuck it in the door.

When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, 'Genesis 3:10..'

Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter. Revelation 3:20 begins 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.' Genesis 3:10 reads, 'I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked.'

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Are Catholics, Christians ?



This is one of the most ridiculous question asked about Christianity. This is similar to asking: are Caucasians, Americans ? or Are Mercedes Benz, cars ?

The people who commonly assert that Catholics are not Christians are basically from "new Christians denominations" particularly the Evangelical Christians.

Read what David MacDonald of Catholic Bridge wrote about this issue:

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Evangelicals who assert that Catholics are not Christian will have a hard time standing on that, because they accept the authority of the Catholic Church every time they pick up the Bible. The history of the Bible is here.

Any time spent studying the Church Fathers will make it abundantly clear that early Christian beliefs were Catholic. Their complete unity over the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is only one example.

Why call yourselves Catholic, and not simply Christian ?

I could ask the same question, "why do Baptists, Pentecostals, United, Methodist, or even nondenominational communities use those words and not simply say Christian?" The word Catholic was used by the year 110 A.D. to distinguish the Church of the Apostles from heretical teachings. St. Ignatius of Antioch, was a disciple of St. John, along with St.Polycarp. The Church historian Theodoret says Ignatius was consecrated bishop by St.Peter,the apostle, who was the first bishop of Antioch before returning to Rome.

Ignatius was martyred in Rome under Emperor Trajan's rule. It was during the journey to Rome that he wrote his famous letters that contain invaluable information about the early Church. He was the first to document the term "Catholic" in it's current form to describe the Church. It means universal. Ignatius' use of the word shows it was in common use. His is the earliest extant writing which has "ekklesia katholicos" where Catholic is an adjective modifying "Church" in the nominative. In Acts 5:11 and 15:22 we find "holen ten ekklesian." It is derivative of the same root as katholicos and is in the nominative and is translated as "The Whole Church" and then in Acts 9:21 we find εκκλησια καθ'ολης (ekklesia kathholes) and here Catholic is also an adjective, but it does not modify "Church" because it is in the wrong case but rather modifies the words following. Best translated as "the Church throughout the whole of..."

Catholic, referring to the Whole Church was a term in common use at the time but Ignatius' writing is simply the oldest still existing text which contains a specific form of the phrase we still use today as a proper name. That of "ekklesia katholicos," which means "Universal Church". The terms "holen ten ekklesian" which means "The Whole Church" and "ekklesia kathholes"which means "The Church throughout the whole of" were also in use, and by the Apostles no less.

The Catholic Church defined the "Trinity" and fought the heresy of "Arianism"

In 325 A.D., the Catholic Church discerned the Holy Spirit's voice for the doctrine of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three person's in one). Yup, "Trinity" is a Catholic doctrine that predates the Evangelical community by 1200 years. That word isn't even in the Bible. The Catholic Church protected Christianity from the Arian heresy that almost gutted Christianity in the 4th century when many began to believe Jesus wasn't "fully God" and "fully human."

The Catholic Church protected the Bible

The Catholic Church protected the Bible across the ages until the Gutenberg press was invented. Century after century, Monks in Monasteries faithfully copied Scripture. It would take each monk ten years to copy one Bible and thousands of faithful Catholics dedicated their lives to this work. Catholics protected the Bible over the centuries of wars, famines, plaques, the fall of Rome,
fires, and threats from all sides. This was long before any other denomination existed.

The Catholic Church chose which books to include in the Bible

In the Synod's of Hippo (393 AD) and confirmed it at Carthage (397 AD).
The non-Catholic Bible scholar Peter Flint, who won "best popular book" from the Biblical Archeology Society for his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, tells us that there was no Bible until 397's when the Catholic Church decided on what books belong there. Before that there were hundreds of letters and the Septuagint.

"Without the Catholic Church you have no Bible!"
(Peter Flint - Protestant translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls)

The history of the decisions for books to include in the Bible is here.

Even the word Bible is not in the Bible. It was coined by Catholics. It means books from the Greek word βυβλος-byblos meaning "papyrus", from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos which exported papyrus, the "paper" of the day. We love the Bible. Honest !

Do Evangelicals have a direct connection to the early Church independent of Catholicism ?

The modern Evangelical movement is a result of numerous splits that occured after the Reformation, in the 1500's. The only other Church not to be in union with Rome before that was the Orthodox Church which split off in 1054 A.D. There were also various heresies that came and went, such as Arianism that said Jesus was not fully human AND fully God.

Some Evangelicals claim they have a direct connection to the early Church of the first centuries that bypasses Catholicism. If that is so, I would think the beliefs of modern Evangelicals would reflect the beliefs of the early Church. However, any time spent studying the Church Fathers will make it abundantly clear that early Christian beliefs were Catholic. The Church Fathers believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, honoured Mary, had elaborate ceremonies, prayed for the dead, respected the Church hierarchy, baptized babies, appointed bishops, recognized Peter as the Rock, built the Church upon him with successors and followed a rich tradition of Christianity. That was the Christianity of the early days, and is the Catholic Church of today. A timeline of the Catholic Church from 1-500 A.D. is here. Beginning with the apostles, century after century, Catholics died so that Christ's message would reach the nations. Yes, we are Christians, the originals.

Whether or not someone agrees with Catholic doctrine is their prerogative. But all who look at history will admit that Catholics are clearly Christian. "No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3)

Jesus has called Christians to unity "that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I am in you." (Jn 17:21) I hope we can love one another as He has loved us. (Jn 13:34).

Jesus Christ is Lord of all. If you have never made a personal decision for Christ, I beg you to do so now. It was the best thing I ever did. Here is an article that shows you how to do that.

...read more here.

Also watch these videos: Why The Catholic Church Is The True Church Of Jesus Christ

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Chris Patten

Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, better known as Chris Patten or Lord Patten, is a British Conservative politician and was Conservative Party Chairman and last British Governor of Hong Kong.

Chris Patten, a Catholic, was appointed by the British government to oversee the planning for the September 2010 Apostolic Journey to Great Britain by Pope Benedict XVI. With the Duke of Edinburgh he met the pontiff on his arrival at Edinburgh airport on 16 September.

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St. Jude Thaddaeus

St Jude Thaddaeus (aka St Judas), was a brother of St James the Less, and a relative of Jesus. St Jude was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

According to tradition, Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. He is also said to have visited Beirut and Edessa, though the emissary of latter mission is also identified as Thaddeus of Edessa, one of the Seventy. Jude is reported as suffering martyrdom together with Simon the Zealot in Persia. The 14th century writer Nicephorus Callistus wrote that St. Jude was the bridegroom at the wedding at Cana.

Legend says, St. Jude was a son of Clopas, the brother of St. Joseph and his mother Mary, is the sister of the Virgin Mary. St. Jude is therefore the cousin of Jesus. Tradition has it that St. Jude's father, Clopas, was murdered because of his forthright and outspoken devotion to the risen Christ.

Because he has a similar name as the traitor, Judas Iscariot, people were confused between the two apostles and were apprehensive about venerating St. Jude for the first few centuries AD. However, for the last 700 hundreds of years or so, St. Jude has been venerated by the Church as patron Saint for desperate cases.

St. Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand or close to his chest, betokening the legend of the Image of Edessa. Additionally, St. Jude is often depicted with a flame above his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles.

According to legend King Abgar of Edessa (a city located in what is now southeast Turkey) asked Jesus to cure him of leprosy and sent an artist to bring him a drawing of Jesus. Impressed with Abgar's great faith, Jesus pressed his face into a cloth and gave it to St. Jude to take to Abgar. Upon seeing Jesus' image, The King was cured and he converted to Christianity along with most of the people under his rule.

He is believed to have been martyred in Persia or Syria around 65 A.D. The axe or club that he is often shown holding in pictures symbolizes the way in which he was killed. After his death his body was brought back to Rome and was placed in a crypt beneath St. Peter's Basilica which is visited by many devotees until this day.

Devotion to Saint Jude began again in earnest in the 19th century, starting in Italy and Spain, spreading to South America, and finally to the U.S. (starting in the area around Chicago) owing to the influence of the Claretians and the Dominicans in the 1920s. Novena prayers to St. Jude helped millions of people, especially newly arrived immigrants from Europe, deal with the pressures caused by the Great Depression, World War II, and the changing workplace and family life.

St. Jude's feast day is October 28th (Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church) and June 19th (Eastern Orthodox Church).

A novena to St. Jude is said for 9 consecutive days:

Prayer

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honours and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of.

Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of.

Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that

I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be mindful of this great favour, to always honour you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

"Saint Jude, Hope for the hopeless, Pray for me"

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

[You should then follow your St. Jude prayer by saying 3 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary, and 3 Gloria prayers.]

Millions of people around the world have claimed to be assisted by Apostle St. Jude. Pray in confidence to this great Apostle and friend of Jesus for his intercession.

Read testimonials of prayers answered here and here. You'd be able to find many more testimonies attributed to St. Jude, online. I have also personally benefited many times from the intercession of St. Jude.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spiritual Warfare And The Armour Of God

Picture from The Word Forever

Teresa Davies meditates on the meaning of Ephesians 6 and what it means for our every day life as Christians.

St Paul tells us that our enemies are not flesh and blood but the "powers and principalities" and he stresses the importance of spiritual warfare in the Christian life, but what does this mean in practice?

In Ephesians chapter 6 he advises us to 'Be strong in the Lord with His energy and strength. Put on the whole armour of God to be able to resist the cunning of the devil. Take truth as your belt, justice as your breastplate, and zeal as your shoes to propagate the Gospel of peace. Always hold in your hand the shield of faith, to repel the flaming arrows of the devil. Finally, use the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God. Pray at all times, as the Spirit inspires you".

Some people take these words very seriously and every morning visualise putting on these various attributes to protect them from the evil one. This can be helpful for some, but the real protection doesn't come so much from saying a special formula, as developing and incarnating the attitudes and behaviour that the words describe in our lives.

1 - Take truth as your belt: Speaking the truth in love can be very hard, particularly if we dislike confrontation and try always to say something placating. We may recognise that we need to change in this area and we can do this by daily asking the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and wisdom (and the words), so that we may speak the truth in love, avoid the lie or the half-truth, and also become willing to hear someone else's truth about ourselves without taking offence. As this begins to happen, we will soon be wearing the belt of truth all the time, and, as it grows in size, so our spirits will quickly recognise lies and half-truths and we will grow in the gift of discernment.

2 - Justice (righteousness/integrity) as your breastplate: If we try to keep a short account with the Lord, by having a daily time of taking stock and repenting when necessary, making right what needs to be put right, and using the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, we will lose any guilt and shame that we carry and will soon be wearing the breastplate of justice all the time. This means that, as it grows in size, we will be able to approach the throne of the Father with our heads up, and our prayer will be full of confidence and faith.

3 - Zeal as your shoes to propagate the Gospel of peace: If we are to become always prepared to give an account of the 'hope that is in us'; if we are convinced that Jesus is the answer to most questions; if we are ready to share the Good News of all that Jesus has done in our lives, and bring peace to the spirit of anyone hungry enough to ask, we will soon be wearing the shoes of the gospel of peace all the time.

4 - Always hold in your hand the shield of faith to repel the flaming arrows of the devil: How do we grow in faith, and faith in what? The devil tries to undermine our faith and our joy in so many sneaky little ways. Something that has helped me has been the practice of writing out relevant promises of God that are found in scripture. Growing in faith, I believe, means growing in the confidence that God has me in the palm of His hand and that, whenever possible, His answer to my requests will be 'Yes'. These scriptures feed my spirit in the same way that a good sandwich feeds my body. Just four of these promises, out of the hundreds in the Bible, are: Deut. 28:1-8, Jeremiah 29: 11-12, Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4: 6-8. I have found that writing these out and saying them aloud each day has simply changed my outlook and my expectation. I recommend 'aloud' because, as well as using my mind and my vocal chords, the words can also touch my ears and heart at the same time. We will soon enter each day with greater confidence and an increase in faith in God's love and purpose for us and so we will wear a growing shield of faith at all times.

5 - Finally, use the helmet of salvation. The helmet covers the head and therefore the brain. What we choose to believe and how we think about ourselves is very important in our life of faith. Knowing that we are 'saved', i.e., believing God's truth that I am His adopted child and that He chose me before the world was made (Ephesians 1: 3-5), brings a great sense of peace, belonging and safety. This is particularly needed when we feel or have been told that our birth was an 'accident' or a mistake, or on days when we feel that everything is conspiring against us. Here again, the scriptures teach us the truth and give us something to cling on to. If we attempt to live in this truth, we will soon always be wearing an ever-stronger helmet of salvation and doubt will flee.

5 - ...and the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God. It is not a wise move to put on a sword unless you know how to use it and are prepared to do so. Knowing and speaking out the promises of God gives you the 'fencing practice' you need in order to wield this sword effectively, whenever necessary. The Word of God addressed to a situation is of great power, for we are told that it never returns idle, but accomplishes all that God intends, Isaiah 55:11. When Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, we are told that His defence against Satan was to speak out the Word of God.

A further interpretation of wielding the sword of the Spirit is our preparedness to go into battle when necessary against the wiles and plans of the enemy, whether by praying for healing for a sick friend - instead of simply offering sympathy, praying the Rosary to invite Our Lady's intercession in a time of need, or by prayerfully standing your ground in full confidence that the Lord is with you when under attack. Soon, you won't even notice that you are wearing this ever more-sharpened sword and you will use it effectively.

Pray at all times, as the Spirit inspires you. The one thing that encourages the growth and strength of each of these items of spiritual Armour is prayer, particularly prayer under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Holding our ground against the devil's tactics is spiritual warfare, and we often get dragged into this, whether we want to or not, if we are involved in charismatic prayer groups. Perhaps the daily practice of 'putting on the Armour of God' is more reminding ourselves of the spiritual weapons that have grown to be part of us - and which can grow stronger as we grow in faith. Knowing who we are in Christ, knowing that God is on our side (or, more importantly, that we are on God's side and that the battle is already won!), knowing what scripture leads us to claim both for ourselves and for others, are mighty weapons and their growth means that we can engage the enemy with confidence.

Source: Good News

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PriestVille


PriestVille is not only a facebook game but also a tool for learning a bit about Catholicism and the life of a Catholic Priest.

I think the game is too revolutionary because women, contrary to the laws of the Church, can also participate as priests; and the current Pope in the game is female. Because of this, the game reflects the ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Church rather than the Catholic Church.

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Philippa's Testimony

Through this testimony I wish to proclaim how infinitely wonderful is the goodness of the Lord and how incredibly marvellous and astonishing are His works. I also hope that in reading it you will be encouraged/confirmed in your own journey towards Him.

When I was a child my mother died. My father dealt with it as best he could and life continued. Many years later, experiencing panic attacks when trying to speak in public, I went to see a psychologist for help. Unfortunately, although the psychologist was well intentioned, he uncovered traumatic experiences dating from my childhood which he had been unable to contain.

They traumatised me. I began to experience severe confusion, anxiety and depression and it seemed as though I had become a different person. In my terrible suffering I cried out continually to God and although He seemed to speak to me in quite profound ways giving me hope, I frequently doubted, fearing that it was only a manifestation of my confused mind. My faith was sorely tested.

In May 2004 a friend gave my husband a copy of GOODNEWS, which he didn’t read but I did. Whilst reading Patti Gallagher Mansfield’s article - Blessed is She Who Believed, something distressing in my mind was suddenly triggered and I fell on my knees crying out to God. A piece of paper fell out of the magazine which I later picked up. It advertised New Dawn and as I read it I somehow knew that this was the answer to my prayer and this ‘knowing’ enabled me to overcome the many new difficulties and anxieties which I now had to face.

At that time I didn’t know what Catholic Charismatic Renewal was but throughout the five days God led me on a profoundly amazing journey of wonder and awe and I experienced much healing. It was like being on a roller coaster with extreme highs followed by terrifying lows yet all the time I felt ‘held.’

One of the talks, on perseverance in prayer, was led by Fr. Bob Poole. He spoke of a man who was always asking him for money. The man would knock on Fr. Bob’s front door of his house, then the back, and then he’d look through the windows. He was determined! It left its mark on me.

During the healing service I was very anxious but extremely hopeful that my mind would be healed. Fr. Jimmy Collins started praying over me but something within me drew back involuntarily and I fell on the floor. Fr. Jimmy knelt beside me and prayed some more and then moved off and I lay on the floor in a turmoil of distress. A voice within me said, “You don’t think it’s going to be that easy do you?” and a profound sense of helpless hopelessness overwhelmed me. I’d been expecting to feel really happy and yet here was I experiencing a vile and terrible bitterness, hatred and vindictiveness which was churning up inside me. It was horrible, desperately horrible and I returned to my seat feeling extremely angry. People were getting up and kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament but I was filled with a terrible rage. I’d wanted healing and been left feeling worse than I started. (I now know that this was part of the healing!) I struggled inside. A bitter twisted part of me wanted to leave but something kept me there and watched the people kneeling. Eventually I got up and knelt with them and looking at Him silently said, in a dreadfully vile and bitter manner, “OK, so when I look at You and You look at me, what do You see?” I couldn’t see anything at all nice about me. I was shocked at how awful I actually was. After a short time I got up and left.

The following morning I was very low. My husband had been going to John Vaughan- Neil’s workshops and he mentioned that John had said if anyone wanted praying over for a word, they were to go early to the workshop. I had intended going to one of the other workshops but somehow I felt that I was to go and be prayed over instead. John explained that the people who were praying had been chosen by him and that if they didn’t have a word they simply wouldn’t give one.

I was very nervous. After a time a young woman came up to me and without saying anything to me, started praying in tongues over me. I sat quietly, waiting. Then she stopped and was quiet. At this point in the silence, something really desperate rose up within me. The woman started praying again and silently within me I cried out in desperation to God. “God, I’m knocking at Your door! I’m running round and knocking at your back door! I’m knocking at Your windows! God, I’m shouting down Your chimney! Give me something!” The woman stopped again and then said something that I will never forget. She said, “He looks on you with great joy.” A great sense of relief overwhelmed me. He’d given me something. He looked on me with great joy. Not just joy but great joy. I felt really happy.

About two hours later a sudden great dawning overwhelmed me with shocking intensity. He’d answered me! When this vile creature had knelt before Him the day before He’d heard her and He’d arranged for her to be told her answer from Him by a complete stranger, who’d absolutely no idea of the question. And as if this were not amazing enough in itself, He’d told her, this vile creature that He looked on her with great joy! WOW!

Today I am still amazed. He continues to heal me in many different ways and my confidence in Him grows. It’s rarely easy and I have many setbacks, when I fall back into the pit of doubt and despair but He always pulls me out again. I am so convicted that He loves and cares for me that I know I just have to cry out to Him and wait. He couldn’t do anything other!

Source: Good News

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Corporal And Spiritual Works Of Mercy

(Click to enlarge)

Source: Holy Spirit Interactive

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Philippine TV Shows Real Exorcism

Father Jocis Syquia

The videos below are from a documentary on Philippine TV about genuine exorcisms conducted by Catholic exorcists - including footage of the real exorcism ritual being performed.

For the first time on Philippine television, the Office of Exorcism under the Archdiocese of Manila has opened its doors to a documentary team for an in-depth discussion of a subject that has long been kept behind closed doors. I-Witness, a TV documentary in the Philippines, has been allowed access to the official "exorcists" of the Catholic Church as well as confidential exorcism footage.

Father Jocis Syquia (Jose Francisco C. Syquia) the current head of the Office of the Exorcism, divulges what really goes on during the exorcism ritual conducted by a team of experts composed of priests, a lawyer, a doctor, and volunteers commissioned by the Archdiocese. The team is tasked to handle cases of demonic disturbances in persons, places or things.

In 2008, a news report in the Philippines states that there were 307 cases proven to be demonic in nature.

According to the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism are 10 causes for demonic possessions: occult involvement; traumatic experience; opening the third eye; contamination (victim of occult activities); sinful lifestyle; new age practices; unforgiveness; false christian beliefs and practices; pornography; and satanism.

Watch this documentary:

Part 1




Part 2



Read more about the Archdiocese of Manila's Office of Exorcism and demonic posession in the Philippines.

Watch also this National Geographic video - Exorcism In The Philippines.

If you're interested to learn more about evil and demonic possession, listen to prominent Catholic theologian and exorcist Fr. Malachi Martin on The Nature Of Evil, Exorcism & Possession and watch this documentary showing a real exorcisms by different Christian traditions.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Rome's chief exorcist's book is definitely worth a read. This milestone book is a great resource on demonology and diabolic possession. Read about how one can get possessed and how to protect yourself and your family - here. And you may also be interested to read this article - Doorways for the Devil.

Additionally, for a further understanding of this ancient rite, you can also watch this video about the Catholic Rite Of Exorcism.

If you need help pertaining to cases of demonic possession or oppression, please contact a deliverance prayer group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Can Those Of Other Religions Be "Saved" ?

Written by Dr. Sherman Kuek, SFO

One of the complications arising from living in Asia stems from the religious composition of the Asian population. The Asian continent is the very source of the world religions that thrive in the world today: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and a good many other religions.

Having to make sense of this plethora of religions together with their variety of truth claims must be disconcerting to the Asian man on the street. This is so even for those of us who follow Jesus Christ, who call ourselves Christians. Over the centuries, Asian Christians have come to make sense of these other religions among them in different ways. There are two prevalent notions I would like to briefly explicate here:

Two Common Notions about Other Religions

•i) Only the Christians will be saved.

If you have friends around you who are non-Catholic Christians, you may very likely have heard the claim that only Christians can be saved, and that for as long as a person has not "received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour", he is bound for damnation. This is the prevalent notion among Evangelical Christians insofar as their understanding goes pertaining to the salvation of humankind.

This very exclusivist position on the salvation of peoples of other religions is one of two common notions among Christian people of other religions. For most of the strict Evangelical Christians (although not all), there is no relationship whatsoever between the Christians and people of other religions; it is only those who explicitly profess the Christian faith who will ultimately be saved. For the record, there are some of them who think Catholics are not saved either, since "they worship Mary and not Jesus Christ"!

ii) All people will be saved regardless of their religion.

Another common position, strangely, seems to be very prevalent among Catholics in this part of the world. It is the pluralist position which claims that all religions lead to salvation, and that no one religion is better than others.

This pluralistic notion is, of course, rejected by the Holy Catholic Church. If all religions led to salvation, then Jesus Christ would have been a most foolish or insane person to think that He would have to die for the sins of the world.

Furthermore, if the truth claims of all religions were equal, the unenviable onus would fall upon the adherents of all these religions to reconcile their seemingly conflicting beliefs.

For example, some religions believe that after death, there will be judgement, heaven, and hell, whilst some others believe that death would merely lead to one's reincarnation into another life which may be of a similar or different state.

Two conflicting claims such as these cannot both be right; one must be correct and the other wrong.

The Catholic Church does not give assent to either one of these two positions in regard to her relationship with non-Christian peoples. It is therefore sad that many Catholics continue holding on to at least one of these two notions. What is even sadder is the fact that many, if not most, Catholics have no idea of the position of the Catholic Church on her relationship with peoples of other faiths.

For those who have come to this knowledge, they continue to be fascinated and awed by the beauty of this position. It is a position that is inclusive, which takes into account God's grace and love for our neighbours but without having to compromise the uniqueness of Jesus Christ who gave His life for the sins of the world, and whose Body and Blood is offered upon the altars of our churches daily as a result of His one timeless sacrifice.

Clearly, there is a need for Catholics to understand the finer nuances of the Catholic faith and position in regard to this issue rather than to hold naïve positions on it.

Who Is My Neighbour?

The Catholic Church, especially since the Second Vatican Council, has come to assess other religions in rather positive light. Of course, as we shall see in a while, this positive assessment has to be understood in proper terms lest one should once again slip into either one of the two fallacies about the status of our non-Christian neighbours in relation to the Church.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that God's salvation plan includes all peoples: even Jews, Muslims, and peoples of other non-Christian religions. "Christ, the New Adam, through the mystery of His incarnation, death and resurrection, is at work in each human person to bring about interior renewal." (Dialogue and Proclamation, 1991, no.15).

This holds true not for Christians only but also for all persons of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal mystery.

(Gaudium et Spes, 1965, no.22)

The Church further goes on to say that all those who have "not yet received the Gospel are related to the people of God in various ways" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.839). In nos.839 to 842 of the Catechism (also in Lumen Gentium, 1964, no.26), further explication is given on the unique nature of each of these relationships. Then, the Catechism, no.843 sums up these relationships as follows:

The Catholic Church recognises in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since He gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel..."

It is imperative that we should note here - categorically - that the Church does not say that all religions are equal or that all religions bring salvation. In fact, the Catechism also speaks of how "in their religious behavior... men [i.e. people of other religions] also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them" (no.844). This unambiguously points to the necessity of evangelisation.

Is My Neighbour Saved?

We would do well to make no mistake about this: the Catholic Church continues to insist that "the Church is the ordinary means of salvation... and... she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation" (Redemptoris Missio, 1990, no.55). It has been in accordance with God's eternal desire that the Church, instituted by Christ, in the fullness of time, should be the sign and instrument of His divine plan of salvation (refer to Lumen Gentium, no.1).

The centre of the Church is, of course, the mystery of Christ. She is the "universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen Gentium, no.48), and is "necessary for salvation" (Lumen Gentium, no.14). The Lord Jesus Himself inaugurated her mission "by preaching the good news, that is, the coming of God's Kingdom" (Lumen Gentium, no.5).

However, the Church also acknowledges the reality that not all people are privileged to hear the Gospel in its fullness. Some receive it only partially, perhaps because of the inadequacies of its transmitters, whilst others almost never receive it at all throughout their lifetimes. As a result, their religious conscience does not incline them to realise a need for Christ and His Church. Of these, the Church says,

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.

Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.

(Lumen Gentium, no.16)

In summary, the Holy Catholic Church acknowledges the goodness found in all religions, and the possibility of salvation for those who seek God to the best of their abilities. However, in the same breath, it affirms the abiding efficacy of Christ's work to save the world.

In other words, we believe that if people are saved, regardless of their religious adherence, it is Christ who saves them. Other religions are a preparation for the Gospel of Christ; they are not the Gospel itself. Hence, the all too common practice of substituting our reading of Sacred Scripture with the scriptures of other religions is nothing less than a scandal to the integrity of Christ's redemptive work.

We should not be ashamed to make unique truth claims about our faith, because making exclusive truth claims is innate to the nature of religion. After all, which religion does not claim itself to be uniquely true? To defy this nature of religious beliefs by turning truth claims upon themselves, and insisting that no one religion is unique, would constitute starting a whole new religion; and ironically, this new claim itself would be exclusive too!

For the Church to acknowledge the possibility of salvation for peoples of other faiths is entirely different from saying that all religions are the same, for such a notion defies the very nucleus of our faith - that it is Jesus who saves! The words of the first Pope of the Church, the Apostle Peter, continue to resound today: "Only in Him [i.e. Jesus Christ] is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved (Acts of the Apostles 4:12)".
The Church Dialogues with Other Religions

Hence, at all times and in all places, the Church continues to fulfill its mission of drawing people to Christ through itself. The two primary modes of evangelisation prescribed by the Church are dialogue and proclamation.

Proclamation is squarely "the communication of the Gospel message, the mystery of salvation realised by God for all in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. It is an invitation to a commitment of faith in Jesus Christ and to entry through baptism into the community of believers which is the Church" (Dialogue and Proclamation, no.10).

Dialogue, on the other hand, is less straightforward, and in this article I would like to dwell on this particular facet of evangelisation. Here is what dialogue means:

...in the context of religious plurality, dialogue means "all positive and constructive interreligious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths which are directed at mutual understanding and enrichment", in obedience to truth and respect for freedom. It includes both witness and the exploration of respective religious convictions.

(Dialogue and Proclamation, no.9)

But why do we have to couple dialogue with proclamation? Why would proclamation itself not be sufficient? To put it succinctly, the Church deems it fit that dialogue be an integral part of our evangelisation activity because we represent a God who dialogues.

"God, in an age-long dialogue, has offered and continues to offer salvation to humankind. In faithfulness to the divine initiative, the Church too must enter into a dialogue of salvation with all men and women" (Dialogue and Proclamation, no.38).

The Church speaks of four different forms of interreligious dialogue in no particular order of priority:

a) The dialogue of life, where people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.

b) The dialogue of action, in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people.

c) The dialogue of theological exchange, where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other's spiritual values.

d) The dialogue of religious experience, where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute.

(Dialogue and Proclamation, no.42; also in The attitude of the Church Towards the Followers of Other Religions: Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission, 1984, nos.28-35)

Dialogue is indeed an integral part of the evangelising mission of the Church. However, let us also not forget, "proclamation is the foundation, centre, and summit of evangelisation" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975, no.27).

To drive this point further, we can surmise that the Church would not have so emphasised the importance of proclamation as "the foundation, centre, and summit of evangelisation" if all religions were equal in revelation and truth. We can dialogue and share in order to learn, understand and respect one another. Ultimately however, the truth must be spoken, and all dialogue must be at the service of truth. There must be a point at which dialogue transposes into proclamation.

At the same time, dialogue, by its sheer nature, also means that the religious conscience of the human person must be respected, that "no one must be constrained to act against his conscience, nor should he be impeded in acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters" (Dignitatis Humanae, 1965, no.3).

Dialogue ensures that the graces of voluntary and willing conversion are preserved in the evangelisation efforts of the Church.

Evidently from this entire discussion, it does not necessarily follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned. And yet, Holy Mother Church continues to invite our non-Catholic neighbours to dialogue, and to ultimately proclaim among them the truth of Jesus Christ.

But lest we who are already found within the Church sink into complacency about our own salvation, we are also reminded: still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved. St Augustine of Hippo once remarked, "How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!" (Homilies on John, 45, 12). This serves as a stern warning to those of us who distort the truth in our dealings with our non-Christian neighbours: we must be careful what we teach, in both word and deed.

Source: Catholic Asian News

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Marijana's Testimony

My name is Marijana and would like to give a testimony on how Jesus has touched my life ever since I came back to church in 2007.

I was brought up in Croatia to a Catholic Family and at that time Croatia was a part of ex Yugoslavia under the communist regime. My mum made all three of us to go to church and Sunday school which at the time was not easy. In my teens I had an unpleasant experience at confession and decided not to go to church any more even though we lived 2 minutes away from our local church. On so many occasions priests would come to our house to have a chat with my mum and me to try to get me back to church.

I was so stubborn in my refusal and determined not to set a foot in any church for the rest of my life.

In our home we had the Bible and frequently I would find myself wondering who would read such a big and thick book and what the contest of it was. But I never reach for the Bible to find out. For more than 20 years it never occurred to me to go back to church or to get the Bible. I started to despise church and everything in connection with it. Back home I live close to Medjugorje and in 1984 during our Lady’s apparition my mum and I witnessed all the signs in the sky, not even that converted me back to church. As life went on with its trials and tribulations I found myself 3 years ago not being able to get out of bed, my burden was so heavy that I could not walk straight, I had a lots of mood swings, worried about my future, work, life in general. I did not have any happiness in my life and became very difficult in my dealings with other people.

One Sunday morning in February 2007 I woke up and had this urge to go my local church at the time in North London. At the mass I felt out of the place and could not wait to get out. On my way out I noticed a small pink leaflet about Life in the Spirit Seminar and decided to go there simply because it was free of charge and I did not have anything else to do that particular weekend. It turned out that I was only able to attend one of the days which were Sunday. When I entered the church hall my immediate reaction is to turn around and leave. As I was leaving I noticed at the front door a lady pacing up and down praying, she looked at me and gave me a smile. At the same time the other lady came in and called her name which was Mariana. I could not believe my ears and thought how odd was for the two of us to be there at the same time in such a small place. Because of her smile and the name I decided to stay.

During the course of the seminar to my amazement I saw people being prayed over and dropping on the floor like flies and overheard one lady saying that was the best experience of her life and she would recommend to everybody to be prayed over. You see I’m a scientist by professional and to believe in anything I had to have a concrete proof and to this day I remember thinking to myself that all those people were a bit potty. So I joined the queue for prayer just to see if somebody was going to push me down on the floor. As they were praying over me I was baptised in the Holy Spirit and since then I have never looked back.

My life has been transformed so much that my family and friends see the positive changes in me and they encourage me in my walk with Christ. On that particular Sunday in 2007 I feel that Lord had called me by my name to show me how merciful , faithful and awesome He is, how much He loves me. I also realise that the Lord is the strength of my life, He is my Shepherd and without Him my life would be an utter mess. The Lord is the centre and focus of my life.

Since 2007 I have been studying the Bible, go to church regularly, attend the Charismatic prayer meetings and events (join the ever growing group of the ‘potty’ people) and use any opportunity to praise Him and give Him thanks for being my Abba and for loving me so much that He gave his one and only son for our Salvation.

Praise God and glory to Him forever!

Source: Good News

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Friday, October 22, 2010

A Woman Catholic Priest ?



Gabriella Velardi Ward, a Catholic architect from New York, says she has been a Catholic priest since July of 2008. She celebrates her version of the Catholic Mass in her home as the Catholic Church does not recognise her self-assumed ecclesiastical role.

Gabriella says that she has been ordained by a worldwide organisation called the Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

This organisation believes that as women and men are created equal by God, they can therefore equally represent Christ.

Before being ordained as a woman priest, the organisation requires a college degree in divinity, theology, or other related subject, a litany of religious and community experience, among others.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests assert that they a reform movement within the Catholic Church and are not a schism.

Gabriella, a 63-year-old mother of two, wanted to become a priest since she was young. She stayed away from the Catholic Church after high school and did not return until she was in her 40s. She then became very active in a local church and once again felt the overwhelming desire to become a priest.

Apparently, according to Cannon Law, ordained women priests are subject to ex-communication by the Catholic Church.

Despite the Catholic Church's decree against women priests, there are allegedly approximately 125 ordained women "Catholic" priests around the world. Some women priests say they are keeping their practice discreet to avoid trouble.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thomas Acquinas' 5 Proofs For The Existence Of God



St Thomas Aquinas, an immensely influential philosopher and Christian theologian, in his famous work, the Summa Theologica gave 5 classic proofs for the existence of God. He tried to show the harmony between faith and reason, and between Christianity and philosophy. St. Thomas Aquinas' views have been very influential, especially in Catholic theology.

St. Thomas Aquinas's 5 ways:

1 - FIRST MOVER: Some things are in motion, anything moved is moved by another, and there can't be an infinite series of movers. So there must be a first mover (a mover that isn't itself moved by another). This is God.

2 - FIRST CAUSE: Some things are caused, anything caused is caused by another, and there can't be an infinite series of causes. So there must be a first cause (a cause that isn't itself caused by another). This is God.

3 - NECESSARY BEING: Every contingent being at some time fails to exist. So if everything were contingent, then at some time there would have been nothing -- and so there would be nothing now -- which is clearly false. So not everything is contingent. So there is a necessary being. This is God.

4 - GREATEST BEING: Some things are greater than others. Whatever is great to any degree gets its greatness from that which is the greatest. So there is a greatest being, which is the source of all greatness. This is God.

5 - INTELLIGENT DESIGNER: Many things in the world that lack intelligence act for an end. Whatever acts for an end must be directed by an intelligent being. So the world must have an intelligent designer. This is God.

Source: John Carroll University

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