by Lois Day
by Steve Clifford
by Marty Barrack
by Rev. Daniel Maher
by Fritz Tuttle
by Jeffrey Mirus
by Monica and George Bonina
by Sal Ciresi
by Rev. Daniel L. Mode
by Lois Day
When I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of eighteen, I began for the first time in my life to read the Bible with eagerness and interest. I'd come into a new relationship of faith and love with Christ, and it was in the pages of Scripture that I could learn what I needed to know about Him. I spent an entire summer reading the New Testament from cover to cover. Truths sprang out at me; insights, rivers of wisdom flowed from the pages. I was surprised to find Scripture so gripping. "That's because of the Holy Spirit," I was told by the friend who had led me to the Lord. "He's within you now, revealing what the Word of God means."
For the next ten years, as I worshipped at a variety of different churches, the Bible remained the touchstone of my faith in Christ. All that I needed to believe as a Christian could be found in the Bible; it was my sole authority in matters of belief, and I found it to be totally reliable. I read the Bible many times during those years and became very familiar with large portions of it. I loved the Bible, because it was in the Bible that God's will could be discovered, the answer to every one of life's questions. Scripture nourished my Christian life, helped me to grow spiritually, and drew me closer to Christ. And ultimately it was Scripture that convinced me of the truth of Catholicism.
When a close friend announced that she was becoming a Catholic, I was appalled. As far as I was concerned, the Catholic Church was a vast, mysterious organization which was only doubtfully Christian and full of erroneous, non-essential teachings contrary to the Bible. I couldn't understand why anyone with true faith in Christ and a living relationship with Him would ever become a Catholic, so I decided to find out. And where to look for answers? In the Bible, where else?
My attitude was that of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who, when Paul came to them preaching the gospel, "received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so." The Catholic Church proposed certain doctrines to me as true; like the Bereans, I would examine Scripture concerning these doctrines to determine whether or not they actually were true. If Catholic doctrines didn't agree with Scripture, they could safely be rejected. I had no doubt that I would find this to be the case.
The Bible doesn't say how long it took the Bereans to discover that Paul's teaching agreed with Scripture, with the result that "many of them therefore believed." For me it took five years. I researched the teachings of Catholicism in the light of Scripture, always relying on the Bible as my sole authority in determining truth, and in the end I found that Catholic doctrine is indisputably Scriptural. Having discovered this, I had to go on behaving like a Berean. Scripture had shown me that Catholicism is true, and I believed.
Scripture convinced me of the truth of all Catholic teaching, but nowhere was it more persuasive than in the matter of the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Christ. As a Protestant, I believed that when Christ spoke in John 6 of giving us His flesh to eat, He was speaking in symbolic, not literal terms. "Eating His flesh" was figurative language for "believing in Him," I thought. Scripture itself showed me that this belief is unscriptural. All my training as a Protestant had been to read the Bible literally, to take the words of Scripture at face value, without trying to "interpret" them in any way. Christ told us that He would give us His true flesh to eat. At the Last Supper, He held up bread and said, "This is My Body." Reading these things in the Bible, I asked myself, "If the Bible is to be taken literally and not symbolically, why not here, too?" It seemed clear to me that if Christ told us His flesh was real food (John 6:55), we could safely assume that He meant what He said.
I have been a Catholic now for six years. As a Catholic, what is my attitude toward the Bible? I loved the Bible when I was a Protestant; it was God's own Word and in it I found all the treasures of His wisdom. I relied on it to guide me into truth. Now that I am a Catholic, I love the Bible still more, if that is possible, for in addition to all that it was to me as a Protestant, I see it now for what it truly is a Catholic book, belonging essentially to the Catholic Church.
Scripture itself showed me where to look if I wanted to discover what doctrines are true. It guided me to "the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15)
(Lois Day is a homemaker in Northern Virginia. She teaches New Testament Greek and is on officer in the Legion of Mary.)
by Steve Clifford
I was born and raised in Utah, the oldest of two children. We were brought up in a nominally religious home, and yet religion played a major part in our lives as we were growing up. My parents were also born and raised in Utah in families with connections back to the early Mormon pioneers who settled the Great Salt Lake Valley in the mid-1800's.
Being raised a Mormon in Utah was not just a thing to be practiced on Sundays; it was a way of life. School, social activities, scouting, dancing, music, theater, sports and much more revolved around the church. My parents didn't go to church regularly but they were very adamant that my sister and I not miss out on anything the church had to offer. They would pay their Fast Offerings and welcome the visiting Home Teachers in an effort to maintain their ties with the church and thus stay in good standing. In those days, to be anything other than an active member of the church was to be ostracized by the majority. Approximately 77% of the population of Utah was Mormon and my parents didn't want me to become one of those unmentionable disenfranchised "others"
I joined the military and became inactive in the Mormon church about a year before I met Anne, a Catholic. We were married by a Catholic priest in Germany in 1971 and our two daughters were raised Catholic. For many years I attended Catholic Mass, often as a musician with the choir. We moved to Virginia in January of 1993, and I began attending Mass regularly. I joined the contemporary choir because I enjoyed the music and I thought it was a nice, neutral way to worship God. When I was asked to do a newsletter for the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign, I jumped at the opportunity to display my computer talents. It was during the preparation of the newsletter that I was first introduced to the Rosary and the special role Mary had in the life, suffering, and death of Jesus. I couldn't help but be touched by the things I was reading. I began to ask questions. Anne was, of course, excited about my interest and began dropping literature around the house for me to find.
In the early part of November of 1993, I asked Anne if she was trying to convert me. Of course she said she wasn't, because she had NEVER put any pressure on me to become a Catholic. For over 22 years of married life, I proudly proclaimed my Mormon affiliation. I told Anne that I had no intention of becoming a Catholic.
"I was born a Mormon, I was raised a Mormon, and I'm going to die a Mormon!" I exclaimed.
But something was happening to me. The power of all the prayers that were being said for me by Anne and by many others was having an effect. The Holy Spirit was hard at work on me.
I began reading and researching like there was no tomorrow. I read books on Mormonism, Protestantism and Catholicism. I listened to audio tapes and watched videos. I grabbed at anything I could get my hands on to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only true church on earth was the one restored by Jesus Christ to the "Prophet" Joseph Smith and his followers. Much to my chagrin, every direction I turned and on each point I investigated, I kept finding overwhelming evidence against the Mormon position. The more I researched, the more flaws I found with the Mormon doctrines I had been taught.
I found that the Mormon teaching of a great and total apostasy in the early Church established by Jesus Christ was simply not true. The overwhelming historical evidence available supports the Catholic teaching on Apostolic succession. This was first demonstrated in the replacement of Judas by Matthias (Acts 1:15-26). The chain has been unbroken from Peter to Pope John Paul II (Matthew 16:18). Without a great and total apostasy there is no need for a restoration.
Another truth I discovered is that there is only one God. I could no longer accept the Mormon view of a plurality of gods made up of flesh and bones, that God was once a man, nor that man can progress to become a god of his own world. Through the mystery of the Holy Trinity, I began to believe in the one divine nature of God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, I came to know the truth that God is the "first cause" of everything else and that our spiritual souls and human bodies are created at the moment of conception. No longer could I believe in the Mormon plan of eternal progression consisting of a pre-mortal existence where each person is born into this world according to their previous merits in the spirit world. I now believe that nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The next logical step was to realize that Mary was created as the most exalted creature on earth. She is the daughter of God the Father, the spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the mother of God the Son. Through a better understanding of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin, we can more nearly follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
By Christmas, 1993 I was absolutely convinced that the Mormons were wrong. I was devastated! How could so many good people be deceived? What about all the sacrifices my ancestors had made for the church? How could I turn my back on my heritage, my upbringing, my family and my childhood friends? I wanted to pretend that I had never started on this journey. I wished I could go back to the way things were, but it was too late. I had found the truth.
On the 19th of February, 1994, I received the Holy Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, First Communion and validation of the Sacrament of Matrimony performed over 22 years earlier. It was a sacred day that I will cherish forever.
Many wonderful things have happened to me and my family in the short time since my Baptism. I consecrated my life to Jesus Christ through Mary and joined the Legion of Mary. But it has not been easy for my family in Utah. As far as I know, I am the first family member to officially leave the Mormon church to become a Catholic. We continue to pray for my parents that they will someday understand why I chose to leave Mormonism for the true Church established by Jesus Christ.
(Steve Clifford evangelizes on computer networks. He is active in Catholic apologetics and is an officer in the Legion of Mary.)
by Marty Barrack
The Pelham Parkway apartment canyon in the Bronx where I grew from child to man was so Jewish that there were four synagogues and two glatt kosher restaurants within walking distance. It imprinted on me a Jewish soul that would last a lifetime. I'm still a New York City Jew, and always will be. I love to eat soup with kreplach, kasha varnishkas, and all the other wonderful foods from the old neighborhood. But especially, I love the Passover feast we call the Seder, because now I understand it.
Jews have waited a long time for completion, for fulfillment of the messianic prophecies in King Moschiach, the Messiah. But He has already come. For a thousand years there were canonical prophecies that He would come; these prophecies stopped completely when Jesus of Nazareth came. For a thousand years the Jewish priests had sacrificed, but after Jesus' redemptive sacrifice the animal sacrifices stopped. Jesus had foretold that the Temple would be destroyed; in 70 A.D., it fell, never to be rebuilt. A Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate, in 362 A.D. tried to prove Christ's prophecy wrong by rebuilding the Temple. The pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that the builders encountered storms and earthquakes, and that balls of fire came up out of the ground. Julian the Apostate was killed by a mysterious arrow. Three thousand years after God took Israel from the Jews, He returned all of it except the Temple Mount. Only the Western Wall remains, incomplete, a wailing wall. All this can have only one meaning: Jesus is the true Messiah; we who follow Him are completed Jews.
At every Seder, Jews set an extra place for Elijah. But Jesus sits there, present in the bread, the wine and the lamb, the true head of household and provider of the meal. The bread is unleavened, pure as Jesus was pure. It has dark stripes, as His back was striped by Pilate's scourging. It is pierced, as He was pierced on the cross. When Moses led the Israelites toward the promised land it had been the bread of life; Jesus, born in Beth Lechem (House of Bread), is the Bread of Life, leading us toward the promised kingdom. The head of the family breaks the unleavened bread into three pieces, reminding us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The second piece, suggesting the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is called the afikomen (Hebrew: a festival procession), a reminder of Jesus' constant call, "Follow me." The head of household wraps the afikomen in white linen, reminding us of Jesus' linen burial cloth, and "buries" or hides it, as Jesus was entombed. Later the youngest at the table "resurrects" or finds the afikomen as Jesus rose from the dead. The head of the family breaks the afikomen into three pieces and passes it around for all to eat, as Jesus did when He told His apostles, "This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me."
Jesus is present in the wine. When the afikomen is broken and passed around for all to take and eat, Jews at the Seder table drink the third of four cups of wine, called the cup of redemption because it represents the blood of the sacrificed paschal lamb in Egypt on that memorable Passover night. That was the cup Jesus gave to His apostles, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood." Jesus did not drink the fourth, the kalah cup, with his apostles. After his capture at Gethsemane, Jesus asked Peter, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?" Jesus drank the last cup on the cross from a sponge full of vinegar held to His mouth, said in a loud voice, kalah (it is finished), bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
Jesus is present in the paschal lamb. Pasch or pesach in Hebrew means "he passed over." The paschal lamb recalls the lamb that was sacrificed so that its blood might be daubed on the doorposts of every Jewish home, and its body eaten in every Jewish home, that the angel of death might know it as a household of the faithful and pass over. Since there are no more Jewish sacrifices, many Jews today represent the paschal lamb with a lamb's shank bone. As the Jews in Egypt ate the paschal lamb to be physically redeemed and led to the promised Canaan, Catholics for two thousand years have eaten the body and blood of the Lamb of God, that we might be spiritually redeemed and find the promised kingdom of heaven.
God chose the Jews to carry His first self-revelation to the world, to raise His Torah high for all to see, as in shul. Only now, as a complete Jew, can I understand how His Messiah explained the Torah. As the great Rabbi Hillel had summed up the Torah in a single sentence just decades earlier, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:5, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, from Leviticus 19:18, was "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Of the Ten Commandments the first three, three as in Blessed Trinity, teach us love for God. The remaining seven, seven as the days of creation, teach us love for one another.
In the only Church personally established by God Himself, where priests in the tradition of the ancient Jewish law, in an unbroken line of apostolic succession from Christ Himself, re-present Christ's sacrifice as He taught us, I find the faith of my fathers, my magnificent heritage at last complete, its prophecies fulfilled.
(Marty Barrack is a Catholic writer-evangelist. He calls every man and woman to open and public witness for the glory of Our Lord.)
by Rev. Daniel Maher
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus promised to give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. To those of us who profess belief in Christ in the twentieth century, the thought that Jesus would become for us actual food and thereby enter into us to provide nourishment and refreshment to our soul is a wonderfully consoling thought. For those Christians who profess the faith of the Catholic Church, this thought is much more than mere consolation, it is the core belief of Catholics regarding their encounter with Christ in the action termed Holy Communion.
If we project ourselves back to the time of Christ and envision ourselves as among those of a Jewish background who had been drawn by the dynamic preaching and inspiring example of Jesus of Nazareth, His promise would perhaps be seen in quite a different light. Upon Jesus' extraordinary revelation contained in this section of the gospel, there occurs a mass exodus of followers from His camp, seeming to indicate that those who were somewhat skeptical disciples of this self-proclaimed Messiah saw those words not so much as a consolation, but as instead more of a confirmation of sorts. The thought that one would proclaim His flesh to be food and His blood to be drink must have confirmed for many what some had no doubt always suspected, "Jesus of Nazareth is crazy!"
According to Jewish custom, the blood of a person or animal was the life force of that being and therefore sacred and incapable of being shed or drunk by a believer. It is easy to understand, but no less regrettably felt, that the fledgling faith of so many of those original disciples was shaken by words uttered by the Savior himself. What a tragedy that the Lord who wanted to be so generous as to share His own lifeforce with them, as He did for us all through the outpouring of His blood from the cross, should be rejected as a sort of madman for possessing such a love for His chosen children!
Yet today still we see around us continuing rejection of Christ's instructions that we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life. This decision by most Christian denominations to interpret such a key section of the Bible in a figurative way seems curious in light of the fact that flocks of disciples walked away from Jesus at the time of its proclamation. One would think that if His message had somehow been taken too literally by the disturbed crowds, and in fact He intended it in only a symbolic way, Jesus would have corrected the misunderstanding among the departing throngs, rather than let them walk away from His saving message.
The assumption that Jesus was speaking only figuratively also would seem a bit deflated by the language employed in this section of Scripture itself. The Greek language in which John's gospel was originally written is consistent in its use of words which translate into English as "eat" and "flesh," words which would seem rather strong if the eating intended was merely spiritual or if the flesh partaken of was meant in a spiritual sense too. Instead it seems more logical to assume that a real partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ is commended, an act of eating which produces marvelous spiritual effects.
In the Mass, Catholics believe that simple bread and wine brought to the altar as a token offering to God are marvelously changed by God's power during the praying of the Mass into the body and blood of Christ for distribution to believers in the action of Holy Communion. God is so aflame with love and longing for His people that He will go to even seemingly crazed extremes to express that love. Holy Communion is one of those cases where God's love is so great as to make His zealous love for His people appear mad. What a different world it would be if we strove to return God's love with an equal passion!
(Fr. Daniel Maher is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and of St. Charles Seminary. He has served as associate pastor of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax, VA and as spiritual director of the Fairfax Curia of the Legion of Mary.)
By Fritz Tuttle
Every Christian believes that Jesus Christ established and sustains a community of faith, hope and love for all believers. This community we call His Church. The Church that Christ founded is the Catholic Church which has a formal earthly structure established by Christ and which continues under His authority and protection.
In the Old Testament we see God's continual involvement in the lives of the Israelites through appointed prophets. God delivered, instructed and admonished the Israelites. He made His motions in a visible, specific and formal way. He always did so through human hands, mouths, feet, minds and wills. God established a law and a means for executing it.
In concert with His redemptive act, Jesus did three things that established the framework of His Church. First, He chose humans to carry out His work. He appointed Peter to be the visible head of the Church. Jesus said to Peter, "You are Rock and on this rock I will build my Church." (Matthew 16: 18) Jesus said "build," as in to create a structure. Jesus built His structure on specifically chosen human beings Peter and the apostles.
Second, Jesus gave Peter and the apostles the power and authority to carry out His work. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven."(Matthew 16:19; 18:18) "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain, they are retained."(John 20:23)
Third, Jesus gave Peter and the apostles commands as to what that work should be. At the last supper, He commanded, "Do this in memory of Me." (Luke 22:19) He commanded them to "Make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), and to "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)
The early Church was structured in a hierarchical manner as it is today. We see in Acts, chapter 15 how the apostles and the elders came together under the leadership of St. Peter to decide the question of what was required of Gentiles. We also see how St. Peter was regarded as the head of the Church when St. Paul, "Went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas [Peter] and remained with him fifteen days." (Galatians 1:18) There is no Scriptural evidence of independent local churches.
The Catholic Church is the only church that can claim to have been founded by Christ personally. Every other church traces its lineage back to a mere human person such as Martin Luther or John Wesley. The Catholic Church can trace its lineage back to Jesus Christ who appointed St. Peter as the first pope. This line of popes has continued unbroken for almost 2,000 years.
God rules, instructs and sanctifies His people through His Church. Under her teaching office, the Catholic Church preserves the Word of God. She is the custodian, keeper, dispenser and interpreter of teachings of Christ. And she accomplishes this under the protection of the Holy Spirit.
(Fritz Tuttle is active in Catholic apologetics and the Legion of Mary.)
By Jeffrey Mirus
Infallibility is the protection given by the Holy Spirit to the pope so that he will never teach error in matters of faith and morals. The First Vatican Council, which defined papal infallibility in 1870, was acting in response to a challenge to the doctrine which has always been true and was accepted and practiced from the earliest times. The evidence for papal infallibility comes from three sources: Scripture, history and logic.
First, Scripture clearly shows that Christ intended a special role for Peter in the establishment of the Church, and special divine protection for Peter in the exercise of his authority. This is evidenced in passages such as: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the powers of hell will not prevail against it...to you I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:17-19); "Do you love me, Peter... Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17); and "I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. You in turn must confirm your brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)
Second, history shows that from the earliest times the bishops of Rome acted as if they had special authority in succession from St. Peter, and the rest of the Church accepted their authority as if they knew it was genuine. Thus Pope Clement wrote to settle a problem in the Church of Corinth before the end of the 1st century. The Church Fathers, too, repeatedly attest to the authority of the Roman See. And the Popes always had the decisive word at general councils, as when the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. accepted the Papal definition of the two natures of Christ and said, "Peter has spoken through Leo."
Third, logic tells us that since Peter had a special commission and special powers from Christ, these powers must be essential to the Church. If these special and essential powers were to pass out of existence, it would be proof that Christ was no longer with His Church and that the "powers of Hell" had indeed prevailed. Since Christ knew that Peter would not live until the end of time, he must have intended that the successors to Peter have these powers.
Since the successors of Peter have the same authority, which comes ultimately from Christ, to bind and loose, they have the authority to bind the faithful in matters pertaining to salvation that is, in faith or morals. If a Pope could bind the faithful to error, it would be a clear triumph of the powers of Hell, because the entire Church would be bound to follow the error under Christ's own authority. Therefore, the logic of the situation demands that Peter's power of confirming the brethren must be an infallible power.
Vatican I clarified what was at that time a confusing issue, but did so by way of stating clearly what Christ's teaching was, not by way of adding anything new. Vatican I therefore carefully enumerated the conditions under which the Pope is in fact infallible the same conditions which logic demands, which Scripture suggests, and which tradition shows us in action down through the centuries.
When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is protected by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called "infallible" and the teaching which he articulates is termed "irreformable" which means it can never be changed because it is certainly true.
(Jeffrey A. Mirus holds a Ph.D. in History of Theology and is system operator of Catholic Resources Network, the world's largest Catholic online and information service system. CRNET can be reached by modem (1-703-791-4336) or Telnet CRNET.ORG.)
by Monica and George Bonina
In the early part of the fifth century the Catholic Church turned to Mary, the Mother of God, to refute a heresy taught by Nestorius. the bishop of Constantinople.
Nestorius taught that the man Jesus Christ was not God. He taught that Jesus was only a physical vessel in which God dwelled. This was a very serious heresy since it attacked the very person of Jesus. Nestorius said that Jesus' divine and human natures were totally separate rather than united. If you believe this heresy, you have an incorrect view of both Jesus' nature and of salvation. You would believe that only Jesus, the man, suffered and died, not Jesus, God.
The heresy spread and the Church had to deal with it. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to stop Nestorius from preaching the heresy, the Church called a general, or ecumenical, council at Ephesus in 431 A.D.
The council reasoned that if Jesus' human and divine natures were united, Mary would be the mother of Jesus, the man, and Jesus, God. The council therefore declared Mary to be the Mother of God. The Greek word for this is "Theotokos" which means "Birth-giver of God." Hence, Nestorius' fallacy was refuted by a formal doctrine of the Catholic Faith.
But did the council invent the doctrine of Mary as the Mother of God? We have only to look back to beliefs of the early Church, Apostolic Tradition, and Sacred Scripture to find out.
There is historical evidence that the early church practiced devotion to Mary. A fresco in a catacomb dating back to the end of the first century shows Mary between St. Peter and St. Paul. This symbolizes Mary's central role in the early Church. Other images show Mary as a sign of protection, defense and intercession.
The earliest prayer we have referring to Mary as the Mother of God dates to about 250 A.D. It is called "Sub Tuum Praesidium" ("Under Your Protection") and begins, "We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God..."
But the understanding of Mary, Mother of God, goes back even further to St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch (St. Peter was the first) and was martyred around 110 A.D. He had heard the preaching of St. John the Apostle with whom Mary lived after the crucifixion (John, 19:26-27). Ignatius wrote, "For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan..."
Other early Church fathers, including St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus of Lyon, and St. Ambrose wrote about Mary. Clearly, the early Church had a special devotion to Mary and considered her to be the Mother of God.
But we don't have to rely solely on early prayers and the writings of the Church fathers. We can also go directly to Scripture to see that Mary is the Mother of God. When Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And Elizabeth said to Mary, "And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)
What we have here is a demonstration of how the Catholic Church, relying on Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, brought the doctrine of Mary, the Mother of God, to its fullness at the appropriate time. Nothing was invented. The doctrine was believed by the faithful from Apostolic times and was formally and officially declared to be a truth of the Faith when it was needed.
(Monica and George Bonina are active in Catholic evangelization and are officers in the Legion of Mary.)
by Sal Ciresi
During the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, a familiar term regarding salvation was "sola fide," Latin for "by faith alone." The reformers, at that time, accused the Catholic Church of departing from the "simple purity of the Gospel" of Jesus Christ. They stated it was faith alone, without works of any kind, that brought a believer to eternal life. They defined this faith as "the confidence of man, associated with the certainty of salvation, because the merciful Father will forgive sins because of Christ's sake."
This view of salvation is a crucial issue because it strikes at the very heart of the Gospel message eternal life. Roman Catholicism teaches that we are not saved by faith alone. The Church has taught this since 30 A.D. as part of the Divine Revelation. The truth of the Catholic Church's teaching can be demonstrated from Sacred Scripture alone.
All who claim the title "Christian" will be able to agree on the following two truths: salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8) and salvation is through Christ alone (Acts 4:12). These biblical facts will be our foundation as we explain the teaching of the Catholic Church.
If we take a concordance and look up every occurrence of the word "faith," we come up with an undeniable fact the only time the phrase "faith alone" is used in the entire Bible is when it is condemned (James 2:24). The epistle of James only mentions it in the negative sense.
The Bible tells us we must have faith in order to be saved (Hebrews 11:6). Yet is faith nothing more than believing and trusting? Searching the Scriptures, we see faith also involves assent to God's truth (1 Thessalonians 2:13), obedience to Him (Romans 1:5, 16:26), and it must be working in love (Galatians 5:6). These points appeared to be missed by the reformers, yet they are just as crucial as believing and trusting. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) should be heeded by all it's certainly an attention grabber.
Paul speaks of faith as a life-long process, never as a one-time experience (Philippians 2:12). He never assumes he has nothing to worry about. If he did, his words in (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) would be nonsensical. He reiterates the same point again in his second letter to Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:5). He takes nothing for granted, yet all would agree if anyone was "born again" it certainly was Paul. Our Lord and Savior spoke of the same thing by "remaining in Him" (John 15:1-11).
Paul tells us our faith is living and can go through many stages. It never stays permanently fixed after a single conversion experience no matter how genuine or sincere. Our faith can be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19), departed from (1 Timothy 4:1), disowned (1 Timothy 5:8) wandered from (1 Timothy 6:10), and missed (1 Timothy 6:21). Christians do not have a "waiver" that exempts them from these verses.
Do our works mean anything? According to Jesus they do (Matthew 25:31-46). The people rewarded and punished are done so by their actions. And our thoughts (Matthew 15:18-20) and words (James 3:6-12) are accountable as well. These verses are just as much part of the Bible as Romans 10:8-13 and John 3:3-5.
Some will object by appealing to Romans 4:3 and stating Abraham was "declared righteous" before circumcision. Thus he was only saved by "believing" faith (Genesis 15:6), not by faith "working in love" (Galatians 5:6). Isn't this what Paul means when he says none will be justified by "works of law" (Romans 3:28)? No, this is not what he means. He's condemning the Old Covenant sacrifices and rituals which couldn't justify and pointing to better things now in Christ Jesus in the New Covenant (Hebrews 7-10). A close examination of Abraham's life revealed a man of God who did something. In Genesis 12-14 he makes two geographical moves, builds an altar and calls on the Lord, divides land with Lot to end quarrels, pays tithes, and refuses goods from the King of Sodom to rely instead on God's providence. He did all these works as an old man. It was certainly a struggle. After all these actions of faith, then he's "declared righteous" (Genesis 15:6). Did these works play a role in his justification? According to the Bible, yes.
The Catholic Church has never taught we "earn" our salvation. It is an inheritance (Galatians 5:21), freely given to anyone who becomes a child of God (1 John 3:1), so long as they remain that way (John 15:1-11). You can't earn it but you can lose the free gift given from the Father (James 1:17).
The reformer's position cannot be reconciled with the Bible. That is why the Catholic Church has taught otherwise for over 1,960 years.
Where does our assistance come from to reach our heavenly destination? Philippians 4:13 says it all, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."
(Sal Ciresi has lectured on apologetics in the diocese of Arlington, VA and has resided in Northern Virginia since his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1991.)
by Rev. Daniel L. Mode
The hardest part about starting anything new is taking that first step. The first step towards becoming a Catholic is also the hardest part in converting. While the very heart of any conversion process and it is a process, sometimes taking years is the relationship of the individual convert to God, there are many other people who must be involved in the whole path to complete union with the Church.
You only need to read any conversion account in the New Testament to see that the role of others is crucial to any true and lasting conversion. When Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch if he understood the scripture passage from Isaiah, the Ethiopian replied, "How can I, unless someone explains it to me." (Acts 8:31) Philip not only explained that passage and the Christian Faith, but also baptized the Ethiopian. The process that helps "explain it to" converts is known as the conversion process.
This process helps a person to overcome the many "obstacles" which seem to stand in our way to opening up to God's call in our life. Some obstacles include: What will the family think? . . . Where will I go to start the process of conversion? . . . I still have so many questions about the Catholic Faith. . . I have led a sinful life in my past, the Catholic Church will never take me. These are the common "first steps" that a person who is contemplating the idea of conversion has to come to some understanding of before he or she is ready to begin the formal process of conversion.
The easiest question is where one goes to begin the process of conversion. The answer: any Catholic priest. Find the nearest Catholic Church in your area and start there. Priests are continually helping people enter the Church. While it may seem awkward to speak with a priest, it certainly will not be for the priest. You need to start somewhere and talking with a priest is a good way to begin to answer all those questions you still have about the Faith and what Catholics really believe. Also know that any sinner who is truly sorry is welcome in the Church. We teach the Mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Penance.
The process of conversion can take place in two ways. The most common form of conversion is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA which is a four stage process leading to entrance into the Church. A person could also convert privately with one to one instruction with a priest.
If you are attracted to the Catholic Faith, take the first step.
(Fr. Daniel L. Mode is an associate pastor of St. Mary's parish in Fairfax, VA. He was ordained in 1991 and is a spiritual director for the Legion of Mary).
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