Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Catholicism: Letters to Daniel (part 4)

Dear Daniel,
Your last letter was quite poignant, so I'm going to try to answer it all now, before I go away tomorrow. At least you'll be gone for a week overlapping, so I'll have some time to catch up when I return.

I had said: "While while others have done a wonderful job of answering your objections to not receiving Communion, I just wanted to echo what has been said. Communion is just that: Coming together in Union with both God and each other. Specifically, it is the symbol of that Union (though, of course, as a Sacrament, it also effects what it symbolises). Thus, to receive Communion, one must believe along with the Community."

You replied that you do (rather emphasising that point) belong to the community. As I tried to say above, no, Daniel, you do not belong to the Catholic community. Yes, you are a Christian, but you are not a Catholic, and protest against certain Catholic beliefs--as such, you cannot be a part of the Catholic community. Regardless of what other Christian communions hold in regard to who can receive their Eucharist, the Catholic Church has said that only Catholics who are in a state of grace may receive the Catholic Eucharist. They say this because, as the Bible states, there are serious repercussions to receiving the Eucharist unworthily.

As others again point out, to receive the Eucharist, saying "Amen!" after the minister proclaims "The Body of Christ" (literally meaning "This is actually Jesus Himself, not just a representation of Him") without actually believing that it is, in fact, Jesus Himself, would be lying. Or, think of it this way:

If we, as Catholics, are right in believing that Jesus is really, literally, and tangibly present in the Eucharist and that He comes into us powerfully and mystically through receiving, and you do not believe this, then if you received the Eucharist without believing it was Jesus, you are imperiling your soul and even your body.

If, on the other hand, we as Catholics are wrong in believing that Jesus is really, literally, and tangibly present in the Eucharist, etc., then in calling the Bread and the Wine "Jesus" and kneeling before it in worship, believing that the Bread and Wine is, in fact, our God who died to save us, we are guilty of the most tragic and worst kind of Idolatry--and you, as an obedient Christian, would rather decry our pagan practices, rather than desire to participate in them.

So either we are right, and wish to prevent you from sinning, or you are right and should wish not to sin. The only other alternative is that you believe that we are right (at least on this point), but you have nevertheless brought yourself into conformity with that belief by joining the Community. And if you are unwilling to take the final step of acknowledging your unity with us, you cannot then receive of the ultimate symbol and reward of that unity. The Eucharist, after all, is not for Catholics some dispensible or secondary rite. It is, as has been stated by Catechisms and Popes and Church Fathers for the past 2000 years, "The Source and Summit of our Faith."

If I visited your family, no, I wouldn't think I would be allowed to help clean up. Why not? Because I am a guest. I am an outsider. I am not part of the family. When I first started dating my wife, and visited her family, I was unwelcome to help--but once I had been coming for a while, it actually became a part of my role to help set up the extra table and even do dishes afterward, because I had really been welcomed into the family. That your grandmother would not let me serve if I visited demonstrates the exact same principle that I was trying to illustrate. There are simply things that one, as a visitor, has no part in, until that one actually fully enters into the community.

You claim that there is very little tradition in your church, if any at all. I disagree, but we may be disagreeing about the term tradition. It applies to more than simply how the service is carried out, or whether the pastor wears particular vestments. Traditions include the beliefs you hold, especially those which are not specifically found in the Bible, as well as the ways in which you would interpret what is found in the Bible. I cannot necessarily offer examples of this since I'm not sure of all that you believe--but I'll take a stab in the dark of an example: The Bible itself--how many books does it have? Protestants would say 66, while Catholics would say 73. How do we know? Tradition. Ours is the Tradition of the Early Church Councils which canonised Scripture, while yours is the tradition of the non-Christian Jews who removed 7+ books from their Old Testament in AD 90 in order to further differentiate from and fight against Christianity. This decision of the Jews was adopted some 1500 years later by Martin Luther, and was handed down to all of Protestantism at that time. Since the Bible itself has no inspired "table of contents", the only way we could know which books belong or not is precisely tradition.

What you claim not to have is not tradition, per se, but ritual. And you may very well not have much established ritual--but it is a tradition not to have ritual, while in the Catholic Church it is a tradition to have ritual. You seem to believe that an absense of ritual makes the Spirit more free to move however He wants to. I admit to having believed the same thing when I was a Pentecostal. But this belief is itself a tradition, rather than something that could be proved from Scripture. The Bible says that we should worship in spirit and truth. It says we should be open to the moving of the Spirit. But none of these things demonstrate either that ritual obstructs the movement of the Spirit or aids it, or whether worshipping in spirit and truth can be done ritualistically or not. It is your (non)denomination's tradition that tells you ritual is counter-productive to the movement of the Spirit, and my Church's tradition which tells me that is not the case whatsoever.

So you see, if we pressed the issue by examining every belief and practice of your church, I would show you that, though you aren't as ritualistic, you are at least as traditional as we are. The question then becomes not "Is tradition wrong?" (which Protestants love to say it is, while denying that the traditions they themselves hold are "traditions"), but rather, "Can tradition come from God?" and if so, "Which traditions came from God?"

I admit that I'm not entirely sure what you were trying to say with your anecdote of the conversation on your way to Illinois. Perhaps you might elaborate?

You write: "I was discussing Catholicism with my trainer, and he was saying it was only at like, third grade you can ask Jesus into your heart, but I think that's wrong, because, suppose they learn the difference between good and evil before that, and something happens to them and they die. Well, they'll go to hell. And obviously, that isn't a good thing. And the same trainer had never heard of super natural healing before he came to the Church he's at now."

Was your trainer once a Catholic? If so, he seems to be precisely the sort of Catholic which I mentioned above--namely, the kind who left Catholicism because they never really understood it in the first place.

First of all, Catholicism teaches that in Baptism you are born again--that is, for all intents and purposes, "saved." As Catholics practice infant baptism, we would hold that, because of the faith of the parents standing in for the child, that child is saved--until such a time as they can make the choice for themselves.

Typically, First Communion and First Reconciliation (Confession) occur for the child at about the age of 7 (at least where I'm from--it's different in different dioceses, because really, it's not a question of doctrine). They do not "become saved" at this point, since, as a baptised Catholic, they already were, so to speak. (I say so to speak because we believe that one is only ultimately saved if they die in the state of God's grace. Life from baptism until death is an ongoing process of salvation which a person can walk away from through serious sin at any time, and thus forfeit his salvation, baptism or no.)

As for your 'trainer' never hearing of supernatural healing until coming to the church he now attends, that is an odd thing. The Bible is full of such healings, and history has only continued them. The Catholic Church has never denied them, and indeed has a Sacrament specifically dedicated to healing: The Anointing of the Sick. Whatever background your friend came from, I submit that not to have heard of miracles was simply to not have been paying attention.

I'm glad to hear you've almost reached your financial goal! I hope sincerely that you succeed and will offer a prayer for you.

As to which book of the Bible is your favourite, you stated that you had only ever read Romans. You now have added Revelation to that list. If you've only read 2, one or the other (or perhaps both) must be your 'favourite'. How can something you've never read be your favourite book?

And I still remember my New Testament Professor (who was working on his Doctorate in the book of Revelation) bellowing out in his Nigerian accent, "Revlation! Not Revelations! There is only one!"

As to taking tangible steps, of course Jesus looks at the heart--but He still demands that steps be taken! He could not have praised the widow for offering her little bit of money if she had not, in fact, offered that money! Why we do things is perhaps more important than what we do--but we still have to do them. If I chose to go through the process of becoming a Catholic just so that I could marry my Catholic wife, say, then I would be doing it insincerely--and while the priest might not have known for certain my true motives, Jesus Himself would, and I would have been no better off as a Catholic. In fact, I probably would be worse, as I was a Catholic youth minister and taught others the Catholic faith and I currently write Catholic apologetic material! I would be a hypocrite of the worst sort!

But rather, sincerely desiring to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, I became a Catholic out of pure motives, which I appeal to Christ to judge! Thus my motives backed up and reinforced my actions--but while I had the motive (which I did for three years before I converted) it did me no good until I actually took the steps. Faith, after all, is dead without works, according to St. James.

For the record, those wafers are bread. The Epsicopal church serves the same elements as the Catholic Church, in mainly the same way. The difference is that trying to pin down an Episcopal minister on whether it's really Jesus or just a symbol is pretty tricky, and often differs from church to church.

Since the rest of the conversation seems to have derailed into a discussion of when Jesus was born, I have no idea where you got the idea, Daniel, that it could have been 4000 years ago. Jesus was born roughly 2000 years ago, give or take a decade (since it's 2007 after all...) Whether the earth is 4000 years older than Jesus, or 64 million, I'm not prepared to answer (though I lean toward the latter). But when Jesus lived is hardly in dispute.

I hope you see miracles in Peru--but I'm curious, what will it mean if you don't? If you go to Peru, pray for the sick or the possessed or whatever, and nothing seems to happen, what will that mean to you and for you?

I hope to hear from you soon.
God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)

No comments: