Monday, December 31, 2018

Predicting the End of the World

I had a prediction for the end of the world come to me a week or two before Christmas. It was a comment by a fellow named "E", nestled as a comment in one of my other articles, automatically flagged as spam. Now that his predicted end of the world has come and gone, I thought I'd offer feedback on what went wrong with the prediction.
I visited with the person who sent the message, and it turns out that this was much more than just another "I have predicted the end of the world" preacher.  The person actually believes himself to be, not just a prophet, but THE prophet.  Because of this, and my suspicion that there are some psychological issues, I have removed his identifying information, which includes his websites.

"E's" comment began with a call to attention:

"You are part of a search and rescue for lost Catholics.
Regular updates to the countdown to the Day of the Lord by the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven at :
[website link redacted]"

My first impression was that this was one of those "Catholics are all lost and must come to the Lord, instead of believing [whatever some people think Catholics believe, which we don't actually believe]" type things. To my surprise, it wasn't. The site could only be one of two things: a complete joke by someone who is indifferent to religion and history; or a real concern by someone who may very well be Catholic, but has become so caught up in conspiracy theories that he cannot tell reality from fiction.

The website was one of those that are a strain on the eyes in every sense. Bright, bold, multicolored font on grey-toned background , arranged in such a way that one might actually suffer a headache just from trying to read the words. But what really caught my eyes was the Gloria.

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Okay, so the person is presumably Christian, and probably Catholic (judging by other statements). I kept skimming through the words.

"This is the [page] of St. John the Baptist...of Petrus Romanus (...vicar of Christ), the sign of the Son of Man... (Matthew 24:30), whose Pontificate began September 12, 2012 A.D."

Okay, so which is it? Is it the site of John the Baptist (really??) or of the fictitious "Petrus Romanus"? And are these references supposed to lend credibility to the claims?  As I would later learn from him, he believed himself to be both...the resurrected John the Baptist, in the personage of the "final Pope", the alleged "Petrus Romanus".

"The only site with...accurate interpretation of the Day of the Lord according to the four digit numbers in the prophecy of the Book of Daniel in the Holy Bible."

Ah!  So we finally get to the topic at hand.  Here we have it folks! After ALL the [I have no idea how many hundreds/thousands] failed predictions regarding the end of the world and the final coming of Christ, THIS guy has finally figured it out! What a relief.
You know, I was under the weird impression that no one would know the day or the hour, for some strange reason (Mt 24:36, 25:13; Mk 13:32).

"What to expect in the final days :
[website link redacted]
"Our Lady of the Roses’ Awesome Bayside Prophecies...These prophecies came from Jesus, Mary, and the saints to Veronica Lueken at Bayside, NY, from 1968 to 1995."

This next statement and website had me guessing if "E"was just joking around. The supposed apparition of "Our Lady of the Roses" in New York has been flatly rejected by the Church. Not least among the reasons is the fact that some of the "messages" given by the person who allegedly saw the "apparition" betray a lack of understanding of basic Christian faith and the English language. You can read about it here:

"[website link redacted - had to do with "Three Days of Darkness", which has floated around for some time now]
I was guided to think, for a while, using the "1335 = 2300" methodology, explained here :
[website link redacted]
We are less than 11 days away from prophetic history : the completion of the 2300 day cleansing period of Daniel 8:14. When Jesus said to me, "Give in now, John, until it comes time to fulfill all justice", He was referencing that point in time between "this age" and "the age to come". That point in time is between December 29, 2018 A.D. and December 30, 2018 A.D. There is no changing this..."

The other links are the same basic theme. "Here's my personal, fallible [except not really fallible, because I am convinced it's not] interpretation of a couple passages in the Bible that PROVE that the end of the world will be [insert any number of dates that have been tossed out by people thinking they know better than Jesus did]".

Well, here we are. The "point in time" has come and gone, and we are all still here. What went wrong, "E"? Was it your reliance on fiction (i.e. Petrus Romanus), faulty reasoning of Scriptural passages taken out of context, or just plain ignoring the fact that Jesus said that no one would know? Wouldn't it make more sense to worry about our own death (which we still can't predict) and making sure we are ready for that?

I did send "E" a personal invitation to discuss this topic here.  We shared a brief exchange elsewhere, during which he revealed that he believed himself to really be John the Baptist, (previously born as Elija the prophet before that, having now been born of 3 wombs in fulfillment of the "establishment of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly by Christ".  He claims to have been sent by Christ to round up everyone who has mentioned "Petrus Romanus" on the internet, because that's a sign that we're the ones who were supposed to be written in the Book of Life in Heaven, and that the "Age to Come" mentioned by Christ began December 30, 2018 (give or take). 

The gist of it is this:  Jesus Christ said that it is given to NO ONE to know the day or the hour (Mt 24:36, 25:13; Mk 13:32).  No matter when the end comes, or the "age to come" begins, every person will die at some point, and face judgment (Hb 9:27).  If you are one of those who gets caught up with "the end", get caught up with THAT one.  Be ready, like the virgins who brought their oil, and you won't have to worry about the end of the world, because it really won't make any difference.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Why Ask Mary?

Why do Catholics, and other Christians who honor Christ's Mother, ask her to pray us? It's because we know she can help lead us to Christ like no other person can. In fact, everything about Mary magnifies God and points us to Christ.

Mary is the most pure Virgin, conceived without sin. From the very first instant, she was made entirely immaculate by God, her Savior. Gloriously full of grace, she is the mother of our God, the Queen of Angels and of men. We humbly venerate her as the chosen mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose Mary, from among all other women that existed, or ever will exist, for the singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross, He preserved her from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, we have hope and bold confidence in her prayers for our holiness and salvation.

We pray that her prayers will bring us to imitate her holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.

We beg the Queen of Heaven to beg our Savior to grant us our petitions for our needs and the needs of others.

We know that our holy Mother was obedient to the will of God. As we make petitions to Jesus through her, we know that God’s will is more perfect than our will. So, we ask her to pray that we may receive God’s grace with humility like she did.

We ask that Mary pray for us to increase in faith in our risen Lord; we ask that Mary pray for us to increase in hope in our risen Lord; we ask that Mary pray for us to increase in love for the risen Jesus!

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. AMEN!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Veneration vs. Worship: Are they the same thing?

Someone was sent the following, explaining how veneration and worship are supposedly the same things, and that venerating the Saints is the equivalent of giving them the worship due to God alone.

"The simplest definition of worship is to “ascribe worth.” Worship can be more completely defined as “showing respect, love, reverence, or adoration.” Based on the dictionary, no clear difference between veneration and worship exists. In fact, veneration and worship are often used as synonyms for each other.
The Catholic Church has different degrees of worship: dulia, hyperdulia, and latria. Dulia is the honor given to the saints. Hyperdulia is the honor given to Mary alone, as the greatest of the saints. Latria is the honor given to God alone. In contrast, the Bible always ascribes honor, in the context of worship, to God alone [1 Chronicles 29:11; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Revelation 4:11]. Even if there were biblical support for different levels of worship, there still would be no biblical support for offering lower/lesser levels of worship to anyone other than God.
Only God is worthy of worship, adoration, praise [Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 4:11, 15:4], and veneration, no matter how it is defined. Mary’s worth comes from the fact that God chose her for a glorious role and saved her from her sins through the death of Jesus Christ [Luke 1:47]. The saints’ worth comes from the fact that God saved them, transformed them, and then used them in mighty and amazing ways. May we all, with Mary and the saints, fall on our knees and worship the only One who is worthy."

So, are showing reverence, venerating, loving, respecting and adoring all the same thing, and all equal to the worship reserved for God alone? No, they are not. If they were, we'd all have to wonder why God commanded us to "worship" our parents in His own commandments to us. I would venture a guess that the person who wrote the above statement honors his/her parents. I would also guess he/she is not married and has no children, because spouses honor and respect each other (by remaining faithful and leading each other to Christ, for example), and honor and respect their children by raising them, feeding them, caring about them, and "ascribing worth" to them. It's true that worship used to be used synonymously with veneration and honor prior to the twentieth century, and in Europe, this is more common. For example, calling a judge "Your Honor" or a King "Your Worship". But those who use(d) worship in this manner understand the difference between showing respect [for our elders] and worshipping God. Further, most Christian doctrines and understandings of Christian uses of words isn't based on Webster's Dictionary.

To say a Catholic "has different degrees of worship" begs the question, and begs an explanation before presuming the Christian and historical understanding of "worship". If we are going to assume that the word "worship" means that which is reserved for God alone, then the statement is untrue. The statement would be, "the Catholic has different degrees of showing honor", and then the list would be certainly correct, and would look as follows.
Dulia is that honor given to our parents as commanded by God, to each other as members of the Body of Christ, to those in authority over us as commanded by God, and to those fellow humans having the dignity that all persons have. Hyperdulia is that honor which is an elevated form of dulia, given to Mary, the Mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, because God bestowed such honor upon her in choosing her to be His Mother. Since God blessed Mary among all women (Lk 1:42), and His Word prophesies that all generation shall call her blessed (Lk 1:48), we Christians ought to respect that. We do so by honoring the Mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in a way that is greater than other people, while still understanding that she is not to be given the worship that is due to God alone. Latria is the adoration and worship which is due to God alone. This is the worship which God commands we give to Him. And Catholics (and other Christians) give latria to God, and to God alone.

Yes, the Scriptures from the OT and NT show us that honor and glory are to be given to God for all eternity. And this, in no way, is diminished by obeying God's command to honor our parents (Ex 20:12, Dt 5:16). In fact, Jesus, Himself, reemphasizes the importance of showing this honor in three of the Gospels, as does Paul when He points out that this is the first command that comes with a promise (Eph 6:2). It's also not diminished by loving one another as Christ has loved us, or by respecting each other as we choose not to murder or steal or covet our neighbors' goods or their spouses. It is in no way diminished by ascribing worth to a person, as we listen to them ask forgiveness, and as we choose to forgive them.

I've already shown Biblical examples of showing these "lower levels of worship [a.k.a. honor and respect] to anyone other than God". But here are a couple more:
2 Kngs 4:37 has the Shunammite woman bowing down, and in some translations it says "worshipped", to honor Elisha for raising her son from the dead.
Jos 5:14 shows Joshua falling to the ground in reverence, and again some translations use "worship", as he gives reverence to the angel of God's army, and Joshua honors him with the title "lord".
Dan 8:17 shows Daniel falling prostrate in awe of the angel Gabriel.
Tob 12:16 tells of Tobiah and Tobit falling prostrate to the angel Raphael.

In all these examples of honoring our parents or bowing before prophets or angels, are we seeing people give the worship which is due to God alone? No. They are examples of that "dulia" which we give because God told us to, and because we want to recognize God's work through His chosen instruments.
Why does the person who wrote the above statement think these things might look like worship?  I am going to guess that it's because he/she has adopted a form of Christianity that has all but abandoned (or worse) the Sacramental nature of worship.  All that is left of worship, for this person, are the things can be incorporated into worship, but are not worship itself, as Jesus showed us.
We venerate angels because they always behold the face of God (Mt 18:10) and they, with the Saints, are in union with God and can help lead us closer to Him. The Saints are an example for us to follow (1 Thess 1:5-8, cf. Hb 13:7), and so we honor their example and ask their help so we can be faithful Christians like they are.

AMEN! Only God is worthy of our worship! (Veneration isn't mentioned in those passages, by the way.) God Himself has commanded us to give proper honor to others, and Scripture has plenty of examples of that.
AMEN! Mary's place of honor is from God, and the work of God alone. And God honored her more than any human could possibly ever honor her. That doesn't mean we get to ignore what God did through her and ignore what His Word prophesied about all generations in her regard. We honor her because God honored her first.
AMEN! Let us all join Mary and the Angels and the Saints in worshipping God and falling to our knees before Him! Let us also not forget the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and given the example (Heb 11-12:1) and whose prayers avail much (Jam 5:16).

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

To Give or Not to Give, and How to Do it Right: by Apprentice Blogger

Giving gifts thoughtlessly, or without consideration, is something we probably all have done. It seems like giving someone a gift that's "nice" or cheap, is a harmless act of charity, and the recipient will probably never know whether the giver has put much thought or effort into it. Some people don't even like giving gifts to others, yet they do it because they think they have to and therefore don't put much effort into it.
 But, as they say, it's the thought that counts; and if your thought is, ''Do I have to give someone a gift?",  then how does that show that you love or care about the receiver of the gift?  
It really doesn't.  
When the occasion calls for giving your friend a gift, do so with love, and not with the desire to get the cheapest item available, or to reluctantly just get it over with. Don't buy them a $700 watch, but also don't buy a cheap dollar store item. And don't buy them a super-expensive gift they won't use, like a sweater that won't ever be worn because they live in California. Think your gift ideas through, or you could be wasting your money.
 Get the gift receiver something you know they'll appreciate. Even if you think they won't care what you get them, you should still put effort into getting a gift. If you don't really know what they want or would like, ask them, or someone who knows them well. If you get your friend something you know they'll actually want and use, the gift receiver will be rewarded with a gift that they will like, and you will be rewarded with the joy that comes with giving the right gift.

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving".

- Mother Teresa

Apprentice Blogger is the pen name of a new contributor to the site. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Don't Jump Ship Because of Judas

  In this time of yet another scandal, there are good and faithful Priests who encourage their flocks.  This letter can be, and has been, written in the various words of other such Priests in many parishes around the world.  This is just one example.  I keep it anonymous because I don't personally know this Priest.  (The parish name is a common one.)

  " Dear Parishioners of Holy Family, Praised be Jesus Christ!
I write this letter to all of you as something separate from the pastors column with the hope that I can more fully communicate my message to you. The timing seems to be perfect as we are within the beautiful Octave of Marian feasts, following the Solemnity of the Assumption and concluding with the Queenship of Mary. I write this under the protective mantle of the Holy Virgin to each of you who as disciples of the Lord Jesus are also her well-beloved children.

Over recent weeks our Church, Our Mother on earth, has had to endure yet another round of public purification. This process of purification, while it has been painful, has a Divine origin as well as a benefit for each of our souls. The long awaited revelations of sinful and destructive behavior on the part of those who have been in positions of power has brought not only great pain but also an incredible sigh of relief. The Lord has acted and exposed so as to heal and cleanse.
The general response on the part of the other bishops has been incompetent at worse and incomplete at best. Of a more recent note two American Cardinals recently participated in interviews with major publications. While in one interview the presence of organized cliques of power-hungry-lustful-wolves-in-sheep’s-wool present in the Church’s chanceries and seminaries is ignored, in the other interview that particular Cardinal Archbishop is so bold as to say that the lustful unchaste homosexual dimension to this epidemic is a diversion from the heart of the matter.

While none of us are given the authority to judge a soul nor condemn one to what we think may be deserved, we are able to make a judgement on the gravity of what has taken place and to acknowledge that mortal sin has not only occurred but also been turned into a lifestyle. Grown adults who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, who have been ordained to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ, who have been entrusted with an apostolic ministry for the salvation of souls have lived double lives and purposefully sought to damage and destroy the beauty of humanity through grave sexual abuse and misconduct.
There are several factors which are present and still being denied and covered up by many within and outside of the Church.

First: Those who have had their disgusting behavior exposed have been participating in lustful gay subcultures. While this is not politically correct to state, the culture of being politically correct is what has prevented these horrible acts from being stated and exposed. Victims, both young and mature, have suffered because people were afraid to speak the truth. The individuals in question were not only in positions of power and authority that they abused, but they also preyed upon young men who were their subordinates. As we are finding out, many of these victims were adults at the time of abuse and sexual misconduct.

Second: The individuals in question, and their supporters, have been notoriously and suspiciously quiet over the past 30 years during the culture wars of Life verses Death. Church teachings and Papal clarifications during the reign of St. John Paul II and then Benedict XVI were ignored by these bishops and archbishops so that Pro-Abortion Catholic Politicians could receive Holy Communion and tout their lackluster and empty Catholic faith for votes from mindless cultural Catholics who don’t heed to the sanctity of life in all stages. Priests and faithful alike have been chastised by these same bishops for preaching, teaching, and expecting fidelity to the teachings of Christ because it was unkind, uncharitable and divisive to state that someone who receives Jesus in Holy Communion should not support the murder of the unborn. These same bishops were dangerously quiet when confronted with the public assaults against the sanctity of marriage and its biblical definition as a union between ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN FOR LIFE.

Third: Among those who have fallen we find an absence of public teachings and statements about the importance and significance of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and the role of the Holy Virgin in the life of the disciple. Over the past few weeks we have been challenged and nourished by the words of the Lord Jesus from John Chapter 6, the Bread of Life Discourse, during Holy Mass. We must remember that these words are life-giving and life-saving. Who among us that believes in the true presence cannot see the central role that the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament plays in the life of the Church, as well as in strengthening the soul of a Christian? Is it any wonder then that when those who are the shepherds don’t preach and teach the reality of the true presence fall so easily into a life of sin and darkness.

Fourth: In our age of public sins we must admit the disappearance of corporate and public penance. We as a Church have grown weak and lazy when it comes to penance. In a culture of weakness and laziness where there is no penance, no discipline, why should we expect any kind of fortitude and strength, discipline and restraint of individuals? We each know how difficult it is to remain strong in the face of temptation, penitential practices help to strengthen us. The fact is, in our day people want what they want and they get what they want regardless of the cost. Why do we no longer abstain from meat on Fridays when the Church asks us to? Why do we no longer fast when the Church recommends us to fast? Spiritually speaking, the Church, even and especially her ministers, are dying from a lack of strength and discipline.

Fifth: The denial of the Devil. Too many of our leaders deny the existence of the devil and of fIat-out-plain-old evil. It is said “When you deny the devil’s existence you have already been duped by him.” He is real, he is prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls, and He thrives when Christians are living a dream thinking there is only good and no consequences to bad choices.
Each of us must fight temptations and remain on guard against all sin, especially mortal sin. The Lord gives Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament so that we may be strong enough to not only continue the journey of life, but to also remain faithful to Him as we make this journey.
We must pray for the sanctification of priests and bishops. The seminarians of today will be the priests of tomorrow. These young men must be prayed for while also being protected from the predators. Our Lady, Queen of Clergy, needs to be restored as a title of Our Lady, that is popular and invoked often.

As a little boy, my uncle Pat, may he Rest In Peace, would say over and over again a quote his father had told him, “we must be faithful regardless or in spite of the Church”.

 I remember thinking how I didn’t like that quote as I thought it was an attack against the Church that Jesus founded. Then I entered seminary. Though many things had changed from the challenging times of earlier years, we still studied and prepared for the priesthood in an environment where subcultures were present and ambition was a disease that infected many. Among my peers there were debates about liturgically appropriate socks (I couldn’t make it up if I wanted to!) as well as serious conversations about doing whatever you had to do so as to become a bishop. (Lord save us!) Among the faculty we had beautiful priests who loved Jesus with their whole hearts and we had priests who were predators. Thankfully, we had more of the former than latter. In the beautiful priests, you always would see a man who loved Jesus in the Eucharist and would cling to Our Lady. In the predators, you always found a man who complained about EVERYTHING, was grateful for nothing, and focused only on what he could gain from the one who stood before him.

While we may be disgusted and angered, perhaps some who have a young faith are even tempted to leave Holy Mother Church, we must remain focused on Jesus in the Eucharist and Mary as our Mother. Let us make frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession and pray daily the Holy Rosary. We must acknowledge the pain that comes about from the sins of those who have literally pierced the Sacred Heart again. In acknowledging this pain, let us strive to make acts of reparation for the sins committed against Jesus and against His little ones.
All is not lost! Our faith is a holy faith and Our Lord Jesus IS God! He will not abandon us. Even should we think we are going at it all alone, He is with us! I wish to close by saying as a priest, I am eternally grateful for the people I have met and served thus far. I have had only three assignments and in each of these three parishes I have met good people, strong people, people who want to survive. All of you by your faith, remind me to stay close to the good Lord and His Mother. Our parish of Holy Family is a community, a parish, a Church that believes and that is something for which I am truly grateful. We treasure the gift of the Lord in the Eucharist and the presence of Our Lady. May this be forever the case!

Returning to these days of Marian celebrations, let us remember that where our Mother has gone, we her children should want to follow. She has gone to heaven to be with Jesus, so too may we if we remain faithful to Him. This valley of tears is not our permanent home, but merely a journey. A journey we must make and survive. As this journey that we call life is a trip through the valley of tears, may we remain dependent upon Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. As a Catholic Christian, I am broken hearted by the news of bishops and priests being unfaithful and embracing lives of sin. As a priest though, I breathe a sigh of relief as the Lord is cleaning out the Church.

Heart of Jesus, we Adore!
Heart of Mary, we Implore!
Heart of Joseph, Pure and Just;
In these three hearts, we place our Trust!
May we pray for one another as we follow Our Lady who directs us to her Son.
In Jesus through Mary, [Father's name redacted]."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

On Immigrants Thirsty for Freedom

The post read, "If you break the law to get here, you will break the law while here.  Period." Then there was a link to a story about an illegal immigrant who had committed a horrible murder.

My comment:
"That's not true. You should talk to my Mexican family member. She has really opened my eyes. She was brought here illegally as a teenager, snuck in. It's a nice, warm, fuzzy idea that good people who want to come here in search of a better life should just put their name on a nice little list, and eventually it'll happen, but that's not how it works. If you lived in squallor with your children in a totally different world than anything we've ever dreamed of, you'd risk your life to change their future too. My family member was married to an American man for nine years. (Former Navy, by the way) who had never even been to Mexico. And she still couldn't get legal status. She worked hard for her family, AND paid taxes, even while she was illegal. Yes, you read that right. They paid a midwife cash, and had homebirths so they didn't use the system to get free care. She says she'd vote for Trump if she could vote! Even after my brother in law died and left her with their four American kids, it took years, and a generous lawyer who took her case for free, for her to get legal status. She is an AMAZING asset to our family, and one of the wisest people I know. I am such a better person for having known her. By the way, her parents and siblings are now here too (illegally), and none of them have ever been in trouble with the law. "

"I understand that there are evil people who do horrible things, but that happens everywhere. I know it's easy for us Americans to sit in our nice houses, and judge the rest of the world, but most of us don't have a hint of a clue what it's like to live in the third world. And once you get here, it's not sunshine and roses, with everything handed to you for free. It's still a huge struggle. So to make a blanket statement like "if you break the law to get here, you will break the law after. Period." I just can't even."

As Catholics, this is a difficult issue. I don't have any answers, and I don't pretend to know what the solutions are to our country's immigration problems. But I do know that we can't lump everyone together. That's a cop-out. It's so much more complicated than that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mary's "Imaginary" Partner, and other Fallacies

I don't like attention grabber headlines just for the sake of grabbing attention, so I decided not to title this article after the first statement by this atheist. But the fact is, he is saying that if the Virgin Birth is true, then Jesus is "a bastard". According to his view, if Christians believe that Jesus was born outside of Marriage, then that leaves us looking like fools who worship a fatherless child. I normally don't respond to rubbish of this sort, but it was a great opportunity to point out to this person that he was engaging in illogical debate. Since he purports to be "logical", I hoped he'd find this important, and you, the reader, may also benefit from seeing a few more examples of deceptive tactics used by people in arguments.

Sardar - "During Jesus time, anyone who was born outside marriage (married couple(s)) was called a "bastard(s)". [Mary] slept with a man (she claimed it was an imaginary being). There is certainly no "God" (supernatural being) therefore, stop this madness!
If you are a man and you have a kid, do a DNA test; make sure your son or daughter isn't another "JESUS"!

There is quite a bit there in the world of logical fallacy (using deception to argue a point). I decided to focus on just the meat of his fallacious claims, without going too much into theology. I wanted to make a point about his tactics first, and see how he reacted to that correction, before casting my pearls before him (Mt 7:6). As it would turn out, that was the right decision. The guy was not looking for discussion; he just wanted to take some cheap shots at Christians.

-Well, Jesus was born within a Marriage between Joseph and Mary. That's somewhat beside the point, but for an atheist, it matters in the physical/material sense. Christians can look at it from another point of view that is just as important: Mary [according to some theologians and historical accounts] had already taken a vow to God. That's why, when told she would bear a son, she asked, "How can this be, since I do not know man?" (Lk 1:34).
That's your first strawman fallacy.

-Mary didn't sleep with any man. She also never claimed that she slept with an imaginary being.

That's strawman number two, and a complete misrepresentation of the facts as reported in historical writings (i.e. Scripture). What is recorded is that "the power of the Most High will overshadowed [her]" and the child would be "the son of God" (Lk 1:35). God is spirit, and has no material body...just pure spirit. So, it isn't possible that she "slept" with Him...because there is nothing material about Him. God did not take on human form until the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on flesh, which He got entirely form Mary; which leads to your third strawman fallacy.

-Taking a DNA test would only have revealed Mary's DNA, because Jesus took on His flesh entirely from Mary. His Father, the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, has no material DNA because He is pure spirit.

-Whether there is a God, you are free to deny. But simple logic and a cursory glance at the world around you shows that there is indeed a God.

If you want to argue against God, or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, or whether Christ would have had paternal DNA, or whether Mary could have "slept with" God, you might want to take the time to educate yourself on what Christians believe about God. Otherwise, you are just going to look extremely ignorant, and end up arguing nothing but strawmen.

His response gave me good evidence that he no intention of discussing anything, and no intention of correcting his misrepresentation of the facts and of the Christian faith.

Sardar - "Faith is illogical."

The word "irony" comes to mind.

- [Misrepresenting Christian beliefs in order to show how illogical they are is ALSO illogical.] I've looked at the theist view, the atheist view, the agnostic, the diest...and I believe it takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian.

After that, he made his final response.

Sardar - "."

Yep. "." was what he wrote. And then we went about our separate ways.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Church Fathers on: Relics and Icons (by Brian Showalter)

I had been asked about possible quotes regarding the use of relics and icons in the early Church, and found Brian Showalter's blog site by chance.  He has spent thousands of hours researching tens of thousands of pages of the writings of the Early Church Fathers on a variety of topics.  In his research he has continued to find that the Church has always been Catholic.  Brian graciously gave me permission to post his work here for reference.  His original, along with many other topics, can be found at his blog, Practical Apologetics.   
Here are many of the early Church writings regarding relics and icons:

Marytrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch ch 6 (50-117 ad)
For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr
Polycarp Martyrdom of Polycarp Ch 18 (69-155 ad)
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps
Tertullian Against Marcion Book 2 ch 22 (160-240 ad)
The brazen serpent and the golden cherubim were not violations of the Second Commandment. Their meaning. [+] Likewise, when forbidding the similitude to be made of all things which are in heaven, and in earth, and in the waters, He declared also the reasons, as being prohibitory of all material exhibition of a latent idolatry. For He adds: "Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them." The form, however, of the brazen serpent which the Lord afterwards commanded Moses to make, afforded no pretext for idolatry, but was meant for the cure of those who were plagued with the fiery serpents? I say nothing of what was figured by this cure. Thus, too, the golden Cherubim and Seraphim were purely an ornament in the figured fashion of the ark; adapted to ornamentation for reasons totally remote from all condition of idolatry, on account of which the making a likeness is prohibited; and they are evidently not at variance with this law of prohibition, because they are not found in that form of similitude, in reference to which the prohibition is given.
Peter of Alexandria Genuine Acts of Peter (260-311ad)
In the meanwhile a spirited body of senators of those who are engaged in the public transport service, seeing what had happened, for they were near the sea, prepared a boat, and suddenly seizing upon the sacred relics, they placed them in it, and scaling the Pharos from behind, by a quarter which has the name of Leucado, they came to the church of the most blessed mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs
Eusebius of Caesarea Church History book 7 (295-340ad)
They say that this statue is an image of [+] Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city. Nor is it strange that those of the Gentiles who, of old, were benefited by our Saviour, should have done such things, since we have learned also that the likenesses of his apostles Paul and Peter, and of Christ himself, are preserved in paintings, the ancients being accustomed, as it is likely, according to a habit of the Gentiles, to pay this kind of honor indiscriminately to those regarded by them as deliverers.
Athanasius Life of St Anthony par 92 (296-373 ad) 
But each of those who received the sheepskin of the blessed Anthony and the garment worn by him guards it as a precious treasure. For even to look on them is as it were to behold Anthony; and he who is clothed in them seems with joy to bear his admonitions.
Basil Letter 49 (329-379 ad)
If I am able to find any relics of martyrs, I pray that I may take part in your earnest endeavour.
Basil Letter 155 (329-379 ad)
If you send the relics of the martyrs home you will do well; as you write that the persecution there is, even now, causing martyrs to the Lord.
Basil Letter 197 par 2 (329-379 ad)
he took up the relics with all becoming reverence, and has aided the brethren in their preservation. These relics do you receive with a joy equivalent to the distress with which their custodians have parted with them and sent them to you
Basil Letter 360 (329-379 ad)
I acknowledge also the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs; and I invoke them to supplication to God, that through them, that is, through their mediation, the merciful God may be propitious to me, and that a ransom may be made and given me for my sins. Wherefore also I honour and kiss the features of their images, inasmuch as they have been handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but are in all our churches.
Jerome Letter 24 par 4 (347-420 ad)
She hurried to the martyrs' shrines unnoticed. Such visits gave her pleasure, and the more so because she was never recognized.
Jerome Letter 31 par 2 (347-420 ad)
It is true that a festival such as the birthday of Saint Peter should be seasoned with more gladness than usual; still our merriment must not forget the limit set by Scripture, and we must not stray too far from the boundary of our wrestling-ground.
Jerome Letter 46 par 8 (347-420 ad)
Everywhere we venerate the tombs of the martyrs; we apply their holy ashes to our eyes; we even touch them, if we may, with our lips.
Jerome Letter 46 par 13 (347-420 ad)
We shall see the fountain in which the eunuch was immersed by Philip. We shall make a pilgrimage to Samaria, and side by side venerate the ashes of John the Baptist, of Elisha, and of Obadiah.
Jerome against the Vigilantius par 5 (347-420 ad)
Are we, therefore guilty of sacrilege when we enter the basilicas of the Apostles? Was the Emperor Constantius I. guilty of sacrilege when he transferred the sacred relics of Andrew, Luke, and Timothy to Constantinople?
Jerome Letter 109 par 1 (347-420 ad)
You tell me that Vigilantius (whose very name Wakeful is a contradiction: he ought rather to be described as Sleepy) has again opened his fetid lips and is pouring forth a torrent of filthy venom upon the relics of the holy martyrs; and that he calls us who cherish them ashmongers and idolaters who pay homage to dead men's bones. Unhappy wretch! to be wept over by all Christian men,… We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and "every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come." For we may not "serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord
John Chrysostom Homily 10 on Ephesians ch 4:5 (347-407 ad)
And yet who is there whom this fire does not touch? Which of the statues that stand in the Church?
John Chrysostom Homily 55 on Acts ch 28:17-20 (347-407 ad)
As I keep hearing the Epistles of the blessed Paul read, and that twice every week, and often three or four times, whenever we are celebrating the memorials of the holy martyrs,
John Chrysostom Homilies 10 Ephesians [347-407 AD]
For like a conflagration indeed, or like a thunderbolt hurled from on high, have they lighted upon the roof of the Church, and yet they rouse up no one; but whilst our Father's house is burning, we are sleeping, as it were, a deep and stupid sleep. And yet who is there whom this fire does not touch? Which of the statues that stand in the Church? for the Church is nothing else than a house built of the souls of us men. Now this house is not of equal honor throughout, but of the stones which contribute to it, some are bright and shining, whilst others are smaller and more dull than they, and yet superior again to others. There we may see many who are in the place of gold also, the gold which adorns the ceiling. Others again we may see, who give the beauty and gracefulness produced by statues. Many we may see, standing like pillars. For he is accustomed to call men also also on account of their beauty, adding as they do, much grace, and having their heads overlaid with gold.
John Chrysostom Homilies 21 on the Statues par 10 [347-407 AD]
Were your Statues thrown down? You have it in your power again to set up others yet more splendid.
John Chrysostom Homily on St Ignatius par 5 (347-407 ad)
For not the bodies only, but the very sepulchres of the saints have been filled with spiritual grace. For if in the case of Elisha this happened, and a corpse when it touched the sepulchre, burst the bands of death and returned to life again, much rather now, when grace is more abundant, when the energy of the spirit is greater, is it possible that one touching a sepulchre, with faith, should win great power; thence on this account God allowed us the remains of the saints, wishing to lead by them us to the same emulation, and to afford us a kind of haven, and a secure consolation for the evils which are ever overtaking us.
Egeria Discription of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem XXXVII (348-418 ad)
Veneration of the Cross. [+] Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha [+] behind the Cross, which is now standing; the bishop [+] duly takes his seat in the chair, and a table covered [+] with a linen cloth is placed before him; the deacons [+] stand round the table, and a silver-gilt casket is [+] brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The [+] casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and [+] both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed [+] upon the table.
John Cassian Conference 6 ch 1 (360-435 ad)
In this district there lived for a long while monks of the most perfect life and holiness, who were suddenly destroyed by an incursion of Saracen robbers: (3) whose bodies we knew were seized upon with the greatest veneration (4) both by the Bishops of the neighbourhood and by the whole populace of Arabia, and deposited among the relics of the martyrs, so that swarms of people from two towns met, and made terrible war upon each other, and in their struggle actually came to blows for the possession of the holy spoil, while they strove among themselves with pious zeal as to which of them had the better claim to bury them and keep their relics
Augustine Letter 212 (354-430 ad)
how much stronger is their claim on you, who reside in the same country in this earth in which these ladies, for the love of Christ, renounced the distinctions of this world I also ask you to condescend to receive with the same love with which I have offered it my official salutation, and to remember me in your prayers. These ladies carry with them relics of the most blessed and glorious martyr Stephen: your Holiness knows how to give due honour to these, as we have done.
Augustine on the Holy Trinity Book 1 ch 6.13 (354-430 ad)
But that the Holy Spirit is not a creature is made quite plain by that passage above all others, where we are commanded not to serve the creature, but the Creator; not in the sense in which we are commanded to "serve" one another by love, which is in Greek douleuein, but in that in which God alone is served, which is in Greek latreuein. From whence they are called idolaters who tender that service to images which is due to God. For it is this service concerning which it is said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." For this is found also more distinctly in the Greek Scriptures, which have latreuseis. Now if we are forbidden to serve the creature with such a service, seeing that it is written, the creature more than the Creator), then assuredly the Holy Spirit is not a creature, to whom such a service is paid by all the saints; as says the apostle, "For we are the circumcision, which serve the Spirit of God," which is in the Greek latreuontes. For even most Latin copies also have it thus,
Augustine Reply to Faustus the Manichean Book 20 par 21 (354-430 ad)
What is properly divine worship, which the Greeks call latria, and for which there is no word in Latin, both in doctrine and in practice, we give only to God. To this worship belongs the offering of sacrifices; as we see in the word idolatry, which means the giving of this worship to idols. Accordingly we never offer, or require any one to offer, sacrifice to a martyr, or to a holy soul, or to any angel. Any one falling into this error is instructed by doctrine, either in the way of correction or of caution.
Augustine of Hippo City of God Book 22 ch 8 (354-430 ad)
For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles.
Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 3 Ch 14 (375-477 ad)
He (the monk Antony the great) was earnest in conduct, grave in discourse, and with a good memory and accurate attainment in Sacred Writ. He was so beloved by God, that even now many afflicted and possessed people are healed at his tomb.
Council of Ephesus Extracts from session 1 (431 ad)
Theodosius, the humble Christian, to the holy and Ecumenical Synod: I confess and I agree to (suntiqemai) and I receive and I salute and I venerate in the first place the spotless image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the holy image of her who bore him without seed, the holy Mother of God, and her help and protection and intercessions each day and night as a sinner to my aid I call for, since she has confidence with Christ our God, as he was born of her. Likewise also I receive and venerate the images of the holy and most laudable Apostles, prophets, and martyrs and the fathers and cultivators of the desert. Not indeed as gods (God forbid!) do I ask all these with my whole heart to pray for me to God, that he may grant me through their intercessions to find mercy at his hands at the day of judgment, for in this I am but showing forth more clearly the affection and love of my soul which I have borne them from the first. Likewise also I venerate and honour and salute the reliques of the Saints as of those who fought for Christ and who have received grace from him for the healing of diseases and the curing of sicknesses and the casting out of devils, as the Christian Church has received from the holy Apostles and Fathers even down to us to-day.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 11 letter 13 (540-604 ad)
If for this instruction for which images were anciently made you wish to have them in the church, I permit them by all means both to be made and to be had. And explain to them that it was not the sight itself of the story which the picture was hanging to attest that displeased thee, but the adoration which had been improperly paid to the pictures.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 9 letter 105 (540-604 ad)
Furthermore we notify to you that it has come to our ears that your Fraternity, seeing certain adorers of images, broke and threw down these same images in Churches. And we commend you indeed for your zeal against anything made with hands being an object of adoration; but we signify to you that you ought not to have broken these images. For pictorial representation is made use of in Churches for this reason; that such as are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. Your Fraternity therefore should have both preserved the images and prohibited the people from adoration of them, to the end that both those who are ignorant of letters might have wherewith to gather a knowledge of the history, and that the people might by no means sin by adoration of a pictorial representation
Gregory the Great Letters Book 3 letter 33 (540-604 ad)
We now send you as the benediction of the blessed apostle Peter a small cross, wherein are inserted benefits from his chains, which for a time bound his neck: but may they loose yours from sins for ever.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 4 letter 30 (540-604 ad)
The Serenity of your Piety, conspicuous for religious zeal and love of holiness, has charged me with your commands to send to you the head of Saint Paul, or some other part of his body, for the church which is being built in honour of the same Saint Paul in the palace. And, being desirous of receiving commands from you, by exhibiting the most ready obedience to which I might the more provoke your favour towards me, I am all the more distressed that I neither can nor dare do what you enjoin. For the bodies of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul glitter with so great miracles and terrors in their churches that one cannot even go to pray there without great fear. In short, when my predecessor, of blessed memory, was desirous of changing the silver which was over the most sacred body of the blessed apostle Peter, though at a distance of almost fifteen feet from the same body, a sign of no small dreadfulness appeared to him.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
From the Life of the Abbot Daniel, on Eulogius the Quarryman. [+] Then he went away dejected, and threw himself before an image of Our Lady, and crying out, he said: "Lord, enable me to pay what I promised this man."
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
St Basil says, "Honouring the image leads to the prototype." If you raise churches to the saints of God, raise also their trophies.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
A tradition has come down to us that Angaros, King of Edessa, was drawn vehemently to divine love by hearing of our Lord,* and that he sent envoys to ask for His likeness. If this were refused, they were ordered to have a likeness painted. Then He, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is said to have taken a strip of cloth, and pressing it to His face, to have left His likeness upon the cloth, which it retains to this day. (shroud of turin?)
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
If you say to this that blessed Epiphanius clearly rejected our use of images, you must know that the work in question is spurious and written by some one else in the name of Epiphanius, as often happens. A father does not fight his own children. All have become participators in the one Spirit. [78] The Church is a witness of this in adorning images, until some men rose up against her and disturbed the peace of Christ's fold, putting poisoned food before the people of God.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
Listen to what I am going to say as a proof that images are no new invention. It is an ancient practice well known to the best and foremost of the fathers. Elladios, the disciple of blessed Basil and his successor, says in his Life of Basil that the holy man was standing by the image of Our Lady, on which was painted also the likeness of Mercurius, the renowned martyr. He was standing by it asking for the removal of the impious apostate Julian, and he received this revelation from the statue. He saw the martyr vanish for a time, and then reappear, holding a bloody spear.
Venerable Bede Ecclesiastical History of England Book 4 ch 32 (672-735 ad)
The brother having long laboured under this malady, when no human means availed to save his eye, but rather, it grew daily worse, on a sudden, through the grace of the mercy of God, it came to pass that he was cured by the relics of the holy father, Cuthbert. For when the brethren found his body uncorrupted, after having been many years buried, they took some part of the hair, to give, as relics, to friends who asked for them, or to show, in testimony of the miracle.
Constantinople/Trullo/Quinisext canon 82 (692 ad)
In some pictures of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God.
Avenging of the Saviour (700 ad)
It is the woman called Veronica who has the portrait of the Lord in her house. And immediately he ordered her to be brought before his power. And he said to her: Hast thou the portrait of the Lord in thy house? But she said, No. Then Velosianus ordered her to be put to the torture, until she should give up the portrait of the Lord. And she was forced to say: I have it in clean linen, my lord, and I daily adore it. Velosianus said: Show it to me. Then she showed the portrait of the Lord. (Veronica was the woman who suffered for 12 years with the issue of blood)
2nd Council of Nicaea During the time of Stephen II [787-788 AD]
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all knoweth Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honorable reverence not indeed that true worship of faith which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented . . .
4th Lateran Council (Ecumenical Council #12) ch 62 [1215-1216 AD]
The Christian religion is frequently disparaged because certain people put saints' relics up for sale and display them indiscriminately. In order that it may not be disparaged in the future, we ordain by this present decree that henceforth ancient relics shall not be displayed outside a reliquary or be put up for sale. As for newly discovered relics, let no one presume to venerate them publicly unless they have previously been approved by the authority of the Roman pontiff.

In the comments section following this list, someone remarked, "Your omission of the Council of Elvira, Origin, Eusebius, and Epiphanius demonstrate your bias." It was a rather amusing comment, given the overwhelming list of quotes above, but still worth a response.

In the first place, there do not appear to be any objections on the topic from Eusebius, and I have seen no one provide any. Writings contrary to the subject which were attributed to Epiphanius are actually referenced in the above list as being considered forgeries (John of Damascus, Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images, 676-749 ad).

And what of the Council of Elvira? Direct quotes are hard to come by, but let's assume, for the sake of argument, that iconography/imagery was forbidden in some such way. This was a local council in Spain in the 4th century which partly addressed, among many other topics, idolatry and pagans making improper use of sacred images. If there was a prohibition against images, it was only a local one; yet there is no evidence that such was the case, especially with the mountain of evidence in support of imagery in the Church's history. More likely, according to some historians, "...the council did not pronounce as to the liceity or non-liceity of the use of images, but as an administrative measure simply forbade them, lest new and weak converts from paganism should incur thereby any danger of relapse into idolatry, or be scandalized by certain superstitious excesses in no way approved by the ecclesiastical authority" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Council of Elvira).

Finally, there is mention of Origin. Brian Showalter took the time to find pertinent quotes from him on the topic. 
"Let him then tell us whether it is a becoming thing for philosophers, and those who have been taught not to yield to superstition, to abandon their country's customs, so as to eat of those articles of food which are prohibited in their respective cities? or whether this proceeding of theirs is opposed to what is becoming? For if, on account of their philosophy, and the instructions which they have received against superstition, they should eat, in disregard of their native laws, what was interdicted by their fathers, why should the Christians (since the Gospel requires them not to busy themselves about statues and images, or even about any of the created works of God but to ascend on high, and present the soul to the Creator); when acting in a similar manner to the philosophers, be censured for so doing?" (Origin).

"In this I don't see a condemnation. It just says it is not a requirement like the pagans he was talking about" (Showalter).

"If he had specified their names in particular, we should have felt ourselves bound to show him that he wished to give us as guides men who were blinded to the truth, and who must therefore lead us into error; or that if not wholly blinded, yet they are in error in many matters of belief. But whether Orpheus, Parmenides, Empedocles, or even Homer himself, and Hesiod, are the persons whom he means by "inspired poets," let any one show how those who follow their guidance walk in a better way, or lead a more excellent life, than those who, being taught in the school of Jesus Christ, have rejected all images and statues, and even all Jewish superstition, that they may look upward through the Word of God to the one God, who is the Father of the Word" (Origin).

"In this quote his reference to rejecting images could be that Christians reject the images and statues of the pagans. I try my best but it is not enough for some" (Showalter).
I see in that quote a plain fact that Christians do not worship images as the pagans did. It says nothing of the beauty of images to remind us of our Creator, modeled for us by the Creator Himself when, in Sacred Scripture, he commanded and blessed the use of images/statues for His Sacred purposes (Ex 25:18-19; Num 21:8-9; 1Kngs 6:23-29, 7:25-45; 1Chr 28:18-19; Ezekiel 41:17-18).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Praying to Mary and the Saints in Heaven

A friend of mine once posted a video blog about society setting up role models for itself (sports figures, war heroes, etc.). He spoke about how much he appreciated, during points in his life as he struggled with faith and morality, having a particularly awesome role model; the Mother of Jesus Christ. He spoke of being able to look up to her and follow her example of saying "yes" to God, no matter what the neighbors would say [of her seemingly untimely pregnancy], or no matter the hurt she would feel [when her Son was given up on the cross]. He recounted the great instructions she left all of humanity when she said, "Do whatever He tells you". And he mentioned how great it is to have such a great role model in whom we find no moral faults such as drug or porn addiction, spouse abuse, adultery, or other moral faults to which so many of our role models fall prey. And somewhere in the comments, he mentioned how great it is to ask such a great role model to pray for his spiritual growth in Christ.

A friend of his had some comments and questions. And I had an opportunity to discuss with her. But before you continue reading, I invite you to watch the video blog by Michael Henderson, titled "Upside Down World". (You may have to be logged into Facebook to view it...I'm not sure.)

MD - I'm glad to hear this topic from you! [Husband] and I discuss this often (being that he was raised Catholic and they had a statue of Mary that rotated through the homes of their church for a week at a time and I was raised Baptist. We don't go to either denomination now. Our churches have been Bible churches non-denominational). Before you even got to your part about Mary, you mentioned the saint that you "ask to pray" for you. That already sparked a question. Then when you made your point about Mary and said that it's viewed as idolatry and yet those other things are not I saw the connection you were making and wanted some info on your perspective.
I am confused at how you are asking the spirit of dead people to pray for you? I also don't think that the saint is an acceptable person to pray to (they are people that the church as glorified with a title). I don't see why you would pray to either one. I've never heard of that. I pray directly to Father God and Jesus. The veil was torn and I go straight to the source. I don't need a special saint or Mary to intercede on my behalf because they don't have more clout than me. I am a child of God, with the Holy Spirit residing in me. I do not know about differences in the Protestant bible compared to the Catholic bible but probably some of the reason that non-Catholics don't understand your praying to Mary because she is not viewed as Holy, Sinless, or immortal. She was a regular woman, chosen in the same way as Moses, or Noah, etc to carry out a portion of God's plan. I think it CAN become idolatry (but so can exercise, work, money, personal attention, and so on) to put faith in Mary or to worship her. That Glory belongs to the Lord. However in my own upbringing the concern was not really about praying to Mary (or any other person, dead or alive) being idolatry, but more it being completely unBiblical in general. In my own life I can imagine certain Bible characters being an inspiration of good character or having attributes I am drawn to-- but I do not see any purpose in praying to them or "asking" them to pray for me. You can PM me if your response is lengthy :) I assume you will have some interesting things to say!

Dave - "I am confused at how you are asking the spirit of dead people to pray for you?"
-"How" is just by asking them to pray for us. "Why" might be a better question. And the answer is, because "the prayer of the righteous avails much" (James 5:16). Who is more righteous than people in Heaven with God? :-) Which I guess brings up another point: they aren't "dead", because "God is God of the living" (Lk 20:38). Do you suppose that when YOU die and go to be with Jesus, that you will be "dead" in Christ, or "fully alive" in Christ?

MD - I see your point that their spirit is alive- their body is dead (in human terms). I should have worded that differently. My point was that they were human, not Demi-Gods and that they are no more righteous than I. There are not tiers of value amongst us. There's us, and above us there's God (Trinity). The "saints" that church appoints are not better than me because they accomplished some wonderful Kingdom tasks. While the Catholic Church claims that saints have earned a higher degree of holiness, the Bible refers to all who are "in Christ"/ all christians as Saints. I'm covered by the blood of Jesus- HIS righteousness makes me holy, an heir to Heaven as a child of God. I don't need some "better" Christian to beseech God on my behalf. Not by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5), but by His GRACE. So while we can say for certain that the SPIRIT of the folks of the past are alive and well in Heaven or Hell, I still don't see any reason to pray to them or any indication that they are hearing me. My God doesn't view them as "better" than me, or choose to listen to them before me. Tim. 2:5 says Jesus is the only mediator. Heb. 7:25 says JESUS is interceding for me. Why would I need anyone else? The Bible never instructs us to pray to anyone else and never says anyone else can hear us. (But maybe a protestant Bible is different and I'm missing this?). I also believe your James reference to be out of context because as a Born Again Christian (2 Corinth. 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.") Jesus' blood and my acceptance as a Christian of his salvation make me "the righteous". I don't need to go find someone "more righteous" to pray on my behalf-- to my understanding. 🤷🏼‍♀️ this is truly an issue amongst believers. No one I know understands why Catholics believe this (however amazing we think those Catholics are!).

Dave - Yes, of coarse we are all humans, including the Saints. :-) And the Church doesn't claim anything about them other than the reality: that they are in Heaven. People in Heaven aren't committing sin, nor being tempted to sin, and are seeing God face to face, as He is, instead of as through a darkened glass (in the words of the Apostle Paul). They have been purified in Christ and purged of all stain of sin...made PERFECT, as through fire (1Pet 1:22, Heb 12:22-23, 1Cor 3:13-15, Rev 21:27)!
So, if it's okay for me to ask my brother in Christ who is alive on earth, and being tempted to sin, and living in a sinful world surrounded by evil, to pray for me; why isn't it okay for me to ask someone to pray for me who is in the very presence of our Lord?! :-) If the angels in Heaven continually offer up our prayers to God for us (Rev 5:8, 8:3-4; cf. Mt 18:10 ), then why not my brothers and sisters who have "become like angels" (Mk 12:25), some of whom are already praying for earthly vindication (Rev 6:9-11) and were all too happy to pray for me while they were on earth, and are now fully alive in our Savior? Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1; cf. Heb 11), why not ask them to pray for me?
Are you telling me that when you die and go to Heaven, and I keep asking you to pray for me to the Lord, that you are going to tell me "nope, I'm no longer 'alive' so I can't 'mediate' for you to bring you closer to Christ"?
Are you telling me that when you are in the presence of our Lord in Heaven, you will be no more filled with grace than you are now?

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