Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The "Hail Mary" Prayer

Many of our Christian brothers do not understand why Catholics pray to Mary. Some of them even accuse us of worshiping Mary, which is further from the truth. We worship God and God alone. Many of our Christian brothers are unaware that the first part of the "Hail Mary" prayer actually came from the verses of the Holy Bible.  Below is the first part of the prayer and where one can find the biblical verses: 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blest art thou amongst women (Luke 1:28), and blest is the fruit of thy womb Jesus (Luke 1:42). 

Now, let us take a closer look at those verses in the Douay Rheims Bible.  

Luke 1:28  And the angel come in, and said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 

Luke 1:42 And she cried out with a loud voice, and said:  Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  

The first part of the "Hail Mary" prayer is biblical. It was taken out from the Holy Bible.  The second part of the prayer is an intercession.  This intercession is no different than telling a friend or relative to pray for them.  When we tell our friends to pray for us, we are essentially asking them to pray to God for us. In the same way, we ask Mary to pray to God for us.  The second part of the prayer is (the bold is mine):  

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

This intercession is in line with what the Holy Bible teaches: 

James 5:16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.   

Some of our Christian brothers would also tell us that we should ask people who are alive to pray for us, not people who are already dead.  My response to that is this:  

Christ already conquered death through the resurrection.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ are not dead.  They are alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6). Christians do not lose their identity even after they pass away from this earth. They are still Christians, and Christians who follow Christ are alive, not dead. There is a Heaven and Hell, and Christians who are one with Christ are alive in Heaven.  In other words, there are no dead in God's kingdom because God is a God of the Living, not of the dead (Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38).  Sin and Death does not exist in Heaven; therefore, the saints in Heaven are holy and very much alive. Death does not separate us from Christ nor from our Christian brothers in Heaven who are one with Christ (Romans 8:35-39).  

Furthermore, the letter of St. James says: "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."  Who on earth is more righteous than the saints who are already in Heaven?  Catholics ask Mary to pray for us sinners because Christ (being the perfect son that He is) always listens to His mother.    

For example, at the wedding of Cana, Mary went to her son telling Him that there is no more wine for the guests.  Jesus' reply was "Why involve me.  My hour has not yet come."  However, Mary turned to the servants, pointed to her son and said, "Do whatever He tells you."  Despite Jesus' reply to His mother, He went ahead and provided more wine for the guests.  In Catholic icons, Mary is often depicted as leaning toward her son as in the photo below.  Her message to those who ask for her intercession is the same message she gave the servants at the wedding of Cana.  She tells us to "do whatever Christ tells us." She tells us to lean on Christ just as she is seen here leaning toward her child Jesus.

 Image result for Blessed Virgin Mary and child Jesus

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sacrament Of Baptism

The Sacrament of Baptism did not come from man.  It came from God.  According to the Holy Bible (the bold is mine): 

John 1:31-34  “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

In the Holy Bible, we find St. John the Baptist admitting that it was God who sent him to baptize with water.  Therefore, baptism was instituted by God who told John the Baptist to baptize for the forgiveness of sins.  God never rescinded this command to baptize.  In the Holy Bible, we find that Jesus allowed his disciples to baptize (John 3:22 and 4:1-2).  After Pentecost, St. Peter also told the people to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).  After rising from the dead, Jesus commanded His Apostles to go out and baptize all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  Thus, this command to baptize has never been rescinded by God, but continues on today.  In the Catholic Church, baptism takes place either by full immersion or with the sprinkling of water on the head. The Neocatechumenal Way practices baptism by full immersion.  While baptism can take place anytime in the Catholic Church, baptism in the NCW takes place during the 6 hour Easter Vigil.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Holy Bible

An anonymous commenter asked the following question: 

Hello Diana. Can you post something about the history of the Bible. Why do Protestants say we added books? Please post a blog when you have the time. Thank you.
First of all, we never added books to the Holy Bible.  The canon of the books was first held in the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. under Pope Damasus.  Later councils such as the Council of Hippo re-affirmed it.  Since that time, we have used the same books in the Holy Bible for thousands of years.  It has not changed.  After the Protestant Reformation took place, the Council of Trent re-affirmed the books of the Bible because the Protestants challenged the Catholic Church on the canon of the books.  Our Protestant brothers mistakenly thought that the Catholic Church had added additional books to the Bible at the Council of Trent when actually the council was only re-affirming the books. 
One only need to look back in history to see that the Catholic Church had never added books.  The Latin Vulgate, which was written by St. Jerome toward the end of the fourth century contained all the books in the Catholic Bible today.  The Gutenberg Bible, printed in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg with the use of his invention, the printing press, contained all the books in the Catholic Bible today.   The Douay-Rheims Bible, published in France in 1582, contained all the books in the Catholic Bible today. 
All the Bibles printed before the Protestant Reformation contained all the books in the Catholic Bible.  The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, and the first Protestant Bible that was published was the King James Bible in 1611.  The ORIGINAL King James Bible of 1611 actually had all the books that the Catholic Bible had, but seven of those books were labeled as "apocrypha" by the Protestants because they did not consider it "inspired by God."  Later, these 7 books including parts of Esther and Daniel were omitted from the King James Bible. 

 What the Protestants called "apocrypha", Catholics have accepted as inspired scripture for thousands of years.  The canon of inspired scripture was already closed at the end of the fourth century.  If anyone changed the Holy Bible, it was not the Catholics.  It was the Protestants.  They changed the Holy Bible by removing 7 books from the Old Testament and parts of Esther and Daniel.  The person who removed these books was Martin Luther, the Father of Protestantism. There were no council in the Protestant religion to determine which books to remove from the Holy Bible.  It was simply removed by one man who decided to follow the Palestinian canon of scripture.  The Catholic Church, on the other hand, had always been following the Alexandrian canon of scripture for thousands of years. 

Nevertheless, the Protestant Bible is not to be demeaned in any way because it is still a Christian Bible.  Although it is incomplete in that there 7 books missing, the rest of the books nonetheless were all approved and considered "inspired by God" by the Catholic Church thousands of years ago. You may also find the following article from EWTN an interesting read.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Assumption Of Mary

One of the issues between Catholics and our non-Catholic Christian brothers is Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Protestants often accuse Catholics of putting much emphasis on Mary, when actually all we are doing is imitating Christ. 

One of the Ten Commandments is to "honor thy father and thy mother."  Jesus was the perfect Son..... more perfect that any man on earth.  He not only honored His Father who is God, but He also honored His mother Mary.  He put her above all other women and blessed her (Luke 1:28).  In fact, Mary would be called "blessed" by all generations (Luke 1:48).  Catholics fulfilled this prophecy for we still call her "blessed" even today.  She is our Blessed Mother. 

The fourth commandment says to honor thy father and thy mother.  It did not say to honor thy father ONLY.  Therefore, Christ also honored His mother Mary, and Christ fulfilled this commandment as He did the rest of the nine other commandments more perfectly than any man on earth for He was the perfect Son.  He was the perfect Son who honored His mother Mary by making her blessed among women and giving her the honor of being called "blessed" for all generations.  The greatest honor that Christ had also given His mother was assuming her into Heaven.  After all, what Son would allow His own mother to rot in the grave, knowing that He had the power to take her up into Heaven?  Being the perfect Son that He is, He assumed her into Heaven.  Although the Assumption of Mary was a tradition passed down by the Early Christians, there are certain biblical scriptures showing that Mary's body is in Heaven.   

The Ark of the Covenant is a type of the Old Testament that foreshadows the person of Mary.  In other words, there are many parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant:  

1.  Old Testament: The glory cloud of the Lord covered the tent meeting where the Ark of the Covenant was and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 9:18, 22) .  The verb "to cover" or "to overshadow" and the metaphor of a cloud are used in the Bible to represent the presence and glory of God.  In short, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Ark.  
    New Testament:  Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) 

2.  Old Testament:  David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the hill country of Judah for three months (2 Samuel 6:1-11) 

     New Testament:  Mary went to the hill country of Judah for three months (Luke 1:29).  

3Old Testament:  David said to the Ark, "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" (2 Samuel 6:9)

     New Testament:  Elizabeth said to Mary, "  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43). 

4Old Testament:  David leaped for joy and danced before the Ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:14-15). 

     New Testament:  Upon hearing Mary's arrival, St. John the Baptist leaped with joy in his mother's womb (Luke 1:41). 

5Old Testament: The ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the temple (2 Sm 6:12; 1 Kgs 8:9-11).

    New Testament: Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents God incarnate in the temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22).

6.  Old Testament:  Inside the Ark was placed a golden jar holding the manna (the bread come down from Heaven), Aaron’s rod that budded (a symbol of the high priest), and the word of God inscribed on stone tablets (cf. Heb 9:4).

     New Testament:  Inside the womb of Mary contains Jesus, the bread of life come down from Heaven, the actual and eternal high priest, and the Word of God in the flesh.

Therefore, Mary is the NEW Ark of the Covenant.  In Revelations 11:19, John saw the Ark of the Covenant in God's temple:  "Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within in his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail." 

Our Christian brothers would interpret this temple in Heaven as an Old Testament temple made of brick and mortar.  But John was viewing the true temple, which is Christ’s body. In the same way, St. John was not seeing the Old Covenant ark. He saw the new and true Ark of the Covenant (which is Mary).  In the New Testament, the word "temple" was referred to as the body.  John 2:19-21 and Rev. 21:22 tell us quite plainly that the temple St. John speaks of is not a temple made of brick and mortar.

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."....But He spoke of the temple of His body (John 2:21)

I saw no temple [in heaven], for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the lamb (Revelations 21:22)

Furthermore, in Revelations 12:1, John sees Mary in heaven. It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in 1531 — the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.

The conclusion is inescapable. Where is Mary’s body? In heaven, according to the Book of Revelation!  She was assumed into Heaven by her Son Jesus......the only one who can perfectly fulfil the fourth commandment....more perfectly than any man on earth. 


The Four Gospels

The four Gospels are Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John.  These four gospels were written for particular communities.  Each writer chose special material for different audiences in different decades for some of their variances. Today, these gospels are for all people.

It was surmised that the Gospel of Matthew was at one time written in Hebrew due to its many Hebrew idioms. Later, it was translated into Greek.  This gospel was addressed to the Jewish people for it is a gospel showing Jesus' lineage going all the way back to Abraham.  Matthew was trying to appeal to the Jewish people, letting them know that Christ was their long awaited Messiah. 

The Gospel of Luke addressed the Gentiles for it a gospel showing the lineage of Jesus going all the way back to Adam, the first man.  St. Luke was a companion of the Apostle Paul.  St. Paul was known as the Apostle of the Gentiles because he converted many Gentiles.  This gospel appealed to the Gentiles, letting them know that Christ became man to save mankind and not simply His chosen people.   

The Gospel of Mark was addressed to the people of the Roman Empire for this gospel portrayed Jesus as the suffering servant.  St. Mark was a secretary to the Apostle Peter.  Many people suffered under the oppression of the Roman rulers.  The Gospel of Mark portrayed Christ as the suffering servant, and this appealed to many people who suffered from Roman oppression. 

The Gospel of John was addressed to the entire world.  In this Gospel, Christ was portrayed as a loving God.  John's gospel is unique from the other three gospels, which are often referred to as the synoptic gospels.   John's Gospel offered a portrait of Christ, which included a special emphasis on His divinity revealed in the humanity of Jesus. 

Each Gospel has a symbol of their own.  The symbol of Matthew's Gospel is the man/angel.  The symbol of Mark's Gospel is the lion, and the symbol for Luke's Gospel is the bull or calf.  John's Gospel is the eagle.  These four symbols are found in the Book of Revelations and in the Book of the prophet Ezekiel. 

Revelations 4:7   And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

Ezekiel 1:10  As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

So, what do these symbols mean?  According to St. Irenaeus of Lyons:  

 For, [as the Scripture] says, "The first living creature was like a lion," symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying [His] sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but "the third had, as it were, the face as of a man," -- an evident description of His advent as a human being; "the fourth was like a flying eagle," pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church.
St. Agustine of Hippo also had this to say regarding the symbols of the four Gospels: 
For these reasons, it also appears to me, that of the various parties who have interpreted the living creatures in the Apocalypse as significant of the four evangelists, those who have taken the lion to point to Matthew, the man to Mark, the calf to Luke, and the eagle to John, have made a more reasonable application of the figures than those who have assigned the man to Matthew, the eagle to Mark, and the lion to John (cf. Irenaeus - above). For, in forming their particular idea of the matter, these latter have chosen to keep in view simply the beginnings of the books, and not the full design of the several evangelists in its completeness, which was the matter that should, above all, have been thoroughly examined. For surely it is with much greater propriety that the one who has brought under our notice most largely the kingly character of Christ, should be taken to be represented by the lion. Thus is it also that we find the lion mentioned in conjunction with the royal tribe itself, in that passage of the Apocalypse where it is said, "The lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed" (Rev 5:5). For in Matthew's narrative the magi are recorded to have come from the east to inquire after the King, and to worship Him whose birth was notified to them by the star. Thus, too, Herod, who himself also was a king, is [said there to be] afraid of the royal child, and to put so many little children to death in order to make sure that the one might be slain. (Matt 2:1-18). Again, that Luke is intended under the figure of the calf, in reference to the pre-eminent sacrifice made by the priest, has been doubted by neither of the two [sets of interpreters]. For in that Gospel the narrator's account commences with Zacharias the priest. In it mention is also made of the relationship between Mary and Elisabeth (Luke 1:5, 36). In it, too, it is recorded that the ceremonies proper to the earliest priestly service were attended to in the case of the infant Christ (Luke 2:22-24); and a careful examination brings a variety of other matters under our notice in this Gospel, by which it is made apparent that Luke's object was to deal with the part of the priest. In this way it follows further, that Mark, who has set himself neither to give an account of the kingly lineage, nor to expound anything distinctive of the priesthood, whether on the subject of the relationship or on that of the consecration, and who at the same time comes before us as one who handles the things which the man Christ did, appears to be indicated simply under the figure of the man among those four living creatures. But again, those three living creatures, whether lion, man, or calf, have their course upon this earth; and in like manner, those three evangelists occupy themselves chiefly with the things which Christ did in the flesh, and with the precepts which He delivered to men, who also bear the burden of the flesh, for their instruction in the rightful exercise of this mortal life. Whereas John, on the other hand, soars like an eagle above the clouds of human infirmity, and gazes upon the light of the unchangeable truth with those keenest and steadiest eyes of the heart."  (De consensu evangelistarum 1.6.9, in N/PNF 6.168-169; see also De consensu evangelistarum 4.10.11 and Tractatus in Joannis evangelium 36.5)   


Monday, July 21, 2014

Papal Infallibility

Infallibility is often confused with impeccability.  Impeccability is the inability to sin while infallibility (according to Catholic doctrine) is the inability to make an error in matters of faith and morals.  The Pope is infallible.  However, he is only infallible in matters of faith and morals.  Outside faith and morals, the Pope can err.  This, of course, does not mean that the Pope cannot sin. The Pope can indeed sin; therefore, he attends confessions many times.  However, in matters of faith and morals, the Pope is infallible.  In other words, there are no errors in the doctrines and catechisms of the Catholic Church nor in the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church despite the sins of the Pope and bishops.

The doctrine of infallibility is not a new one and goes back to Early Christianity.  According to Catholic Answers on infallibility: Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19-20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).  That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might.

It is the infallible Holy Spirit who uses fallible man to teach infallibly. The Holy Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit can speak through His bishops and priests (the bold is my emphasis). 

Mark 13:11   “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditatefn what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Catholic Answers gives a more thorough explanation on infallibility in their website: 

Papal Infallibility

There are only two doctrines that the Pope has spoken in ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter); therefore, these two are declared "infallible."  The first to be declared in ex cathedra was the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854.  The second was the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Pius XII in 1950.  


Sunday, July 13, 2014

God's Choice

St. Peter was chosen as the leader of the Apostles.  His role as leader is well documented not only in Sacred Scripture but also in the writings of the Church Fathers.  In the Holy Bible, where the list of Apostles are found, Peter is always named first even when the list are not in the same order (See Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:3).  It was Peter and only Peter who received the key of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:19).  Christ gave Peter the key, which symbolized "authority."  It was also Peter and only Peter whom Christ entrusted to take care of his entire flock (John 21:14-17). 

Personally, if it were up to me, I would have chosen St. John because he was the only Apostle there at the foot of the cross.  I certainly would not have chosen Peter who denied Christ three times. Yet, it was Christ who chose the denier to be His representative. This was God's choice.  My choice is not the choice of God.  And sometimes, even our will is not God's will.  

God chooses the weak, the most humblest, the poor, the handicap, and even the worst sinner to be His disciples.  Of all the nations of the earth, God chose Israel as His chosen people.  The people of Israel were slaves, and slaves were the poorest of the poor.  But from this group of slaves, God turned them into the great nation of Israel.  Only God is capable of such a turn a group of slaves into the nation of Israel. 

God chose Moses who had a speech impediment  (Exodus 4:10) and made him a spokesperson for Israel and to lead His people out from slavery in Egypt. Only God can take a person who is very slow in speech and turn him into a spokesperson.  If it were up to me, I would have chosen someone who was eloquent in speech.  But my choice is not God's choice. 

God chose David, a young shepherd boy with no military skills, to defeat Goliath who was a giant soldier with military skills.  Again, only God can take a shepherd boy and turn him into a warrior and a king, which is what He did. 

God chose Abraham and his barren wife Sarah.  Abraham was very old and had no children.  Yet, God made Abraham the father of many nations, and transformed Sarah's dead womb into vitalness so that she was able to bear Isaac. 

God chose a woman to conquer Israel's enemy (Judith 13:12-16:20) and even chose a pagan, Cyrus a Persian King, to lead Israel (Isaiah 45:1).  God's plan for His people is not subject to the vagaries of man's choices.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  God leads people to obedience to Him and works through people to accomplish His purposes. 

Christ had many disciples or followers.  However, out of those many disciples, He only chose 12 Apostles.  Most likely, those 12 were the worst among the entire group. 

Then there was the Apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee and persecutor of Christians.  He became one of God's chosen ones.  God converted Paul's heart that he no longer became a persecutor of Christ and His Church.  Only God has the power to turn a sinner into a saint.   

God chooses the weak, the poor, the most humblest, the handicap, and the worst sinner so that He could manifest His power through their weakness.  If a strong person were chosen, people can easily say that it was the strength of that strong person who defeated Goliath rather than the strength of God.  If an eloquent speaker was chosen as a spokesperson instead of a stutterer, people could easily dismiss the power of God and say that it was because the person was so articulate that he is able to be an excellent spokesperson.  

Our choices are not the same as God's choice.  And our will may also not be the same as God's will for us.  Some of us may believe that we are following God's will when in fact we are simply following our own will.  Therefore, it is always important to pray and discern God's will for us.