My brother died on Sunday, August 10, 2014. Just a week prior, on the feast day of St. Alphonsus Liguori (August 1 or 2, depending on the Liturgical calendar you use), he wrote a letter which he intended for all the Catholics in his area to read or hear from their respective Priests.
Part of his dying wish was that all Catholics would be encouraged to learn their faith more deeply and thoroughly in order to grow closer to God and prepare for our eternal destination. By this time, he had held a catechesis meeting with the local parishes, and led a discussion with a local Confirmation class, which I had the honor of sitting in and listening to. Shortly after writing this, on Tuesday, August 5, he had a friend record a video message in which he delivered a catechesis/apologetics lesson, followed by a Q&A session.
I made minor edits [in brackets] to this letter, but the message was not changed in any way. This is my brother's death-bed letter:
It is my dying wish that your parishioners will either read this letter in the bulletin or hear it from the pulpit. I give you full permission to edit this document so that it would be suitable to you and give you complete freedom to make necessary changes.
As I lay here dying from Stage IV cancer, I am going over the shortcomings in my life, knowing that I will soon stand before my just judge.
One major regret I have is the fact that I never shared my gifts that God gave me. God gave me the great gift of being able to store and recall information and regurgitate every Catholic book I’ve ever read. I know how to prove from history alone that we belong to the original Church and that none of our teachings have ever changed.
In the past I was too much of a coward to evangelize and now I will soon stand before my Lord. When I found out I was dying, I got a small group together at my house, averaging two parishioners per parish at each of the three parishes here in [name redacted] County. We have only had one meeting and these people are pumped up and notice some of the same things I do.
1. To me it seems we view our Church as a democracy instead of what Christ truly established (Matthew 16:18). Many times I have heard of complaints against our priests over small and insignificant matters, such as not being able to understand the accent of the priest during a homily, or the priest exercising his proper authority over his parish. To this I say, without a priest you cannot go to heaven. Not even the Blessed Virgin Mary can consecrate the Eucharist or hear your confession. St. Alphonsus says that the priest has a dignity higher than the angels because only he can bring you Jesus in the Eucharist, which John 6 tells us is necessary for our salvation. All the Saints gave the utmost respect to their parish priests, and I, all to often, see people wanting to run the parish and push the priest out of the way.
2. While I am certainly no one to judge, I do notice that in Mass the communion lines are always full, but the confessional lines are always empty. This tells me there are two possibilities: either you don’t know what sin is or you no longer believe in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In John 6, Jesus makes it crystal clear that it is not a symbol. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:29 that we damn ourselves by taking communion without discerning whom it is we are receiving. My own opinion is that most of us have forgotten that the piece of bread actually becomes Christ, and that when you receive Him, you become one with Christ. Do you not realize that when you walk out of Mass you are a living, breathing tabernacle with Jesus' DNA in your blood? The greatest gift Christ gives to us is Himself at every Mass, and only the Catholic Church does and believes this. If you don’t believe that it is truly your Lord, then why receive Him? Why are you Catholic?
3. Something I have heard continuously from fellow parishioners is the idea of universal salvation, which is basically the idea that everyone gets to heaven as long as you are a good Christian, and that it doesn’t matter which denomination you belong to. I don’t know about you, but I am grateful for the grace of being Catholic. We should all be so grateful of the grace to belong to His church. We are the only one, true Church with all the tools that Christ gave to us in order to be saved. We are not a denomination! Read Matthew 16:18, where God the Father selects Peter to be the first Pope, and Jesus ratifies this decision. Jesus calls us, “My Church”! He doesn't say “a church” or “churches”, but “My Church”. Jesus doesn’t claim ownership in many things, but He does establish His Church. While the various 40,000+ denominations have some truth, we have the fullness of it.
Allow me to share with you some of the rich history of our faith that makes me so proud to be a Catholic. For instance, did you know we put the Bible together in 382 AD at the Council of Rome and finished defining the New Testament Canon in 397 AD at the Council of Carthage. We told the world which books were the inspired scriptures by comparing them to our oral traditions handed down from the Apostles. Jesus gave us the authority to do this. Today 40,000+ denominations all have 40,000+ different interpretations of the Bible.
Also, the first time the word “Catholic” was used was all the way back in 107 AD by St. Ignatius of Antioch. He does not explain what the term means, which leads one to assume that everyone already knew what it meant.
There is evidence of Papal Authority being exercised in writing as far back as 90 AD by our 4th Pope, Clement. St. John the Apostle's Revelations and the 4th Gospel had not even been written at this time. There was a rebellion against the bishop of Corinth and St. John happened to be within walking distance to this area. Instead of St. John the Apostle reprimanding the people of Corinth, the letter comes from Pope Clement, in Rome.
In the year 150 AD, Justin Martyr describes the Mass word for word in writing to the Roman Emperor. And, again in 215 AD, Tertullian describes the Mass just as we have it today. Everything we believe now can be seen in the first 50 - 100 years of Church history written and defended by the Church Fathers. There is not a shred of evidence supporting rumors of protestant beliefs until Martin Luther comes along 1500 years later. And even Martin Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
I want each and everyone of you to be proud to be Catholic: to learn your faith, know your faith, and live your faith. Look at the state of our world: abortion, euthanasia, wars, etc. Do you want to reclaim our country? Only the Catholic Church can change the world. That is why Jesus established it. Don't wait until you are on your deathbed [to act].
With deepest love for all of Christ’s flock,
On the Feast Day of St. Alphonsus of Liguori, 2014,