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Via Rome Reports, I have this video and transcript of our awesome pope addressing one of my favorite topics:  art as a conduit of grace.

November 18, 2009. My dear brothers and sisters, i have been speaking in recent weeks about medieval theology, and would now like to turn my attention to how the Christian faith of the Middle Ages inspired some of the greatest works of art of all time: the cathedrals of Europe.
Romanesque cathedrals are distinctive for their size and for introducing to churches beautiful sculpture, including the image of Christ as the Universal Judge and the Gate of Heaven. By entering through Him, as it were, the faithful enter a space and even a time different from everyday life, somewhere they can anticipate eternal life through their participation in the liturgy.

Gradually, Gothic architecture replaced the Romanesque, adding height and luminosity to the previous style. The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that “way of beauty”, surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.  [emphasis mine]

Amen.
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"We're the kids in America" -- Only a small part of the many teen participants at the Dayton CHWC in 2009

I want to blog today about an organization that only recently came to my attention but from what I have seen looks to be something that I fully support.  The organization is Catholic HEART Workcamp.  They organize one week summer youth volunteer camps thorughout the U.S., usually in poor, urban and under-served communities.  The kids at the camp work hard and pray hard.  All the camps include spiritual dimensions.  CHWC was started by former Youth Ministers Steve and Lisa Walker, who were inspired by their participation in non-denominational workcamps, which they enjoyed but those camps lacked a Catholic spirituality and perspective.  Because the camps were nonetheless  a positive and life changing experience, Steve and Lisa were called to offer a Catholic Workcamp.  Their first year, there were only about 100 participants but it has been growing ever since.  In the summer of 2009, 450 parishes and 10,500 adult and teen campers registered!!!

Parents, Religious Educators, Catechists, Youth Directors:  I urge you to prayerfully consider becoming involved with this organization, either through inter-parish promotion, participation, volunteering yourselves, hosting a camp, leading your groups to a camp or simply sending your own kids to one.  This is the type of activity that young American Catholics have needed for a long time.  I think each of us adults would do well to support–in any way–positive, faithful activities for our teenagers and young adults.  And one of the very best parts of this particular opportunity is that by working with CHWC, we are helping our neighbors, right here in America.  (I have some opinions about that.) 

From the FAQs on the website is this nice explanation of what these camps do:

The HEART of CHWC is to gather and celebrate our Catholic faith.  Workcamp participants are inspired to grow deeper in their walk with Christ.  Through service, prayer, and the sacraments, camper participants are renewed in their love for our Catholic faith and are motivated to return to their home communities to serve on a local level. CHWC…..

  • Inspires participants to live out and answer their baptismal call to serve
  • Respects the dignity of the human person
  • Cares for the poor and elderly
  • Loves one’s neighbor
  • Responds to the Gospel

Here is the Mission Statement of CHWC, also taken from their website:

Our Mission is Twofold…..

First: To share the love of Jesus and serve the neglected,   brokenhearted and marginalized in any way needed.  The Catholic HEART Workcamp mission is to revitalize communities and beautify homes for the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford needed repairs.  Our goal is to inspire participants to serve in their local communities.

Second: To empower participants to live as disciples of Christ through serving others.  To foster the spiritual growth of each participant through the sacraments, Catholic faith sharing and prayer.

Camps are hosted throughout the United States and are offered at levels starting with 7th grade, but the majority of camps are for high schoolers.   One director of a Catholic HEART Workcamp said in an interview with the Tennessee Register:

The Catholic HEART Workcamp gathers faithful minds and charitable hearts for the good of others. The benefit for everyone involved, said Camp Director [of the Nashville Branch] Brian Reinhart, is “to be a part of helping people put faith into action, to build relationships with people you’re not usually exposed to.”

While the kids pay for the camp and sleep in sleeping bags on gym or parish floors,  many report life-changing experiences.  It’s hard work but it is also fellowship, worship, music and fun activities.  Several Catholic musicians travel from camp to camp all summer long.

To see if there is a camp for you, click here.

Finally (I saved the best for last)– a treat for you:  a beautifully filmed video of CHWC made by the talented, young Catholic behind LikableArt, Cory Heimann.  He’s a graphic artist, videographer , and Franciscan University graduate student.  And he’s the reason I heard about Catholic HEART Workcamps in the first place.  Thanks, Cory! 

 These Hands

P.S.  Support Cory’s work!  Order graphic designs, web layouts, logos, teeshirts, mock-ups and video segments from him!

 

These could be your kids! To insert your teen into this volunteer work, visit heartworkcamp.com

 

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La Pieta by an evangelist named Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence   Countless conversions have occurred at its pedestal.

La Pieta by an evangelist named Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence. Countless conversions have occurred at its pedestal.

From Paulist Father Tom Holahan at the Catholic News Service Blog (via Intentional Disciples) comes this beautiful description of the evangelizing qualities of Rome:

Rome, in its way, is a 500-year-old evangelization machine. The buildings and art created as a response to the Protestant critique still call to people who are searching and create a mood of reflection. Just before I arrived in Rome, I met an industrial psychologist who was a Christian but now follows a Native American practice. He told me that, when he went to the Vatican, sunbeams from the dome of the church hit Michelangelo’s Pieta and brought tears to his eyes.

A week ago I heard from two nuns, dressed in habits, who were stopped on the street by a Japanese tourist. She wanted to know, could they possibly spare a few moments to explain Christianity to her? Yesterday a Syrian found his way to our English-speaking church (he knew no Italian) asking the same question. He told me he had no particular faith, but he had been impressed with the Syrian Orthodox while in his own country and now, before he had to leave the country because of a document problem, he wanted to find out more. He asked his questions urgently, “And, so, Jesus was the Son of God?” “He promised eternal life?” Searching Americans approach the faith issue differently. One recently told me he “gave up on God” when the Supreme Being did not cure his depression and taking a little pill did. I said there may come a time when something can’t be fixed, then what?

Now friends, when you hear nonsense like “the Pope should sell the Vatican and give the money away to the poor”, you know the answer for yourself.  Even if the Pope could sell off Vatican treasures (he can’t) and there were someone to buy them (who could afford the price tag of the Pauline Chapel?), why would we sell off one of the best conversion-delivery systems we have?  That is why we are here, to bring ourselves closer to our Lord and bring all the world the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The wonder that is Rome– the collection of centuries of sacred art, architecture, and culture– belongs to all of us, rich and poor alike, Italian, American, Japanese, Syrian, Catholic or Agnostic who may walk around not only Rome but within the Vatican and share in their treasures, and bask in their beauty.  It is this beauty through which God permits His grace to flow, changing minds and converting hearts.   This is what Pope John Paul the Second called “the beauty that saves.”  Fr. Holahan is right:  Rome is an evangelization machine.

The Church has long recognized the power of the sacred arts to communicate truth and to turn souls devoutly toward Christ. Throughout Christian history, the Church has commissioned great works of art, architecture, and music to advance her mission of worship, catechesis, and evangelization, inviting the world more deeply into the mysteries of the faith.–The Foundation for Sacred Arts Mission Statement

Rather than feed the poor for a day, let’s give them the food of eternal life.

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St. Stephens Cathedral in Metz.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Metz.

I came across this picture tonight.  It is an interior photo of the very tall nave in the Metz Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz).  The nave it shows is over 40 meters high!   That’s impressive, but that fact is not why I am posting this photo. 

As I was admiring the beauty of the cathedral, I noted that it has chairs instead of pews.  My very first thought was about how hard it would be to set out all of those chairs.  My next thought was, boy, I sure bet it’s difficult to keep all them straightly aligned, they must be knocked about pretty constantly….My next thought (stick with me, my thought process is rather tangential) was remembering that all the great churches of Europe lacked pews and chairs, and I immediately went into my next thought about how many thousands millions of Catholics through the centuries got down on their knees on the cold stone floor to pray and worship our Lord.   Not for timed “one hour masses.”  No, these were full on liturgical, Gregorian chanted, only the ordained priests touched the sacrament, loooong affairs.  Several times a dayEveryday.  When it was time to kneel, our predecessors got down on the stone…or tile…or bare floor.  On. Their. Knees.  And NOW we come to the reason why I posted the picture of the beautiful Metz Cathedral.  Seeing this picture reminded me….  

I remembered something my mom told me when I was a little girl.  It was a moment that will stay with me all of my life.  We were getting ready to go to church for Good Friday.  My mom told me that when she herself was a girl, she was moved to see, every Good Friday, all the faithful Polish men of her parish approaching the Wood of the Cross on their knees, and weeping profusely.  She told me, “Crying, they were crying.  Gruff men, men like Grandpa!”  And she repeated, shaking her head in awe, “They went the whole way on their knees!  on the hard floor!”  Though decades had passed, I could still hear the awe and emotion in my mom’s voice.

I remark this kind of faith and adoration, to approach our Lord in humility, in suffering, in sacrifice, in total gratitude.   Would that today we see such faith! 

I don’t know when I became aware that Protestants don’t kneel.  I do not know when I noticed a lack of kneelers in their churches.  But Catholics kneel.  I have always thought of our kneeling-ness.  And that reminds me of another family story.   Whenever we would see my mom’s extended family, my dad would tell the story of attending Mass early in my parents’ marriage with my mom’s cousin, the nun.   She stood next to my dad (then a Lutheran) and throughout the Mass “barked orders under her breath like a drill sergeant –‘Sit!Kneel!Stand!’”  I still think of that story at odd times and hear in my head, “Sit! Kneel! Stand!”  It makes me smile.  I love the kneeling.  I love the Church for kneeling.  It makes us special because it makes us submissive.   But over the decades, I have noticed a sad trend away from kneeling during Mass, even before and after Eucharist.   

Because of that story my mom told me when I was a kid, my attitude about kneeling during the Mass is completely different than most modern Catholics.  For instance, at my parish we have a few pew sections where there are no kneelers.  So,  I make sure that my family is the one which gets one of the ‘no kneeler pews’.  We are kneelers in my family, and I would just as soon that it be my kids and me on our knees on the uncomfortable floor, than another family which most likely would then feel permitted to sit all through the Mass.  I tell my kids, “With all Christ suffered for us, we can kneel on the carpet for 15 minutes.”  When our knees hurt, we know to think, “Thank you, Lord, for letting us share in your suffering.”  (When we first started doing this, the kids weren’t too happy but now they never complain.)    I have found that our example sometimes seems to affect others in ‘no kneeler pews’, although that is not why we are doing it.  We do it because we can choose to do it, we do it as a love offering to our fellow parishioners so that they don’t have to, and even more importantly, we do it so that they will not be tempted to ‘sit out’ the worship.  We are helping them avoid this near occasion of …ingratitude and complacency

In our modern society, we might think it is undignified to kneel.  We might feel like it is uncomfortable and unnecessary.  But kneeling has never been comfortable or dignified.  The whole point, in fact the very reason why kneeling is NECESSARY, is because it demonstrates physically that we honor God, and submit to His Will.  When we worship God, a necessary part of the worship is to acknowledge that He is great, and we are…not.  If we cannot prostrate ourselves before our Lord, I fear our faith is shallow and our self-importance deep. 

We are not doing God a favor by being in church on Sunday.  We are not working our way into God’s good graces.  We are allowed, through God’s infinite mercy, to be filled with all the blessings that the Mass imparts, to witness a miracle every Eucharist, to join in Christ’s divinity through it.  We are honored and we are humbled and we say, “For you alone are the Holy One!  You alone are the Lord!  You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ!” 

The LORD’S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench.  Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”  — 1 Kings 18:39

Prayer:   Jesus, You graciously and mercifully bore our sins upon Your back, suffering not only torture and death, but humiliation and scorn.  Thank you!  Lord, I beg You to work in me a miracle–convert my heart to love You with a fullness that drives out selfish thoughts for myself.  Do not permit that my pride keep me from worshipping You in true love, as You deserve.  Lord, You bring all sinners who seek You to forgiveness and grace.  Fill me with grace now, I humbly ask.  Amen.

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Via Mark Shea’s Catholic and Enjoying It! blog comes this enlightening overview of ‘the immeasurable wealth’ of the Vatican. 

I’ve been re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring and the immeasurable wealth of Bilbo is mentioned as one of the fixed myths of the folk of Hobbiton. At one point, sundry residents of the town flood into Bag End, nosing about for treasure, convinced that there’s no end to it.

Something similar obtains in the world of ignorant popular anti-Catholicism in the English-speaking world concerning the limitless wealth of the Vatican (and, by the way, that world of ignorant anti-Catholicism extends to not a few Catholics in the US). The notion is that the Vatican is a sumptuous treasure house worth enough instantly end world poverty if those greedy prelate would just sell off their wealth (you know, the way the nationalization of the Russian Churches, instantly ended the state-created famines of the Stalin era).

Here’s the actual story from the intrepid John Allen:

In the public’s imagination, the Vatican is awash in priceless art, hidden Nazi gold, plundered treasures from around the world, and vast assets tucked away from prying eyes in the Vatican Bank. Reality is far more prosaic. To put it bluntly, the Vatican is not rich. It has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any Top 500 list of major social institutions. To draw a comparison in the non-profit sector, Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion, which means it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans every year and still have pocket change left over. The Holy See’s budget would qualify it as a mid-sized American Catholic college. It’s bigger than Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles (annual budget of $150 million) or Saint Louis University ($174 million), but substantially less than the University of Notre Dame ($500 million).

The total patrimony of the Holy See, meaning its property holdings (including some 30 buildings and 1,700 apartments in Rome), its investments, its stock portfolios and capital funds, and whatever it has storied up in a piggy bank for a rainy day, comes to roughly $770 million. This is substantial, but once again one has to apply a sense of scale. What the Holy See calls “patrimony” is roughly what American universities mean by an “endowment” – in other words, funds and other assets designed to support the institution if operating funds fall short. The University of Notre Dame has an endowment of $3.5 billion, meaning a total 4.5 times as great as the Vatican’s.

But what of the some 18,000 artistic treasures in the Holy See, such as the Pietà, that don’t show up on these ledgers? From the Holy See’s point of view, these artworks are part of the artistic heritage of the world, and may never be sold or borrowed against. Michelangeo’s famous Pieta statue, the Sistine Chapel, or Raphael’s famous frescoes in the Apostolic Palace are thus listed at a value of 1 Euro each. In fact, those treasures amount to a net drain on the Holy See’s budget, because millions of Euros have to be allocated every year for maintenance and restoration.

It was that notorious enemy of the poor, Dorothy Day**, who opposed stupid schemes to take art out of the Churches because she was perfectly aware of the fact that it was actually a scheme to make even more art the private property of a few rich people. At present, the “treasures of the Vatican” are the property of every beggar in Rome who wishes for something to alleviate the pain of his life and lift his thoughts to God. Under the Judas Iscariot Plan for Wealth Redistribution (Motto: Why were these things not sold and the proceeds given to the poor?”) the “treasures of the Vatican” become treasures in some guy’s villa or in some pricey museum where cultured despisers can go to sneer at the stuff people used to believe.

**Luce’s note:  I believe that Mark is being sardonic here.  If you do not know who Dorothy Day was, she was a lifelong champion for the poor.

Bilbo‘s Immeasurable Wealth.

update:  see related post  Rome: The Beauty That Saves.

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Herewith I answer Russ’ question from earlier today.  I am posting it separately instead of in the comments section because I got carried away again and it wouldn’t all fit into the comments box.

To those new to this discussion, these exchanges in the Comments started with my October 6th post  More on the Problem of Authority, continued into Answering Russ’ Questions–Many are Called, Few are Chosen, and went back to More on the Problem of Authority.  To catch you up, I have quoted below the most recent exchange between my reader Russ and me (his original comments are at More on the Problem of Authority).    Russ’ comment and question from earlier  today finishes the series and my answer follows:

Russ    October 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Can I ask you all a question? In Mathew 3:2 Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” If you were alive at the time of Jesus and you heard Him say this, would you repent or would you ignore Him?

edit this on October 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Reply LuceMichael

Russ,

I believe wholeheartedly that upon hearing that the kingdom was at hand, I would have repented immediately.

….Unfortunately, I am pretty certain that by the next day I would have lapsed back into my neglectful, proud and sinful ways. >.>

I am in a constant state of conversion, but as my life and attitude mature, I find that I am getting better at avoiding temptation and near occasions, have improved judgment, (slightly) more patience and lots more charity.

My pastor just quoted an author in his homily who said, “God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He wants to see that we are making progress.”

I’m making progress.

Peace.

Russ   October 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm

LuceMichael,

Who’s interpretation would you use to know what Jesus was really saying? If you insist that people cannot interpret the word of God themselves, then you are insisting that the people who heard Jesus say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” should just ignore Him until the first Pope, Peter, tells them exactly what Jesus meant.

God not only allows us to interpret His word, He expects us to know and understand and interpret His word even as He expected those that heard Him say, “Repent, for the kingdom…” to actually repent at the sound of His voice.

 

 

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael 1515-16    The master combines two different Biblical passages, Matt 16:18-19 (Keys to the Kingdom) and John 21:15-17 (Feed My Sheep)

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael 1515-16 The master combines two different Biblical passages, Matt 16:18-19 (Keys to the Kingdom) and John 21:15-17 (Feed My Sheep)

My answer today: 

Russ!  welcome back!  what long pauses we have and it seems that we are still mired in this Catholic / Protestant debate.

First of all, I will reiterate that I am not a theologian.  I should also mention that I’m not an apologist either and my weblog is not about Protestant errors or conversions.  I do post Protestant-related material from time to time, mostly when it amuses me and sometimes when it confuses me.  I guess I kinda stepped in it this time.  :-P  I do worry that our back-and-forth tends to take my little weblog on a confrontational path that I would not want to continue down, although I will venture that way for a little while with you.

Your suggestion that listening directly to Jesus preach is analogous (is the same as) with reading Scripture (written 60-80 years after His death) in modern times— 2000 years after His Ascension, after many translations and through a different lens of history and culture–is sophistic and therefore, I am not going to address it.   However, I will answer the rest of the spirit of your comment.

I do not know where you get the idea that God “expects us to understand and interpret His Word.”  Is that in Scripture somewhere, because again, I’m not a Biblical scholar or theologian and I’ll need help finding the citation.  I wouldn’t want to put words in God’s mouth. ;-)   Having said that, I do know many places in Scripture where we are directed to ‘not lean on our own understanding’ (Prov 3:5)  but rather are encouraged to listen to the teachings of the Apostles and Church.  Here are some of them:

  1. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch…reading the prophet Isaiah…[Philip] asked “do you understand what you are reading?” He replied “How can I unless someone guides me?” and he invited Philip [note: the Apostle] to get in and sit beside him (Acts 8:30-31)
  2. So the Levites read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)
  3. Jesus even told the rabbis:  “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29)
  4. Peter warned against personal interpretation of the prophetic writings (2 Peter 18-21)
  5. Jesus didn’t consecrate all of us to the Truth, he consecrated the Apostles (John 17)
  6. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture does Jesus command anyone to write and read.  However, there are repeated instances of Him commanding to PREACH and HEAR. (citations too numerous to list)
  7. All of what Jesus said and did was not written down in the Gospels.  John admits as much.  Twice.  (John 20, John 21)  
  8. However, we can be assured that the Apostles did not forget and preached and passed on the traditions that Jesus taught them.   “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (Second Paul to the Thessalonians—2 Thess 2)
  9. Somewhere, in one of the letters, I know Paul instructs his brothers to correct errant brethren, and if that doesn’t work, take it to the Church.  I am too tired to remember the verse.  (help?)

I disagree with your statement that God expected those who heard His voice to repent.  Scripture is clear that it was in fact just the opposite:  Jesus expected most people to turn away from Him and His message.  See:

  • “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”  Matt 7: 13-14
  • “Many are invited but few are chosen.” — Matt 22:14
  • “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  Mark 9:31
  • “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.”  Mark 13:13
  • He departed from there and came to his native place,  accompanied by his disciples.  When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  
  • The parable of the rich man and Lazarus–“‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”  Luke 16:31

Russ, where in the Bible does it say to rely only on the Bible?  Where does it say sola scriptura?  In fact, where in the Bible does it mention ‘the Bible’?  Why did Jesus commission His Apostles to go preach the Word, but didn’t commission them to write it down? 

Finally, I would suggest that if interpreting the Bible and leaning on one’s own IMPERFECT understanding were so ‘fool-proof’, then we would not see 30,000+ different Protestant denominations.  Wouldn’t God, whose Son Jesus desired unity for His Church, prayed for unity and told us that His Father would grant Him whatever He asked–wouldn’t Almighty God have made sure that all 30,000 of your “little popes” (Luther) would have agreed on interpreting His word?  If understanding God’s word were easily accomplished by everyone, laity and ministers and theologians all–IF THAT WERE THE CASE–then that would leave only TWO churches:  the CATHOLIC Church and the PROTESTANT Church.  Luther would have been proved right, and the apostolic church would have been proven wrong.  But you can see from history alone that not only was Luther wrong, but that his wrongness was heresy, because his legacy is not “the ONE PROTESTANT Church”.  No.  Instead, there are over 30,000 Christian sects fighting each other over a myriad of issues including baptism, salvation, sacraments, homosexuality, abortion, segregation, female ministers, rapture, creationism, divorce, Sabbath, end times, gambling, alcohol, head coverings, speaking in tongues, gay marriage, Trinitarian issues, infant baptism, tithing, governmental taxes, grace, prayer and even music. What we have is the Tower of Babel:   a loud, nonsensical clamor that is coming from literally thousands of different voices from ‘little popes’–

the Anglicans and Episcopalians (high and low)–[note: founded by an adulteror and murderer], the Lutherans (4 major American synods, 30+ divisions), the Unitarians, the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians (reformed and other), the Methodists, the Wesleyan division, the Baptists (Over one hundred subdivisions!), the African Methodist Church, the Dutch Reformed, the Disciples of Christ, the Assemblies of God, the Anabaptists, the Pentecostals (gee whiz, how many of them are there?), the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Christ, the Church of Christ Scientist, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God,  the United Church of Christ (so much for truth in advertising), the United Christian Church (ditto), Uncle Max’s Bible Church down the street, the Living Word church across from Wal-mart, the Bible Fellowship church in the old bowling alley, the Harvest Church out RR1, Grace Chapel in the mobile home, Calvary Temple, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Mennonites, the Mormons and uh, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

That’s a lot of popes!  Even Wikipedia can’t keep up:

Note: This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there are reported to be over 38,000 Christian denominations, many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable.
Note: Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian, disagreements arising primarily from doctrinal differences between groups. For the purpose of simplicity, this list is intended to reflect the self-understanding of each denomination. Explanations of different opinions concerning their status as Christian denominations can be found at their respective articles.  [emphasis mine]

This is not the unity for which Christ prayed (John 17).  Even Martin Luther, at the end of his life, bemoaned that “there are now as many doctrines as there are heads.”  Which just proves 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”   Clearly, there are about 40,000 false prophets.  In the meantime, the Catholic Church keeps on keeping on, still holding to, still teaching the same dogma it taught 2000 years ago. 

In defense and explanation of myself,  in regard to your original question about repenting if I heard Jesus say to, I would like you to know that (after our Lord died) I would have also repented had I heard Peter, Paul, Thomas, John the Evangelist, St. Irenaeus or any of the early Church fathers preach the Good News, which—by the way, Russ–is how the world was converted to Christianity.  The first 400 years after Jesus death, it was in fact the word of the Apostles, the teachings of the Catholic Church that spread the Good News, and those teachings were not clear even to the Apostles.  Peter and Paul debated (as we see in Acts) theological points and had many differences, e.g. the question of Jewish law applied to Gentiles.  The early Church decided how to resolve this, with the primacy of the chair in Rome being acknowledged within the first decades of the Church.  Heresies and the proliferation of “inspired Gospels” made it imperative for the Church to write down the oral tradition.  As I said before, it was the Church, the holy apostolic catholic Church that collected the writings.  Russ, when you sit down to read the Bible, you are *de facto* accepting the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, of the Magisterium and of the Pope.  You are saying, I agree that the Catholic Church was right about the canon of the Bible.  There is no way around that.  Your Bible is– at its foundation– the work of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.  (You’re welcome.)

(Speaking of which, which version of the Bible are you reading?    Do you know Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew or Latin?  Do you read the texts in their original language?  Or are you RELYING on someone else’s interpretation?  Whose interpretation and translation are you reading?  I read on Christianity Today that a big battle is brewing over the newest ‘translation’ of the Protestant Bible.  Seems there’s going to be a lot of gender-neutral language in the next version.  Boy, I’m sure glad the Magisterium would never allow that in the Catholic Church.  Anyways…just thought I should let you know that decisions about the Word of God–translations, interpretations, changes to text, modernizing, etc.–are being made for you …not by the Holy Spirit but by some publishers in Wheaton, Illinois.  Oh, and did you know, Martin Luther added a word to your Bible.  He was called on it by other Protestant Reformers and he basically said, “I don’t care, it’s my Bible.”  I wonder what the Evangelist Paul would have to say about Martin Luther claming the Bible as his own plaything and changing Paul’s inspired text…. Oh, what was the word Luther added?  He added “only” to the passage about…oh gosh, I don’t want to spoil it.  You should look it up.)

Speaking for myself, Russ–

  • I believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection was sufficient to redeem the world. 
  • I believe that ancient Hebrew Scripture reflects God’s plan for our redemption from the beginning of time, which is Salvation History, a history that was fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • I believe that God’s salvific plan was completed in Jesus and Jesus alone. 
  • I believe that Jesus consecrated His apostles and commissioned them to go preach the Good News to all the ends of the world. 
  • I believe that they did just this, through the holy Catholic Church, and guided by the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to them.   
  • I do not believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, only to have His message absconded by a whore and the antichrist, with the message perverted or lost for 1500 years until Martin Luther came and saved itI do not believe Christ failed, and I do not believe that the birth of Martin Luther was necessary to bail Him out.  I do not believe that God sent Martin Luther as the real messiah.
  • I believe in our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, and I, like the Catholic Church, “preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23), NOTMartin Luther justified.’
  • I do not believe Martin Luther is part of God’s salvation plan at all .  And that is what all the Protestant Reformation boils down to:  whether you believe Jesus Christ when He gave Peter the keys and promised eternal protection for the Church, OR whether you believe that a second messiah was needed to come and resurrect Jesus’ teachings. 

The question for yourself is what you believe.  It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Best wishes on your faith journey, Russ.  I do not think I can help you anymore, not only because I’m unqualified but most in particular because I get agitated, argumentative and somewhat snippy, and that’s not why I have this little online diary.  If you feel the need to debate Catholic theology further, I recommend that you click on the link to the right for Catholic Answers.  Those guys are great: smart, funny, truly Biblical and they are all Catholic Apologists–it’s what they do for a living.  It’s not really my gig. 

May the peace that surpasses all understanding be yours.

Luce

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St. Francis and the Angel by Gentileschio

St. Francis and the Angel by Gentileschi

 

If we all earnestly prayed the Peace Prayer, and worked at it, and cooperated with grace…oh, what a wonderful world this would be. 

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

 Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Pray, reflect and then listen:  Haydn’s St. Francis Mass

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